4 minutes with… Dr Bryan Lavarack, Senior Technologist, MSL

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Tell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

A sugar company that is diversifying into co-products that can be produced from fibre (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin), sucrose and/or molasses. The company supports R&D activities and has developed and is continuing to develop value adding opportunities in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

The following pertain to Advanced Bioeconomy:

Continue to evaluate new opportunities and progress these to commercialisation.

Provide support services and innovative solutions to senior/executive to achieve company objectives.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

Ensure the industry is more profitable.

Almost everything else flows from that milestone.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

Prevent seesawing oil prices to establish market certainty for bio-commodities. Make crude oil so expensive that everyone is forced to change business practices and to assist the environment.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

Good career prospects.

Belief in the viability over long term, despite regular downturns in the short term.

Where are you from? 

Southern Africa

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

Applied Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

Family and teacher’s influences.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

Parents – to do the right thing and behave in a proper civil manner,

School teachers – to adopt the scientific method and reinforce civil behaviour. School teachers are perhaps the most underrated group of people in society.

Industrial technical leaders – people who really innovate in society. They make things happen.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

To work through the issue slowly but steadily and take the corrective actions and hold to these.

It always takes a long time to get over the issue that caused the adversity (considerably longer than initially thought).

Keep smiling; talk it out with confidants and colleagues; never complain and blame others.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?

Active membership in related technical societies (at regional, national and international levels).

Sailing on yachts

Participation in volunteer organisations

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island

Bible (moral compass)

Perry’s Chemical Engineer’s Handbook (technical compass)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare(when no compass is required)

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

International Sugar Journal (February edition).

Chemical Engineering Progress (June edition).

Secret Revolution: memoirs of a spy boss by Niel Barnard.

Atlas of history’s greatest disasters & mistakes by Tim Cooke

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Kruger Park (game reserve in South Africa)

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