TUT prof leads second cycle of SARChi Chair

30 March 2021

Prof Dharini Sivakumar, from the Faculty of Sciences, who was awarded the DST-NRF SARChI Chair in Phytochemical food network to improve nutritional quality for consumers, will serve another cycle (2021 – 2024).

Prof Dharini Sivakumar, from the Faculty of Sciences.

Prof Sivakumar started her career at TUT as an Associate professor in 2010. She developed the research area in postharvest technology and the curriculum at the Department of Crop Sciences.

From 2010 to 2015, she has been actively involved in investigating the influence of pre-harvest agronomy factors on the postharvest quality of fresh produce. Within this specific research area, her research was more focused on the improvement and maintenance of dietary phytochemicals by manipulating agronomy and postharvest practices/ processing methods respectively.

In 2015, she was awarded SARChI research chair funding for the Phytochemical Food Network to improve nutritional quality for the consumer.  The next year, she was appointed as an Honorary A/Professor at the Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), University of Queensland, Australia.

She closely works with the South African Avocado Fruit industry and has established research collaboration with the QAAFI, University of Queensland in Australia, Marche Polytechnic University in Italy, Texas A & M in the USA, University of Reunion in Reunion, Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik und Bioökonomie in Germany and the University of Greenwich in the UK.

Nationally, she closely collaborates in research with the ARC (Vegetable and ornamental plant Institute, Subtropical fruits Institute), DST-CSIR Nano Center, and Plant and soil Sciences, University of Pretoria. 

She is currently supervising eight Doctoral and 14 Masters students. In addition, has authored book chapters, research articles, and industry research notes and farmers communications. 

Prof Sivakumar’s field of expertise and research specialisation focus on:

  • Implementation of standard operating procedures (SOP) for assessing levels of phytochemicals in the above-mentioned vegetable and fruit types.
  • Establishing relationships between environmental and agronomical factors and phytochemicals.
  • Maintenance: Quantification of loss of phytochemicals during storage/processing/packaging/ transportation 
  • Development of methods: product improvement and postharvest processing to maintain the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables 
  • Diversifying diets with underutilising vegetables and fruits 

Formulating guidelines based on the outcome for the growers and marketers to maintain phytochemicals in the farm to plate chain

According to Prof Sivakumar, the significance of this research is to benefit the growers in producing fresh produce in terms of cost and, in turn, benefit the consumers by improving their health and well-being. 

“A healthy society can bring about significant savings in health-care costs compared to what is currently used by individuals and by the national treasury,” she said.

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