Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted is the 2021 World Food Prize Laureate for her influential work on nutrition, fish, and aquatic food systems. Often referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture," the World Food Prize is the most prominent global award recognizing exceptional individuals who have worked to enhance human development by improving the quality, quantity, and availability of food for all.
Dr. Thilsted is the first woman of Asian heritage to be awarded the World Food Prize. She was the first to examine the nutritional composition of small native fish species commonly found and consumed in Bangladesh and Cambodia. Her research demonstrated that the high levels of multiple essential micronutrients and fatty acids in these affordable and locally available foods offered life-changing benefits for children's cognitive development in their first 1000 days of life and the nutrition and health of their mothers. From this breakthrough, she went on to develop nutrition-sensitive approaches and innovations to food production, distribution, and consumption that have improved the diets, nutrition, and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable women, men, and children living in low- and middle-income countries across Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.
Her trailblazing work on nutrition in low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa show that fish and aquatic food systems are an integral part of food production, local diets, culture, child and maternal health, and general wellbeing. Her scientific findings demonstrate fish, and aquatic foods must occupy a more central role in future nutrition-focused interventions and policy and investment decisions for agricultural research and development and a sustainable transformation of food systems towards healthy and resilient diets.
A true food systems thinker, the impact of Dr. Thilsted's research crosses over different disciplines and sectors. She is credited with developing the pond polyculture system, a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way of farming small and large fish species together in homestead ponds, water bodies, and rice fields. This innovation which helped to significantly increase the quality, diversity, and quantity of available food, prompted a large-scale shift towards aquaculture production in Bangladesh. In addition, it led the Government of Bangladesh to recognize the pond polyculture system as a critical innovation for meeting national targets to beat hunger, malnutrition, gender inequality, and poverty.
Working together with local communities and private sector actors, Thilsted guided the development of innovative, affordable, and culturally acceptable fish-based products suitable for consumption by young children and lactating women. She discovered these products were nutrition powerhouses in their own right, and – when consumed with other foods – they also helped increase the absorption or bioavailability of other essential micronutrients found in vegetables and rice, such as iron and zinc.
Thilsted's influential research work on harvesting and processing in fish and aquatic food systems have enabled women in the sector to overcome gender barriers, to increase the visibility of their work in and contributions to the aquatic foods sector, to improve their access to affordable, nutritious fish and other foods, to increase incomes, and to create new business and economic opportunities. In addition, her work has guided the development of national campaigns and community programs to raise awareness and improve knowledge about nutrition and the critical inclusion of fish and aquatic foods in healthy and balanced diets for malnourished women and children.
Her scientific work on nutrition-sensitive approaches to food production from land and water have turned traditional thinking about agricultural research and food systems solutions on its head. She puts nutrition and public health outcomes at the heart of critical questions about how foods -- from land and water -- are produced, processed, transported, costed, distributed, and consumed. Dr. Thilsted's impressive body of research innovations is shifting the dial on global narratives of food production to higher food systems thinking from questions of 'feeding' a growing global population to a more enlightened discourse on 'nourishing' billions of people, nations, and our precious blue planet. In addition, her work on nutrition, fish, and aquatic food systems in low- and middle-income countries is inspiring a new generation of women in science, food systems thinkers, and aquatic foods champions.
A passionate and inspiring scientific leader at WorldFish, CGIAR, and globally, Dr. Thilsted's critical insights shaped the formulation of the new disruptive 2030 WorldFish Research and Innovation Strategy: Aquatic Foods for Healthy People and Planet.
She is a UN Food Systems Champion and serves as the Vice-Chair for Action Track 4: Advance Equitable Livelihoods of the upcoming 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. In addition, Dr. Thilsted is a member of the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition and advises the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.
A native of Trinidad and Tobago and a citizen of Denmark, she received her bachelor of science degree in Tropical Agriculture from The University of West Indies. She completed her post-graduate and doctorate studies in nutrition physiology at the University of Copenhagen. A CGIAR scientist, Dr. Thilsted is currently the Global Lead for Nutrition and Public Health at WorldFish, working to bring aquatic foods to the heart of the global science and policy discourse on sustainable food systems transformation towards healthy and resilient diets.
Meet the Laureate
Life and achievements
Perspectives and blogs
Presentations and Multimedia
EMBRACE sustainable water and aquatic blue food diversity for climate smart food systems
Shakuntala participation as a speaker during the Plenary session for the Food Systems Pavilion day focused on Embracing sustainable water and aquatic blue food diversity for climate-smart food systems...
UN Ocean Conference I The launch of the 2022 edition of the FAO State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report
Launch of the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 (SOFIA 2022)
View report here
2022 UN Ocean Conference: Seaweed: Aquatic food solutions for people, climate and oceans
This UN Ocean Conference Side Event co-hosted by WorldFish, Sylhet Agricultural University in Bangladesh, WWF International and Safe Seaweed Coalition, drew upon the knowledge and ..
UN Ocean Decade: Resilient aquatic food systems for a productive ocean
The session focussed on the rationale, objectives and insights from the strategy and highlight the success stories from the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and the State of Odisha in India ..
The UWI Toronto Awards 2022 Tribute - Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted
The University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor’s Award Presented at The University of the West Indies Toronto Benefit Awards, June 2022
Fish4Thought: Nutrient-rich small fish production, processing and marketing in Myanmar and Zambia
WorldFish has been awarded the Seeding The Future Global Food System Challenge grand prize of $250,000 for proposing ..
Fish4Thought: Gender-inclusive innovations for aquatic food systems transformation
In this Fish4Thought virtual event held in conjunction with International Women’s Day, WorldFish's research experts came together to highlight gender-sensitive approaches that empower women ..
Nexus Workshop Series (Module 2) - Bridging Climate-Smart and Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture
Watch english version of recorded full webminar
Aquatic Food Systems for Nourishing People and Planet: Nutrition-sensitive Approaches in Odisha, India - By Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted
Session 2: Bridging Climate-smart and Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture. Click here to watch the full session.
Shakuntala Thilsted: Inspiring speaker at the Opening Plenary, Healthy Oceans Tech and Finance Forum
Watch WorldFish's Global Lead for Nutrition and Public Health, Shakuntala Thilsted, at the Opening Plenary of the Healthy Oceans Tech and Finance Forum as she discusses aquatic foods systems, ocean science, innovations ...
2021 Borlaug Dialogue: Spotlight: Advancing Women & Children Further Faster
Our 2021 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted and the President for Gender Equality at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Anita Zaidi, discuss the work of both individuals and what challenges they have faced ...
2021 Borlaug Dialogue: CGIAR & WFPF Partnership and 50th Anniversary Celebration
This event will celebrate the 50 years of CGIAR long-standing relationship with the World Food Prize Foundation, as well as look ahead to CGIARs new portfolio of initiatives that will help transform ...
2021 Borlaug Dialogue: Aquatic foods for healthy people and planet
This Borlaug Dialogue hosted by WorldFish and CGIAR was held alongside the celebration of WorldFish's Global Lead for Nutrition and Public Health Shakuntala Thilsted, ..
2021 Norman Borlaug Lecture - Aquatic Foods for Nourishing Nations
Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted ...
World Food Prize Laureates on Implications for Feed the Future and Achieving the SDGs
Please join World Food Prize Laureates Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted (2021) and Dr. Rattan Lal (2020) for a conversation with Dr. Rob Bertram, Chief Scientist, and Mr. Mike Michener, ...
Congratulations Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted on receiving your 2021 World Food Prize Laureate.
Facebook video coverage on CCN TV6: Trinidad and Tobago
CFS 49: Transforming food, land and water systems for sustainable healthy diets
Equitable access to nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate aquatic foods and terrestrial animal-source foods is key to making sustainable healthy diets a reality for all, especially ..
Nourishing Minds: A Conversation with the 2021 World Food Prize Laureate
n this dialogue event hosted by MARE2021, WorldFish’s Global Lead in Nutrition and Public Health, Shakuntala Thilsted, presented her research journey ..
Fish4Thought: Youth in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture
In this exciting Fish4Thought event, the authors of the brief highlighted the outcomes and recommendations, building on the current understanding of youth’s livelihood aspirations ..
Scaling Nutrition-sensitive and innovative Fisheries Technologies through partnerships in Odisha
highlighted the outcomes and recommendations, building on the current understanding of youth’s livelihood aspirations ..
CFS Partner Event: Building Forward Better with Aquatic Foods
This CFS High-Level Special Event on Food Security and Nutrition partner event took a unique approach by bringing geographically diverse and multisector representatives together to mobilize and coordinate a global movement ..