For a millennia, the Inuit people have managed to survive off the land of Greenland, an extreme Arctic environment. Assistant Professor Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann has been conducting a two-year postdoc on the Greenlandic Diet Revolution, which looks at the microbiomes of traditional Greenlandic foods, an almost exclusively animal-based diet.

Aviaja’s work encompasses culture, climate change, nutrition, microbiology, biotech, big industry, and politics. Full of fascinating insights, this conversation will get you thinking about what health really means for humans and the planet and how the two can and can’t be connected. It’s also an important conversation to consider how vulnerable communities fit in to our global climate solutions.

  • 5:20 Overview of diet, traditions, and culture
  • 10:20 Why a plant-based diet is causing problems in Greenland
  • 26:00 Vision for the future food system
  • 30:30 How Arctic micro-organisms create big business opportunities beyond oil & gas
  • 38:00 Wisdom collected from nature and the Inuits

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Read the Episode Transcript

Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech  1:37

You were working on the cryosphere or the frozen environment, and you ended up switching to native foods and the study of native foods and native cultures. So why?

Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann  2:07

So, my background is in microbiology. I did a Ph.D. focusing on microbial genomes in the cryosphere or as you said, frozen environments. But when I finished my Ph.D., I started thinking that if I could make my own project using the skills that I had acquired throughout my education, what would I be focusing on? And I thought, “I really want to focus on something that’s close to people in some ways.” And for me, coming from Greenland and asking that question, there was really just one answer. What’s closest to people here? It’s our food. Our food is a major part and a cornerstone, I would say, of our culture. So, I thought if I can work with our native food in Greenland with my microbiological angle that would be a dream thing to do.

Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech  3:08 

Yeah and before we dive more into the cultural aspect, for people who are not totally versed in what microbes are, can you give us the quick lowdown or a broad overview?