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  • By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Unconventional Ag Media

An Edge on Success: UA Event Sponsors Student Scholars

Many things are new this year for the Unconventional Ag conference – a new name ( called Organic & Non-GMO Forum), a realigned agenda, and for the first time, inviting ag and food students to attend with scholarships.

Long since offered at our sister event, the Women in Agribusiness Summit, Student Scholarships are offered by sponsors to defray the cost of registration, thereby providing the opportunity for students to make important industry connections, see the many career options available in the agribusiness sector, and learn about the trends and issues facing the sector today. To be considered for a scholarship, applicants must be full-time undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral candidate students attending an accredited college or university.

In this inaugural scholarship year, HighQuest Partners, the host of Unconventional Ag, has generously provided scholarships for five University of Minnesota (UMN) students. They are:

Saajewa Dasent-Swygart

Saajewa Dasent-Swygart

With an expected graduation date this fall with a master’s degree in food science, this student is working on her thesis, which entails the screening of camelina and pennycress protein for nutritional quality, functionality, and flavor to develop a functional food protein ingredient. Dasent-Swygart also has held several research assistant positions, and completed an internship in R&D food applications at the Cargill Food Innovation Center in Minneapolis. She has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition studies from UMN, with a focus on advocacy for at-risk communities, equity and diversity, research, and sustainable foods.

Yash Jagdale

Yash Jagdale

This first-year graduate student is studying food science, with a focus on studying plant-based meat flavor compounds, specifically encapsulation of meat flavor and identification of key meat flavor compounds and how they react with the meat analogues. Jagdale holds a bachelor’s degree from the MIT School of Food Technology in Pune, India, and has co-authored 15 published papers on food science.

Jagdale also is a research assistant at the Sensory Center at the University of Minnesota (the department that will oversee the hands-on tasting session at Unconventional Ag). In his application, Jagdale explained his reason for seeking the scholarship to attend Unconventional Ag: “The conference will help me connect with different people with expertise in the plant-based meat sector, provide exposure to different plant-based meat brands, and provide insights for my future research related to plant-based meat flavor.”

Brittany Kralik

Brittany Kralik

Kralik is a registered dietician who also is a PhD student studying food science. She completed her Bachelor of Science in dietetics and her master’s in food and nutrition from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Her love of research and the connection between human health and environmental health brought her to UMN. Her doctoral research involves combining oat, pea, and chickpea proteins to optimize functionality, nutrition, and flavor with a meat analogue application being the final product. Among other activities in food science, Kralik last summer completed an internship in process engineering at the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL) in Quakenbruck, Germany. Kralik noted excitement in merging her background in nutrition with her future food science education to build a career in the plant-based research industry.

Leslie Loehr

Leslie Loehr

Research being conducted by thismaster’s degree student focuses on improving the commercial viability of an environmentally friendly, alternative perennial grain crop: intermediate wheatgrass (IWG) or Kernza®. Loehr is analyzing both new breeding lines developed by UMN and the effects that agronomics has on the chemical composition of IWG. Said Loehr, “This project has aligned very closely with my interests in connecting food science with the knowledge of agriculture that I gained throughout my childhood growing up on a family-owned Iowa farm and continue to learn today… I am looking forward to continuing my exploration of agricultural sustainability innovations within the food industry upon joining PURIS full-time as a research scientist post-graduation.”

Jason Nimpoeno


Jason is a senior at the University of Minnesota, studying food science with a focus on plant-based protein development and scheduled to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2023. Nimpoeno has been working in the school’s plant pathology department on the use of perennial plants as a new source of protein isolate, while utilizing side biowaste for potential liquid transport fuel production and ruminant feed.

Jason Nimpoeno

He also has been involved in other studies involving soil science, plant pathology, and plant gene editing. With his attendance at Unconventional Ag, Nimpoeno looks forward to “gaining valuable information and connections to further my research in plant-based food study, while providing my knowledge in the plant-based food and agricultural industry.”

Make plans to join us at Unconventional Ag, November 29-30 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. Learn more on the keynote speaker, special activities, including hands-on sessions, and overall mission of the event. Also visit www.unconventionalag.com.

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CONTRIBUTE

Contact Lynda Kiernan-Stone,

editor of Unconventional Ag News,

to submit a story for consideration:

lkiernan-stone@highquestgroup.com