Current position: Innovation VP at Ecoflora Cares S.A.S., Colombia
Research focus: Development of biodiversity-derived products for the agriculture, food, and personal care industries involving sustainable management, fair trade and legal access
She secured 4 international patents on extraction and processing including: swinglea glutinosa, Genipa Americana and the Sapindacea family.
In 2011 Sandra was awarded a Green Talent. She impressed the jury with the development of a natural blue dye, and with the work done to help the people of Colombia to build their economy in a sustainable manner. She also received the Women in Science Award by L’Oreal-UNESCO in 2009.
CV as submitted for the Green Talents award (2011):
Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia / Ecoflora S.A.S.
Research focus: Bioprocessing of Natural Products, Emphasis on Food Colorants
Sandra Zapata hails from one of the world’s most biodiverse areas – Quibdó in the Chocó region of Colombia – but frequently witnesses how the people in her hometown lack the resources and technology they need to improve their economy. She is convinced that a good way to improve the situation is by be harvesting and processing natural products in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way.
In her work and studies in agro-industrial production engineering, Ms Zapata has focused on how people in her home country can improve their lives through the development of high-value products derived from Colombian biodiversity, which can be transformed through scientific and technological tools into valuable product inputs for different industries.
For instance, in collaboration with her team at Ecoflora S.A.S., an environmentally minded native natural products company, she has secured three international patents on the extraction and processing of natural products. One of the patents is a natural blue colourant, which is safe, stable and sustainable. It comes from a fruit found in the rainforest which is harvested in a sustainable way by local communities and transformed into a blue colour by the company, using a process developed through alliances between university and industry in which Ms Zapata took an active role.
In addition to her work in the private sector, Ms Zapata serves as an adjunct professor in manufacturing processes for industrial engineers in the food and cosmetic industries. Ms Zapata, who won the 2009 Women in Science Award by L’Oreal-UNESCO, ICETEX and Colciencias, also works as a technical consultant in the food industry sector in the fields of innovation, research and technology development.
She was selected by the jury for her work developing the natural blue colourant. They were impressed with the way she is helping the people of Colombia build their economy in a sustainable manner. The jury also noted Ms Zapata's three patents and the award she received from L’Oreal-UNESCO.
She is interested in learning more about Germany as a market for natural alternative cosmetics, personal care products, therapeutic and medicinal products. In addition, says Ms Zapata, "I want to discover more about the methods, analytical tools and cooperation opportunities associated with developing natural solutions for multiple industries."