U of G Names First Barrett Chair in Sustainable Food Engineering, Backed by $5-Million Gift

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Kevin Keener

Kevin Keener

After an international search, the School of Engineering has appointed Kevin Keener as the inaugural Barrett Family Foundation Chair in Sustainable Food Engineering.

Backed by a $5-million gift from the Barrett Family Foundation, the chair is intended to develop an innovative research program in sustainable food engineering and lead food engineering research and training at the University of Guelph. Keener aims to increase global awareness of sustainable food engineering issues.

During his five-year renewable term beginning Oct. 1, Keener will hold a tenured faculty appointment in the School of Engineering.

Currently a professor of food process engineering in the Department of Food Sciences and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, Keener has spent many years researching sustainable technology solutions. Previously, he was a professor at Purdue University and North Carolina State University.

“I’m excited to accept this position as the first Barrett Chair in Sustainable Food Engineering at the University of Guelph. This is a very prestigious honour,” said Keener. “I see this exciting and dynamic opportunity to build partnerships between the University, the Ontario government and food manufacturers to tackle these global challenges in food and agriculture as unique and highly rewarding.”

He has studied ways to improve processes and practices to reduce food waste, increase the use of food and fibre, and ensure sustainable food manufacturing processes. In turn, he said, these aspects help ensure global transport of safe, nutritious, high-quality food that benefits consumers, food manufacturers and government agencies.

Bob Barrett, founder of the Barrett Family Foundation and president and CEO of Polytainers, said, “I’ve had the opportunity to visit with Kevin at Polytainers and came away convinced that Kevin will be able to deliver against the objectives that have been put before him.”

Keener studied agricultural engineering and is a professional engineer. Among his honours, he received Iowa State University’s Iowa Economic Development Award in 2017.

Author of more than 170 publications, he has received 10 patents and delivered more than 60 invited presentations in 16 countries. He has delivered more than 100 workshops on food safety, processing, regulations, technology and sustainability.