A new training centre aiming to educate the next generation of food technology and manufacturing experts opened this week.
Director and Professor Fariba Dehghani said the centre will support Australian businesses to design methods of food processing and storage, as well as develop manufacturing techniques aimed at reducing costs and increasing energy efficiency.
Dehghani said a key objective of the centre is to boost Australia’s capacity to compete in a global market, particular in the production of nutraceuticals – including pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, or food ingredients.
The centre will design cost-effective and sustainable processes for producing these types of products with a view to minimising waste while enhancing efficiency and reducing energy consumption,” Dehghani said.
“These nutraceuticals are highly valued products with potential to boost not only our industry partners’ revenues but also significantly boost Australian exports in agribusiness.”
Australia’s food manufacturing industry is the second largest non-domestic contributor to food waste, sending 312,000 tonnes to landfill each year, beaten only by the food services sector, which generates 661,000 tonnes of food waste annually.
The work of the engineering team will be complimented by the expertise of food science and chemistry researchers based in the university’s Department of Plant and Food Science.
Head of Plant and Food Sciences Robyn McConchie, said fruits, vegetables, grains and their residues have bioactive compounds which have the potential to be utilised.
“One great example of repurposing waste is whey protein which was once a troublesome by-product from cheese making and now retails at a considerable sum.
There’s evidence that whey protein assists in muscle repair.
Similarly there is evidence of anti-cancer properties in fruit extracts so one project will be investigating the drying of the liquid extracts from products such as cranberries,” she said.
Led by University of Sydney chemical engineers, the training centre will open this week with a roundtable conference with eleven food industry partners.
Thirteen PhD students and three Post-Doctoral Fellows will work on research projects at the Training Centre.