FAO Event

Sustainably feeding 10 billion people in 2050

A multidisciplinary science & innovation agenda for agrifood systems transformation

Presented jointly by the EPFL Integrative Food and Nutrition Center and the EssentialTech Centre

June 1, 2023 | 14:30-16:30
EPFL Auditorium:
MED 0 1418


Dr. Ismahane Elouafi
Dr. Ismahane Elouafi

FAO Chief Scientist

Dr Ismahane Elouafi

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi holds the position of Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a new position created within FAO’s core leadership structure. Her appointment was announced by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at the 35th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East in September 2020.

From 2012 until her appointment, Ms. Elouafi was Director General at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture based in the United Arab Emirates. In this role, she spearheaded the development and implementation of the center’s long-term strategy and expanded its mandate to marginal environments, an agroecosystem concept which she helped to mainstream in the global research and development discourse.

Dr. Elouafi had previously held senior scientific and leadership positions, including Senior Adviser to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Branch in Ottawa, Canada (2006-2007); the National Manager of Plant Research Section (2007-2010); and Director of Research Management and Partnerships Division at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2010-2012).

She had also worked as a scientist with several international research organizations, including the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Dr. Elouafi has been a member of various strategy expert panels and advisory groups, including with the Global Commission on Adaptation and HarvestPlus.

She sits on the boards of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the USA; the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, the UK; and the Professional Development Institute, Canada.

She is also a member of the Scientific Group for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and of the CGIAR System Management Board.

Dr. Elouafi is a strong advocate for diversifying into neglected and underutilized crops and rethinking food systems as a whole. She is also internationally known for her work on promoting use of non-fresh water in agriculture and empowerment of women in science.

Her contributions to science and policy have been recognized with a number of prestigious awards and accolades, including the National Reward Medal by His Majesty Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco (2014), and the Excellence in Science Award from the Global Thinkers Forum (2014).

Dr. Elouafi holds a B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences (1993) and an M.Sc. in Genetics and Plant Breeding (1995) from the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, Morocco, and a Ph.D. in Genetics (2001) from the University of Cordoba, Spain.

“Sustainably feeding 10 billion people in 2050 – A multidisciplinary Science & Innovation Agenda for Agrifood Systems Transformation”

Keynote presentation by Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the Chief Scientist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

With SDG2* and other goals of the 2030 Agenda being off-track, we need to urgently transform our agrifood systems. Science, technology and innovation (STI) can bring opportunities to accelerate this transformation. STI will also allow the agrifood systems to cope with tremendous pressure to produce more in order to meet the growing demands for food of the growing world’s population – which is estimated to reach 10 billion in 2050; alongside the need to produce more nutritious food more sustainably, with less input and less harmful impact on the environment.

Guided by the first ever FAO Science and Innovation Strategy, FAO developed new products and initiatives including the Agrifood Systems Technologies and Innovations Outlook (ATIO); Gene Editing and Agrifood Systems issue paper; FAO Innovation Fund; horizon scanning and strategic foresight exercise; development of digital capacities to foster agripreneurship for rural communities; facilitating e-Agriculture Community with over 20 000 members; and introducing behavioural science in projects that involved farmers and slaughterhouses. Potential collaboration on science, technology and innovation between FAO and EPFL will be explored.


*United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero hunger by 2030


Welcome by Prof. Kathryn Hess, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs and Outreach. Moderation by Emmanuel Barraud, Spokesperson and Press Officer, Mediacom.
Followed by an apéro.

Dr. Vincent-Martin

Dr. Vincent Martin was appointed Director of Innovation at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in March 2023.

With 25 years of experience in humanitarian and development affairs, Dr. Martin held senior leadership positions in the United Nations and externally. He worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), most recently serving as Representative in China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. While at FAO, Mr. Martin was also Representative in Senegal and Head of the Regional Resilience Team for West Africa and the Sahel, dealing with issues ranging from regional food security and nutrition to public health-related crises. He also held various management positions at the FAO Headquarters in Rome.

Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Martin was with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) in Zimbabwe and worked as an epidemiologist and veterinary public health specialist in the French ministry of agriculture.

Dr. Martin holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the National Veterinary School of Toulouse/University Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France; a doctorate in agronomic sciences and biological engineering from the Free University of Brussels, Belgium; a master’s degree in livestock Production in tropical regions from the CIRAD/Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon, France and a diploma in epidemiology and statistics from the Pierre and Marie Curie Institute in Paris, France.

Christina Senn-Jakobsen

Christina Senn-Jakobsen is Managing Director, Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley (SFNV), a purpose-driven, nationwide, not-for-profit association that strengthens and promotes food system innovation, with international engagement. A native of Denmark, her family’s roots are in agriculture and food production. This connection with where our food comes from inspired her to study Food Science & Technology and develop a career in the food industry.

After studying and working in 14 different countries, she learned that food is – and will always be – a vital part of our culture and wellbeing. But she says, “the way our food systems work today is coming up to its expiry date. We urgently need to do things differently.”

This became her personal mission: She aims to do whatever she can to boost food innovation and drive more sustainable and regenerative food systems.

Ms. Senn-Jakobsen holds a BSc. in Food Science Technology from Den Kgl. Veterinær- og Landbohøjskole and an MSc. in European Food Systems from Wageningen University & Research. Prior to SFNV she held positions as a food scientist, and in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Prof. Kathryn Hess Bellwald

Prof. Kathryn Hess Bellwald is EPFL’s Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach and Head of the Laboratory for Topology and Neuroscience. Her research focuses on algebraic topology and its applications, primarily in the life sciences, but also in materials science. She has published extensively on topics in pure algebraic topology including homotopy theory, operad theory, and algebraic K-theory. On the applied side, she has elaborated methods based on topological data analysis for high-throughput screening of nanoporous crystalline materials, classification and synthesis of neuron morphologies, and classification of neuronal network dynamics. She has also developed and applied innovative topological approaches to network theory, leading to a powerful, parameter-free mathematical framework relating the activity of a neural network to its underlying structure, both locally and globally.

In 2016 she was elected to Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences and was named a fellow of the American Mathematical Society and a distinguished speaker of the European Mathematical Society in 2017. In 2021 she gave an invited Public Lecture at the European Congress of Mathematicians. She has won several teaching prizes at EPFL, including the Crédit Suisse teaching prize and the Polysphère d’Or. She received her PhD from MIT in 1989 and held positions at the universities of Stockholm, Nice, and Toronto before moving to the EPFL.

Christian Schwab

Christian Schwab joined the EPFL as Executive Director of the Food & Nutrition Center in January 2019 after a very diverse career as senior leader in large multinationals (Tetra Pak, Nestlé, Firmenich) and as entrepreneur, living in 7 countries over 4 continents.

Mr. Schwab aims to maximize the positive contribution of EPFL in solving some of the most pressing food related challenges facing mankind. To this end, the role of the Food & Nutrition Center is to secure a dynamic interface between the EPFL and the external partners, to stimulate the transfer of technologies and science, and in fine to maximize the positive impact of the school on the society and the environment. Since February 2020, Christian is also member of the Executive Committee of the Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley.

Sara Bonetti is a Tenure Track Assistant Professor at EPFL, where she leads the Laboratory of Catchment Hydrology and Geomorphology. She received a BSc degree in 2009 and a MSc degree in 2011 in Civil Engineering, both from the University of Padova (Italy). From 2012 to 2014 she was a research assistant, first at Duke University (USA) and then at the University of Padova (Italy). In 2018, she obtained her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Duke University, with a doctoral dissertation on the analysis and modelling of landscape evolution and soil erosion. From August 2018 to July 2020, she was a postdoctoral associate at the Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics group at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and, from March 2020 to September 2021, she worked as a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London (UK). Before joining EPFL, she was Assistant Professor at the Soil Physics and Land Management Group at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). Her work focuses on the quantitative description of coupled ecohydrological and geomorphological processes in natural and managed ecosystems, with applications relevant to forestry, agriculture, and climate.

Laurence Jeangros

Laurence Jeangros is an environmental scientist specializing in food systems. Currently working as a researcher on the true cost of food in Switzerland at Enterprise for Society (E4S – EPFL/UNIL/IMD), she is passionate about food and its unique position at the interfaces of many interrelated systems. Committed to the inclusive transformation of food systems, she is also co-president of the Board of “Bites of Transformation”, a youth-led association bringing forward a vision for the future of food. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Systems and Policy from ETH Zurich and a BSc. From the University of Lausanne.