Dr. Saqib Arif, a Pakistani scientist working as a Principal Scientific Officer in the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council based in Karachi, was recognized as one of the top three winners and awarded €2,000 as a token of appreciation and acknowledgment.
His research focused on the potential of composite flour, which combines underused grains, as a response to the worldwide rise in wheat prices and increasing sustainability concerns. The results revealed that mixed flours have a superior nutrition profile, high fiber content, and bioactive compounds, making them a promising alternative to reduce dependence on wheat. However, challenges remain regarding processability and sensory characteristics.
Wheat is a major staple food, playing a significant role in meeting dietary requirements worldwide. Approximately two-thirds of the population relies on wheat, rice, and corn. However, the increasing cost of wheat poses a significant challenge globally, affecting countries like Pakistan. Despite being an agricultural nation, Pakistan struggles to meet its domestic wheat demand and increasingly depends on imports.
This situation can be attributed to factors such as climate change, population growth, rising input and production costs, weak supply chains, market dynamics, and more. Wheat flour is extensively used in various products such as bread, cookies, pasta, pastries, crackers, breakfast cereals, noodles, cupcakes, and more. This heavy dependence on wheat flour raises sustainability concerns.
The research team includes Dr. Qurrat ul Ain Akbar, (Senior Scientific Officer, PARC), Salman Khurshid (Scientific Officer, PARC), Mehwish Iqbal (Scientific Officer, PARC), and Saba Iqbal (PhD Scholar). They are actively working on employing corrective measures such as enzymes and pretreatments to minimize effects due to blending flours in addition to exploring more indigenous sources.
The research team believes that one effective strategy is to reduce reliance on wheat by exploring potential alternatives. Composite flour emerges as a vibrant and practical solution in this regard, offering the opportunity to decrease dependence on wheat flour while reaping health benefits.
By incorporating a blend of various flours derived from legumes, tubers, grains, and other sources, composite flour presents a promising approach to diversify our food sources and promote a healthier diet.
This competition was organized by MC Muhlenchemie, Germany, the world’s leading flour treatment specialist, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. The award was dedicated to honor scientific studies and practice-focused projects completed from 2019 to 2022 that offer innovative solutions in the production and processing of non-wheat flours and their blends with wheat flour, especially those utilizing local raw materials.
Three winners, including Pakistan, have been announced recently for the International Innovation Award ‘Composite Flour,’ which recognizes innovative solutions for the sustainable use of wheat and local agricultural commodities. The award was determined by an international jury of scientists and industry experts who evaluated 23 finalists’ research projects from four continents.