50 Next: meet 11 young people working at the cutting edge of culinary science

Chloe Vialou-Clark - 10/09/2021


The Science Innovators in the inaugural cohort of 50 Next are making waves in the gastronomic sector with truly original innovation. By changing the game in the kitchen, these scientists have also set their minds to solving social and economic problems worldwide. After meeting the Tech Disruptors, Hospitality Pioneers, Empowering Educators and Entrepreneurial Creatives of 50 Next’s Class of 2021, today we introduce 11 people improving our planet for the future

Maitane Alonso Monasterio
The self-proclaimed risk-taker with a penchant for food preservation
Currently tipping the scales at around 1,300 metric tons every year, global food waste is exponentially problematic. A third of the world’s food is being thrown away, shelf lives are shortening and effective food preservation is too expensive for many families. Maitane Alonso Monasterio knew it was time to tackle the problem head on.

A medical student from the Basque Country, Maitane’s inspiration came from a science fair project she worked on that seemed to cause her brother’s shoes to lose their odour. Her first prototype, consisting of a broken blind, computer fan and two plastic containers, evolved into a globally successful machine that reduces odour-making microorganisms inside sustainable packaging and extends the shelf life of food. Now, Maitane’s company, Innovating Alimentary Machines, is planning to distribute her solution to food waste for home and industry use and her hunger-prevention invention is winning international awards.

Learn more about Maitane
Check out the latest on Innovating Alimentary Machines

Leah Bessa
The gastro-designer introducing insects as the food of the future
While cows have historically been the chief source of the world’s milk, bovine dairy production has faced scrutiny in recent years due to its energy use, greenhouse gases and ethical concerns.

Alternative non-dairy options such as oat, soy and almond ‘mylk’ have taken markets by storm, but Leah Bessa is advocating a new source for nutritious ‘dairy’ – insects. Her creation Entomilk is the world’s first insect-derived milk. Made from the sustainably farmed black soldier fly, it is more water- and energy-efficient than dairy produce and contains a level of protein comparable to that of red meat. Leah’s recent pop-up restaurant in Cape Town, The Insect Experience, allows consumers to sample her dishes while she explains their potential to solve global food problems.

Learn more about Leah
Check out her company, Gourmet Grubb

Kisum Chan, Lincoln Lee, Zheyi Chia and Jonathan Ong
The powerhouse people using science for sustainable rice production
Rice Inc. is the brainchild of Hong Kong native Kisum Chan and Malaysia-born Lincoln Lee, who founded their company during studies at University College London. After learning that up to 26 million tons of grain is wasted during production and that 70% of the world’s rice is produced by farmers without access to effective drying equipment, Kisum and Lincoln formed the social enterprise with a vision to combat world hunger and alleviate poverty.

Soon after Zheyi Chia and Jonathan Ong, both from Kuala Lumpur, joined the prospering company, Rice Inc. started providing rice producers with affordable dryers as well as the knowledge to continue operating their businesses sustainably. Drawing in million-dollar investments and winning global prizes, the thriving project is making huge evolution in the agricultural sector and beyond.

Learn more about Kisum, Lincoln, Zheyi and Jonathan
Check out the latest on Rice Inc.

Marc Coloma
The vegan activist providing fresh alternatives to meat consumption
Disappointed by the lack of tasty meat substitutes to support his vegan diet, Marc Coloma’s mission was to create a sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly alternative. As such, Heura Foods was born. The company sells ‘burgers’, ‘meatballs’ and ‘chicken’ strips, all created from soy protein that undergoes humidity and temperature changes, pressure and marinades of olive oil, salt and vitamin B-12.

Heura is now on the precipice of global expansion. Looking forward, Marc aims not only to produce “vegan food for meat lovers”, but to educate his consumers on how to care for the environment through sustainable gastronomy.

Learn more about Marc
Check out Marc’s company, Heura Foods

Leo Wezelius, Angelo Demeter and Fredrik Åkerman
The Swedish scientists using seaweed to combat greenhouse gases
Greenhouse gases are one of the biggest issues we face in the modern-day climate crisis and cows contribute to a staggering 4% of these global emissions. While eating less beef and dairy will slowly reduce these numbers over time, the Swedish scientists Leo Wezelius, Angelo Demeter and Fredrik Åkerman have cut right to the heart of problem.

Using one of the world’s abundant natural products, seaweed, the Volta Seafeed team has devised an ingenious seaweed product that, when fed to cows, can block a particular enzyme in their digestive tract and thus reduce methane emissions by up to 80%. Spurred on by their success, the bio scientists have set themselves the ambitious goal to feed their product to all of Sweden’s cattle by 2030.

Learn more about Leo, Angelo and Fredrik
Check out their latest work at Volta Seafeed

Kiara Nirghin
The scientist from Stanford focussed on alleviating drought
Kiara Nirghin has set her sights on combating droughts across South Africa using biodegradable food waste. A tall order, but Kiara is already well on her way with her extensive research on superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) at Stanford University.

After various experiments, she found a possible solution to the global issue. Adding natural scraps such as orange peel and avocado skins to her SAP, she hopes to be able to apply her creation to the soil before rainfall to create a reservoir of water to be used during periods of drought. This year, Kiara intends to bring her product to market, which is set to revolutionise water conservation around the globe.

Learn more about KiaraCheck out Kiara’s latest work

Applications and nominations for 50 Next 2022 are open until 22nd September 2021. For further information on the selection process, our partners and how to apply or nominate, visit the 50 Next website