"New products from plants is the future"

Last changed: 13 November 2019

Research portrait within TC4F. Eva Johansson, programme director of C4F, believes that the future will bring more and more biobased products from plants in a more and more biobased economy. - But the processes on the way are complex. The amount of fossil-based products to be replaced is enormous and so many different interests are involved.

Professor Eva Johansson. Photo Mats Hannerz.
Eva Johansson. Photo: Mats Hannerz.

Eva Johansson is a professor of Agricultural Science with a focus on product quality at SLU in Alnarp. In May 2013, she took over the position as programme director of TC4F from Jan-Erik Hällgren. From the start she was, together with Hällgren, responsible for the wording of the application, which was presented in the name of the rector and finally resulted in TC4F.

Eva Johansson has been attached to SLU since 1989 and was in 1990 employed as a PhD at the Department of Plant Breeding. During 25 years she has been carrying on with research focussing on issues about quality and she has studied how the combination of plant material, breeding, environment and cultivating systems affect quality of food, feedstuff and biobased industrial production. Parallel to commissions of trust like being a dean and a coordinator of different projects and themes, she is today the head of a research group of 17 persons, whom among other things work with the extraction of new materials and substances from plants. She is convinced that this is the path on to future.

– Concurrently with the climate change and the depletion of earth´s resources I think we will be forced to use biobased raw materials in more and more products.

– But we must come through complex processes to move forward. It´s a lot about what we can achieve within research, but it is of course also about the possibilities to implement large-scale production, about profitability, about patterns of trade, etc. To put it short: there are chains of different factors that need to come into place. And also, there is such a lot of fossil-based products that need to be replaced.

Wants to overview the context

Eva Johansson is driven by a desire to overview the context, to see results and to make conclusions. And when it comes to the transition into a biobased economy, she willingly sees the development in a context which not only comprises land based crops, but also plants and organisms from the sea. What today is called Blue Growth is, according to Eva Johansson, also part of the changeover into a sustainable society with renewable materials and products.

– But there are great challenges included in the efforts to extract for example oil from algae and it needs to be done in a sustainable way.

Chosen by research

As for Eva Johansson as a person, you can say that research chose her rather than she chose research. Following a childhood and an adolescence dominated by horses rather than by school, she was adviced to choose a technical gymnasium as she was allergic to furred animals and couldn´t become a veterinary. During the concluding year of the gymnasium, she took chemical technology and at the university she started with astronomy and found her way further to biology. At the same time she got a work position at Nordiska Genbanken in Alnarp. After studies at Sandöskolan, she made a field study in Africa and well back in Sweden she was asked if she wanted to substitue a PhD on parental leave at the Department of Plant Breeding ALU.

- My way to research has mainly been about saying yes. But I do enjoy research work and I can feel very proud when I find out things which enables me to view new contexts.

/ Text Ingrid Bressler