Aarhus University Seal

The new Deputy Head of Department has a green view of the future

On 1 October 2023, Henrik Brinch-Pedersen took over the position as Deputy Head of Department at the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University after Professor Per Kudsk. He started his journey in agronomy and became a pioneer in plant breeding and biotechnology. His passion for green transition and technological innovation will shape his leadership as Deputy Head of Department, where he will focus on sustainable solutions and collaboration across disciplines.

Photo: Henrik Brinch-Pedersen

"What can you become?" - that was the name of the book that was to become decisive for Professor Henrik Brinch-Pedersen's career.

“The natural sciences had my interest and I knew I wanted to study something biological of some kind, but I was unsure of the direction. The very first education I came across in the book was agronomy. It was listed under A, but the more I read, the more certain I was that it was what I was supposed to read. So, I actually didn't read about other educations in the book at all, I chose, so to speak, the first and the best," he says and explains that it's fun to think about how it would all have turned out if he had come to look up under B instead.

Although the choice of education might seem random, it turned out to be the right path for Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, who quickly became interested in plant breeding and biotechnology.

"I actually found it so interesting that I applied for a PhD at the University of Copenhagen," he reflects on his early days, which shaped the direction of his professional life.

Pioneer in plant breeding

Henrik Brinch-Pedersen has since been a pioneer in plant breeding and biotechnology. He delved into cutting-edge areas such as genetic engineering and GMOs in the early stages of their use, and it was here that he was in his element.

Part of his research focused on phosphorus utilisation in plants, something which, according to the Professor himself, seems banal today, but which was unknown terrain at the time.

"We found it problematic that phosphorus was imported from the mines in Morocco, when phosphorus was actually available in the plants," he explains.

This early research, in which he helped to discover how to use plant enzymes for e.g. being able to utilise phosphorus or other nutrients from the plants, so that crops are no longer just a quantity commodity but also a high-quality commodity fits in well with the green transition, and precisely the green has been a red thread throughout Henrik Brinch-Pedersen's career.

Head of Section and Deputy Head of Department

In his role as Head of the Crop Genetics and Biotechnology Section at the Department of Agroecology, Henrik Brinch-Pedersen sees it as crucial to unite different skills and complexities in order to create integrated efforts for the green transition.

"I myself focus on the plants," he says, emphasising the importance of placing the plants at the center of this development. "But even though I'm wearing the plant glasses, I consider it incredibly important and all-important that we in the Department manage to bring all our knowledge together, only in this way will we be able to solve some of the big challenges we face in the green transition. We researchers have certain areas of focus, and we cannot solve the green transition alone, we have to join forces."

With a large network and experience from both large projects and small initiatives, the new Deputy Head of Department has discovered his strength in cherishing meetings with a purpose. “I have a more structured approach to my role now than I did when I was younger,” he shares about his development as a leader.

The future is green, but requires cooperation

The question of the future brings a smile to Henrik Brinch-Pedersen.

"The future looks green," he says, pointing out the importance of technology and innovation. "The world has problems now because of the way we humans have done things up until now. We will have to do things in a different way in the future," he explains enthusiastically.

With his vision and focus on green transition and technological innovation, Henrik Brinch-Pedersen sees a bright future for the department as well as the entire sector.

"If we dare to use new technology and integrate it," he says, "then I see the future as quite bright."

Henrik Brinch-Pedersen's journey from agronomy to Deputy Head of Department reflects not only his passion for plants and research, but also his desire to drive change through innovation and sustainability. His mission to place plants at the heart of the green transition and embrace technological progress will, according to the Deputy Head of Department himself, be a good and exciting direction for the Department of Agroecology and its future initiatives.

More information

Professor, Head of Section and Deputy Head of Department Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. Tel.: +45 51239017 or email: hb@agro.au.dk