Fabian Wahl: “As a researcher, you want to work on something meaningful”

Fabian Wahl

“What could be more meaningful than working to feed the population? For me, the Agroscope slogan – ‘Agroscope – good food, healthy environment’ – hits the nail right on the head.” Since the beginning of May 2018, Fabian Wahl has been Head of the ‘Food Microbial Systems’ strategic research division at Agroscope’s Bern-Liebefeld site.  The 54-year-old native of Freiburg im Breisgau tackles his job with surprisingly youthful energy and obvious delight. Federal Popular Initiatives such as those for food security, drinking water or reduced use of pesticides in agriculture bolster his enthusiasm. Fabian Wahl sees Agroscope as an important player in these discussions on the focus of the agriculture and food sector, since research covers the entire process chain from field to plate, or to human, animal and environmental health.

Unique research opportunities in Posieux
It’s still some way away, but Agroscope’s planned laboratory building in Posieux will make completely new food-research experiments possible. “A dream come true for researchers like me!” Fabian Wahl enthuses. The lab construction project dates back to a 2011 Swiss Federal Council resolution, and is not to be confused with the newly launched ‘Agroscope Project of the Future’. “Experiments on original-size cheese wheels will be possible in the planned biosafety laboratory. It’s known, for example, that pathogenic bacteria in small experimental cheeses spread in a different manner than in original-size cheese wheels, since the surface has a different ratio to the total cheese volume than is the case with a small cheese.” Fabian Wahl brings a wealth of experience with him to Agroscope as a strategic planner, manager and innovative researcher. After graduating in chemistry and obtaining his doctorate in Freiburg im Breisgau he launched his professional career in 1993 as a product manager at Fluka Chemie AG in Buchs, canton of St. Gallen, which company was later taken over by Sigma Aldrich and ultimately by Merck. Analytics – in particular, food analytics – as well as strategic development and innovation have been the focus of his professional life for many years.

Opting for Switzerland
“My career at Merck led to a great deal of travelling, and in future this would also have required my increased presence in Darmstadt rather than in Buchs. Travelling was interesting, right enough, and broadened my horizons to an incredible degree, as well as providing me with a worldwide network of amazing professional and private contacts; but it naturally has its downsides as well. As the father of three nearly grown daughters, it’s also nice to be able to be at home in Buchs for once.” That’s why Fabian Wahl opted for Switzerland, and on a change of job to Agroscope. What’s more, for him Switzerland is not only a land of cheese, but of mountains too. Alpine sports – hiking, climbing, biking and skiing – are his hobby. His daughters enjoy accompanying him on these outings, as, of course, does his sports-scientist wife.