Maarten Schutyser appointed personal professor of Drying and dense food processing

January 26, 2024

The Board of Wageningen University & Research has appointed Prof. Dr. Ir. Maarten Schutyser as a personal professor of Drying and Dense Food Processing at the Food Process Engineering group, effective 1 January 2024. His group investigates the behaviour of food ingredients during drying and separation.

Drying food extends its shelf life significantly. Consider sun-dried tomatoes, dried split peas, and powders such as protein powder and dried coffee. By removing moisture, with hot air or through freeze-drying, for example, bacteria and fungi are less likely to grow. However, drying techniques often compromise the chemical structure or nutritional value, and they consume significant amounts of energy. Therefore, Schutyser's research group aims to develop new, sustainable methods for separating and drying food.

From lab to practice

"The industry uses trial-and-error procedures to optimise drying processes for each product," says Schutyser. According to him, there is limited fundamental knowledge about the behaviour of concentrated and dry materials. "In my research, I want to study precisely what happens in food materials during drying. This way, we can redesign drying processes sustainably."

For his research, Schutyser collaborates with industrial partners in consortia. "This collaboration ensures that newly developed technologies are implemented in practice," explains the personal professor. In the future, the industry can then save energy and handle raw materials more sustainably with the new technology developed by Schutyser's group.

Education and Career

Schutyser earned his master’s degree in Bioprocess Technology and his PhD on Mixed Solid-State Fermentation at Wageningen University (both cum laude). After his PhD, he initially pursued an R&D career in industry. During his work as a research technologist at Akzo Nobel, he learned about the challenges of increasing energy efficiency during the production of basic chemicals, such as salt. Later, at NIZO Food Research, he deepened his knowledge of drying technology and expanded his network in the food industry. In 2008, he decided to return to academia, specifically to the Laboratory of Food Process Engineering at Wageningen University & Research, to work in the forefront developing new sustainable food processing technologies and start his own research team.

Teaching and Networking

Since 2008, Schutyser has contributed to the Food Technology programme. He developed for example the course ‘Sustainability in Food Chains’ and introduced new elements in the courses ‘Food Engineering’ and ‘Food Fermentation’. Recently, together with his colleagues, he developed a new practical in which students gain experience with a pilot-scale spray dryer. Schutyser remarks: "This practical introduces a completely new element into the Food Technology curriculum that was previously lacking. It's not only about gaining experience with large-scale equipment, but also about understanding critical safety and cleaning issues at this scale. This is relevant for our students in the field of food technology, many of whom will work in industry."

Next to his research and education, Schutyser chairs the NWGD society, a network for drying technology experts in the Netherlands, and the EFCE WP Drying, a European network of academics in the field of drying technology.

Schutyser leads several large-scale projects in his field and has attracted major funding via the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT), as well as through other sources such as NWO Open Technology and Key Technology (KIC) programmes, and most recently through Plant2Food, an open science platform.