Meet OnePlate’s ‘food scientist’ - Dr Donald Van Cooten

Don and Therese

OnePlate is thrilled to partner with Dr Donald Van Cooten who brings over 35 years of agricultural science experience and expertise to the table.

Move over Heston Blumenthal, because Dr Van Cooten is taking the science of food to an international level. 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Queensland University, Don was awarded a Government scholarship to pursue a Masters Degree, travelling to Bali and Timor.

Dragon Fruit Tree

Witnessing the poverty in Timor had a “huge impact” on Don, then just 22 years old. “When I was there, I saw kids that were starving to death and families that were struggling,” he said. 

As an agricultural scientist, he was particularly struck by the unnecessary hunger he saw there. Timor had good weather conditions to grow food – they were just growing the wrong crops and in inefficient ways.

This marked a turning point in his life, and since then Don has used his agricultural expertise to find long-lasting and sustainable solutions to food poverty in developing countries.

Completing his Masters in Queensland, he returned to Timor with his wife (a practicing midwife) and they worked together in community development.

Don completed a PhD in International Development, published as a book under the title Ethnoagricultural development. He also worked alongside world-renowned agriculturalist Dr Andrew Borrell to develop an integrated rice-based farming system in South Eastern Indonesia, a model that has been applied around the world.

Don is excited about partnering with OnePlate.

“Because of the geographical reach of World Relief Australia and my skills, we can actually find solutions. I can list 10 or 20 areas around the world where we can provide actual solutions to the problem [of food poverty],” he said.

With Don’s help, OnePlate will fund projects that will give communities long-term food production, based on the latest developments in agricultural science.

As Don says:

“Give a man a plate of food and you feed him for a day, teach him how to grow the food and you feed a family for a lifetime.”

As well as being a OnePlate partner, Dr Donald Van Cooten currently serves as the CEO of World Relief Australia, the CEO of Global Poverty Solutions and a Board Member of the ‘Bright Futures Child Aid Development Fund Australia’.