Bringing gaming to farming: augmented reality in agriculture

In what’s believed will be a world first in agriculture, researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, will use popular gaming platforms, sensor technologies and next-generation data interaction techniques to help prawn farmers make decisions in a bid to boost productivity.

Water conditions in prawn ponds can quickly change from healthy to threatening in a matter of hours, but current methods for monitoring water quality are labour intensive and cause significant delays between the measurements and being able to see important trends in the data.

Speaking at D61+ Live in Sydney, Australia’s premier science, technology and innovation event, CSIRO Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Mingze Xi said they have developed technology that will give farmers near real-time understanding of key water quality parameters like dissolved oxygen and pH levels.

“This is done using state-of-the-art wearable and hands-free technologies that they use while they’re walking around and managing the ponds,” Xi said.

“Prawn farmers tell us that they don’t actually farm prawns, they farm water quality.

READ MORE: Dominos launches augmented reality app

“This could give them the information they need to better manage animal health and feed inputs, for example, and even share the visuals in real time with managers in the office or external experts for fast input.”

The technology draws on CSIRO’s domain expertise in agriculture and the capabilities of its data and digital specialist arm, Data61. It was developed by CSIRO’s Digiscape Future Science Platform and uses the power of Data61’s Senaps platform, which helps businesses connect data in a range of different formats, integrate complex analytics and turn it into useful intelligence that can make a difference.

Pacific Reef Fisheries, a prawn farm operator in Ayr near Townsville in northern Queensland, is working with CSIRO to provide real world conditions for testing the system.

Environmental manager Kristian Mulholland said augmented reality in the aquaculture industry had the potential to transform productivity in the industry.

“Augmented reality technology could be a huge game changer for our industry to make water quality monitoring so much quicker and easier, all in real time, and bringing a visual aspect of data display to efficiently make more accurate management decisions,” he said.

“We could gain huge productivity improvements using this technology, and we’re incredibly excited to be a part of its development.”

CSIRO has chosen prawn farming as the first agricultural industry to test this technology, with a view to expanding into other sectors shortly.

“We can see this technology becoming a normal part of farm operations no matter what you farm, as all types of farming become more reliant on gathering and understanding data from sensor technologies,” Xi said.

In addition to augmented reality technology, cutting edge projects across artificial intelligence, privacy, security and blockchain, will be on show at CSIRO’s D61+ Live in Sydney on 2 and 3 October 2019.

DuPont launches dairy-free protective cultures for plant-based fermented products

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has announced a new ingredient – Holdbac YM VEGE – as the latest addition to the DuPont Danisco Holdbac line of protective cultures, known for their ability to extend shelf-life and secure the quality of products by holding off yeast and mold spoilage – all without use of synthetic preservatives.

Now, Holdbac YM VEGE brings this effective and label-friendly spoilage prevention to plant-based, fermented foods and beverages, at a time when customer demand in this space has never been higher.

“The industry has seen enormous growth for fermented plant-based products in recent years, driven by higher numbers of flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan consumers around the world. These shifts in diets are driven by a number of factors, including a search for improved health that comes with a plant-based diet, ethical choices toward foods with lower environmental impact and which are deemed better for animal welfare, and switching to dairy alternatives for lactose-intolerant consumers,” said Eve Martinet-Bareau, global product manager, cultures for plant-based fermented food and beverages.

READ MORE: Burcon to build $70 million pea and canola protein production plant

“DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has been working with customers for decades as consumer demands for plant-based options have increased, and we are constantly looking for ways to innovate in this space,” added Martinet-Bareau. “For example, in May 2018, we launched a new cultures line – Danisco Vege Cultures – especially designed for fermented plant-based products, helping customers attain desired taste and texture profiles in a wide variety of plant-based dairy alternatives and beverages.”

However, with that demand came certain challenges for producers of fermented goods, including the need to:

  • Gain market share in the fast-growing plant-based food sector;
  • consistently ensure high-quality products with the desired taste and texture, particularly across regions with differing consumer preferences;
  • secure that quality throughout a product’s shelf-life;
  • address the fast-growing demand for friendly labeled consumer products;
  • make a substantial contribution to the sustainability of the food and beverage sector; and
  • provide consumers with products that improve their health and wellbeing.

“As more consumers look for fermented food and drinks, our HOLDBAC® YM VEGE cultures will help our customers meet that demand.”

This innovative new ingredient also offers customers the ability to make a significant difference in terms of environmental and social impact through reduced food waste and plant-based alternatives. The potential impact is massive: DuPont has estimated that if just 5 percent of the global yogurt market is replaced with plant-based alternatives made with Danisco Vege and Holdbac YM Vege cultures, the carbon dioxide emission saving would theoretically be as high as 3,000,000 tons CO2 annually. This would be roughly equivalent to 1,700,000 EU-based cars off the roads.

“We are thrilled to add Holdbac YM Vege to our range of plant-based and sustainable offerings,” said Mikkel Thrane, Global Sustainability Lead for DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. “We look at our environmental footprint through the lens of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we are proud to say that this culture supports at least three – SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 12 (responsible production and Consumption) and SDG 13 (climate action). Holdbac YM Vege is helping us facilitate the transition to a healthier and more environmental-friendly diet.”

This transition to a healthier diet for people and the planet is powered by DuPont’s expertise in microbiology, food protection and fermentation, as well its commitment to developing and offering more sustainable ingredients for customers

v2food and CSIRO launch plant-based meat alternative

Australia’s newest plant-based meat startup, v2food, has been launched via an innovative partnership between CSIRO, Main Sequence Ventures and Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods Australia.

v2food is a sustainable, plant-based alternative to meat. It looks like meat, cooks like meat and tastes like meat. It was formed by CSIRO’s Innovation Fund, managed by Main Sequence Ventures, a part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), in 2018.

Competitive Foods Australia, the company behind Hungry Jack’s, also contributed seed funding to help launch the startup. With the backing of both government and industry, v2food had all the right ingredients for success from day one. The company is led by former Masterfoods and PepsiCo research director, Nick Hazell.

The company’s rapid growth, from foundation to national launch in eight months, is a result of the team’s access to CSIRO’s expansive network of expertise.

CSIRO provided research and development resources to v2food on a research-for-equity arrangement. While a one-man-team at the beginning, Hazell had access to hundreds of the best scientific minds to help perfect the product.

READ MORE: Burcon to build $70 million pea and canola protein production plant

“Making meat alternatives from plants is not a new idea but at v2food we’ve taken it a step further,” said Hazell. “We are on a journey to make plant-based food both taste better and be more sustainable. The protein substitutes available to date simply don’t taste as good as meat and they are not affordable.

“We’ve drawn upon the best food, nutrition and sustainability science from CSIRO to develop a sustainable and nutritious product, with an unmatched texture and flavour.

The goal is for our product to be a delicious alternative to meat, accessible to every Australian,” said Hazell.

Recognising that there is a need for a ‘version 2’ of the food system, v2food’s range of plant-based meat products taste great and is suited for all consumers.

Made from legumes, the company’s ‘mince’ looks and tastes like quality meat and contains added fibre and nutrients.

“We seem to have the right resources for success,” chairman and CEO of Competitive Foods Australia Jack Cowin said. “With CSIRO’s outstanding research and technology capabilities, the passion of the v2food team led by Nick Hazell and Competitive Foods Australia’s ability to help build and commercialise businesses, we believe that we have the ingredients for a successful venture.

“We’ve seen a huge opportunity for plant-based proteins and the category is set to explode. I’ve eaten beef all my life but I’ve tasted the v2food and it tastes as good as beef.

“Therefore, we can’t wait to take v2food to consumers with some fantastic new products,” he said.

v2food has been collaborating with the grain and meat industries to add plant-based meat to the Australian agricultural story. CSIRO projects this new industry to be worth more than $6 billion by 2030 in Australia. This provides a big opportunity for existing meat and grain producers. It is estimated that by 2050 the world’s population will need twice the amount of food we consume today.

Australia doesn’t currently have the capability to process legumes for plant-based meat alternatives. v2food, with the help of CSIRO, is working on developing this capability to create an all Australian value chain.

v2food will begin to appear in restaurants and cafes throughout the remainder of the year and aims to have a leading presence in-store and in cafes around Australia by early 2020.

Australian and Chinese meat sectors sign MOU

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Australian and Chinese meat sectors highlights the importance of China to Australian industry and underlines a commitment to collaboration on both sides, according to Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson.

The MOU is the result of 18 months of preparations and discussions which kicked off at the China International Meat Industry Week in 2018.

AMIC CEO Mr Hutchinson signed The China Australia Red Meat Agreement (CARMA) MOU with the China Meat Association in Chengdu, China today on behalf of the Australian Meat Industry Council, Meat & Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation.

“China is the biggest export market for Australian meat, and maintaining and enhancing our relationship with this critical partner is essential for the future of our industry. This MOU serves to reinforce the strong value our sector places on the relationship and our great respect for China as a very important trading partner,” he said.

Input sought on Middle East sheep exports

A discussion paper outlining policy options for sheep exports to, or through, the Middle East during the northern summer months is now available for stakeholder comment.

Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, said that live sheep exports were an important part of Australia’s agricultural sector, and underpinned 3,450 jobs across rural and regional Australia.

“The export from Australia of live sheep shipped to, and through, the Middle East resumed on September 23 of this year after the Department of Agriculture prohibited these exports during the northern summer.

READ MORE: Improving oversight in live animal exports

“Feedback on the discussion paper will inform a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), which will determine the future regulation of live sheep exports to, or through, the Middle East during the northern summer months from 2020 onwards.

“The discussion paper outlines four proposed policy option ideas.

“We are seeking input from stakeholders on the potential economic and regulatory impact of each idea but also welcome alternative options.

“I urge anyone who has a stake in Australia’s live sheep export industry to jump online and have their say on the discussion paper.”

In 2017–18 Australia exported around 2 million live sheep valued at over $259 million to trading partners wanting our high-quality live sheep.

Bringing back the flavour

Store brought tomatoes can be bland. Recently scientists have discovered that it is because domesticated tomatoes are missing over 5,000 genomes compared to their wilder cousins, including the one that gives them their distinctive taste. Thanks to this research, store bought tomatoes may soon regain their flavour. This is not limited to tomatoes; many different products have lost unique properties over the years are now beginning to bring them back.

Tomatoes are an integral part of many recipes from pasta sauce, to shakshuka to the humble BLT. Giving them back their flavor will increase consumer satisfaction in products containing them, but how did we get to this place to begin with?

Over humanity’s 12,000 years as an agricultural society, farmers have selected certain strains of fruits and vegetables that demonstrated particular qualities — specifically fruit size, shelf-life and growth speed. This selective production has meant that certain qualities were encouraged while others were suppressed.

Due to the primitive nature of the science at the time it was also hard to fully understand the effects this would have. In the case of tomatoes, it made them bigger, last longer and grow faster but in return they lost the iconic flavor that made them so popular. Though we may imagine this happened recently it was during the earlier years of our modern era circa 1800, well before the advent of modern GMO’s, that tomatoes started to lose their flavor.

With modern techniques researchers were able to find the gene central to providing flavour to the fruit. Thanks to this development producers are now looking to re-introduce this forgotten flavour gene back into mainstream tomatoes. It is important to note that it was through a modern approach that this was achieved.

Many may believe that a rejection of modern applications means we can return to a more flavourful sustainable time, but this is far from the truth. Not only would rejecting modern methods be a step backwards in production, it would generate more waste and reduce sustainability. Control methods in modern applications and developments are a much more secure path for creating sustainable production methods.

Modern technology also allows food manufacturers to have more of an impact on the flavour of their foods. From keeping produce fresher for longer to making sure that precise amounts of ingredients are mixed while making a product these technologies allow for precise production of quality goods.

For example, smoking houses imbue smoky flavours into cured meats. However, good control is necessary to ensure that the meat receives an even cover of smoke during the process, or the product may end up with an uneven flavour. These steps may have been previously irregularly carried out due to the unbalance smoke distribution or lack of precision in the required timing to impart smoke flavour.

Technology such as manufacturing operations management (MOM) software allows for detailed control over a large production system. In the case of a smoking house it is able to balance fan motors to give the meat an even balance of smoke while also optimising power usage and timings.

With one in place a plant can achieve the production rate necessary to keep up with current demand while providing high levels of control that reduces waste. This is because the system will also be able to track the health of the plant and allow operation managers to take better predictive or preventative measures to lower waste.

MOM software also helps manufacturers become more agile, meaning that production lines can integrate steps that may have been in the traditional recipe but were removed, at the beginning of industrial production, due to being hard to integrate into an automated process.

These modern tools mean that we can actively bring back forgotten flavours without discarding the benefits of modern production methods and while remaining sustainable, allowing us to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Modernising agricultural research and development

A thriving agricultural sector underpins the future success of Australian regional communities and national economy and depends on our farmers getting strong returns at the farm gate.

A discussion paper launched recently is calling for ideas to modernise Australia’s Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) to support the next wave of innovation for Australian farmers.

Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, said Australian agriculture is an international success story and the Government is working to ensure farmers can build on that success.

“Our farmers feed and clothe our nation and send safe, high-quality, sustainable products to markets around the globe,” McKenzie said. “Farming underpins profitable farming families, strong rural and regional communities and contributes to our national economy.

“That’s why our Government is committed to realising a $100 billion industry by 2030.

“Agriculture in the 21st century will be science-led, employ more cutting-edge technology and need highly skilled workers.

“If we’re to position agriculture as an agile, industry of choice for the 21st century we need to see what improvements we can make that will help us get there.

“This is an opportunity for those who have a stake in the system to be involved so we can make sure our agriculture sector is operating as effectively and efficiently as it can.

“This discussion paper is about modernising our agricultural research and development to ensure the RDC system is delivering value for our levy and tax payers into the future.”

Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system: Discussion paper is available for comment until 4 November, 2019.

Discussion paper questions:

  • Is the current RDC system delivering value for levy payers and taxpayers? In what ways?
  • What are some of the benefits of keeping the same number of RDCs?
  • What are some of the benefits of changing the number of RDCs?
  • What are some of the cross-sectoral issues being faced by the wider agricultural sector?
  • How can RDCs increase collaboration to ensure better investment in, and returns from, cross-sectoral, transformative and public good research?
  • What are the cultural changes necessary in RDCs to achieve a modern fit-for-purpose RDC system?
  • What other ways are there for increasing investment in cross-sectoral, transformative and public good research?
  • What is the best way for RDCs to engage with levy payers to inform investment decisions?
  • How can we encourage increased investment in the RDC system from the private sector and international partners?
  • How can we form stronger linkages between the RDC system and the food value chain?
  • What changes might encourage improved RDC collaboration with the private sector, including those outside the agricultural sector?
  • Where should the balance of investment between R&D and extension lie?
  • How could RDCs play a stronger role in extension service delivery, in light of existing private and state government extension efforts?
  • How could RDCs help researchers, entrepreneurs and others better engage with producers to accelerate uptake?
  • How could industry and levy payers drive increased uptake of R&D?
  • How might RDCs be able to increase their role in policy research and development and participate in policy debate alongside industry representative bodies?
  • If RDCs were to play a greater role in this area how could this activity be clearly distinguished from partisan and political activity, which must remain a role for industry representative bodies?

Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

Progressive digitisation is increasingly important in the farming industry: data-supported targeted application of fertiliser and crop protection products, soil analysis sensors and autonomous operation are just a few of the buzz words in the current discussion around Farming 4.0 and smart farming.

“Smart Farming can support more productive and sustainable farming via an accurate and resource-efficient approach,” said Dr Jan Regtmeier, director product management at Harting IT Software Development. Regtmeier demonstrates application of the Harting Mica and its benefits for agriculture. The Edge Computer controls processes and procedures seamlessly and records all of the relevant data. “This gives farmers security, also creating consumer trust,” Regtmeier said.

Two application scenarios show how Mica gathers data. In the first one, Harting Mica  records data from two sets of scales, which are used to weigh tractor and trailer, recording the weight of maize delivered. The tractor is also given a single ID to ensure that it is uniquely assigned to the crop area. The data recorded is processed and sent to the Cloud for further evaluation. In the second application scenario, Mica records data during the critical mashing process. The data is then used for process optimisation with data analytics.

“Data-supported farming allows for new approaches, ensuring sustainable food production now and in the future,” explains Dries Guth, principal innovation manager and Head of the IoT Innovation Lab at itelligence. Data collated via sensors, from the soil and farming machinery and satellite imagery and fed into intelligent systems supports not only yield optimisation, but also the resource-saving application of water and crop protection products. “It is also about exploring new forms of food production, as we are now seeing with the successes in Urban Farming and Vertical Farming for example,” said Dries Guth.

“The potential for smart farming is huge,” says Regtmeier with conviction. “The farming industry has only just begun to make use of digitalisation.”

Varied conditions and modest prospects for winter crops

ABARES’s latest crop report reveals mixed prospects for Australia’s winter crop, according to ABARES acting executive director Peter Gooday.

“Winter crop production is forecast to rise by 11 percent in 2019–20 to 33.9 million tonnes but falls short of the 10-year average to 2018-19 by 16 percent,” Gooday said.

“Wheat and canola production is forecast to increase 10 and 6 per cent respectively, but both are expected to fall significantly below the 10-year average to 2018-19.

“Barley production is forecast to increase by 14 per cent to around 9.5 million tonnes which brings it 6 percent above the 10-year average to 2018‑19.

“Crop production deteriorated in regions across New South Wales and Queensland, due to unfavourable growing conditions over winter. Crop production in these states is forecast to be very much below average.

“On the other hand, crops in Victoria were in good to very good condition at the beginning of spring thanks to generally favourable growing conditions over winter.

READ MORE: Commercially reared bees deliver active ingredient to protect crops

“Crops in Western Australia received timely winter rainfall to help boost yield prospects to around average for most crops after a late break to the season.

“South Australia received sufficient winter rainfall in most major growing regions, but the same can’t be said for northern cropping regions with their prospects generally below average.

“Early spring rainfall will be important to final crop outcomes.”

According to the latest seasonal outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, September rainfall is likely to be above average in Western Australia and below average in most other cropping regions. October rainfall is likely to be below average in most cropping regions.

“If realised, above average September rainfall in Western Australia would give cereal crops in the state a strong chance of achieving average to above average yields,” Mr Gooday said.

Gooday said the seasonal conditions outlook for early spring in eastern Australia is likely to constrain crop prospects in southern New South Wales, and northern cropping regions in Victoria and South Australia.

However, there’s a good chance that most cropping regions in southern Victoria, and central and southern South Australia will still achieve average yields.

Gooday said outlook for summer crops is unfavourable due to poor seasonal conditions in northern New South Wales and Queensland.

“Area planted to summer crops is forecast to fall by 28 percent in 2019–20 to around 758,000 hectares—production of grain sorghum, cotton and rice are all forecast to fall,” Gooday said.

Improving oversight of live animal exports

An independent inspector-general of Live Animal Exports to oversee regulation of the industry is a step closer today with the Bill to establish the position as a statutory appointment passing the Senate.

Agriculture Minister, Bridget McKenzie, said the community deserved greater assurance that animal welfare outcomes for export livestock were being met and monitored.

“Australia’s livestock export industry is an important contributor to our rural and regional communities and to our national economy valued at $1.7 billion and supporting thousands of jobs,” Minister McKenzie said.

“It’s a legitimate trade, however, it won’t be conducted at the expense of animal welfare standards.

READ MORE: Minister moves on sheep exports

“This legislation is concrete proof of this government’s continued commitment to improving the trade—making sure the trade is well regulated and above board.

“Support for the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019 means there’ll be an entrenched independent check on the Department of Agriculture’s application of the regulations and its exercise of power.

“Our livestock export system is already world class and the Inspector-General will only enhance that. I am confident that the Bill will pass the House of Representatives and become law.

“Once it does I will appoint a suitably qualified person to make sure the system is operating as it should—driving positive change in the industry, improving regulator performance and providing greater confidence to the general community about livestock exports.”

Commercially reared bees deliver active ingredient to protect crops

Bee Vectoring Technologies International has announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Clonostachys rosea CR-7 (CR-7) for use as a fungicide on commercial crops.  CR-7 is the first registered active ingredient for the Canadian-based company and the first active ingredient approved by the EPA for application via bees, known as “bee vectoring,” in which BVT is a specialist operator.

Sold under the brand name Vectorite with CR-7, the product is labeled for numerous high-value crops, including strawberries, blueberries, sunflowers and almonds. With this approval, BVT is positioned to officially launch and begin to generate revenue with Vectorite with CR-7, starting with this year’s autumn and winter blueberry and strawberry season in the US. The registration permits BVT to make positive crop protection claims when selling Vectorite with CR-7.

“Not only is this a critical milestone for BVT in terms of the commencement of scalable commercialisation and revenue, but it represents a groundbreaking shift in how plant care products can be applied,” said Ashish Malik, CEO of BVT. “By using commercially reared bees to deliver biological products, growers can protect crops, increase crop yields and enhance their sustainable growing practices by reducing the use of chemicals and other costly and increasingly scarce resources including water, fuel and labor.”

BVT is pursuing regulatory approval from other key countries and, because the EPA serves as an affirmative model for regulatory agencies outside the US, these review processes should move faster and more easily.

“According to industry statistics, to establish the high levels of safety and efficacy required to bring a new crop protection product to market costs, on average, more than $410 million and 11 years of internal research and development, university crop trials, and grower demos. This registration is a valuable and substantial asset for BVT, and brings considerable credibility within the industry.” said Michael Collinson, Chairman of the Board of Directors for BVT. “The BVT team has succeeded in developing a novel and effective alternative solution to traditional chemical pesticides and has done so at a fraction of the average industry cost. We are incredibly pleased to have accomplished this feat and are both proud and excited to put the BVT solution into the hands of farmers in the U.S. and are looking forward to future approvals in major agricultural regions around the world.”

The EPA’s registration makes VECTORITE with CR-7, Registration Number 90641-2, available immediately for sale as a registered fungicide for use on the labelled crops

First pea genome to help improve crops of the future

A global team including scientists from The University of Western Australia has assembled the first genome of the field pea, which provides insight into how the legume evolved and will help aid future improvements of the crop.

The study, published today in Nature Genetics, has important implications for global nutrition and the sustainability of crops, with field peas providing an important plant-based protein source for human food and animal feed.

Professors David Edwards and Jacqueline Batley from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences and UWA’s Institute of Agriculture were co-investigators in the research and said that the field pea had a much larger and more complex genome compared to other legumes.

“The pea genome assembly spans about 4.45 thousand million letters,” Edwards said. “But it’s only with relatively recent technological innovations that we’ve been able to sequence and assemble such large genomes.”

READ MORE: Ag-tech app solutions delivering better results for farmers

Batley said the research built on pioneering concepts of inheritance developed by Gregor Mendel, a 19th century monk.

“With the pea genome sequenced, we can now start to understand the basis for the variation which has evolved,” Batley said.

“Mendel analysed the inheritance of different pea traits such as wrinkled peas, and he demonstrated that these traits were passed on from one generation to the next, a foundation for Darwin’s later discoveries in evolution.”

“More than 150 years later, we’ve now assembled the pea genome and can start to understand the DNA basis of the inheritance observed by Mendel.”

This research was supported by the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation and by the Australian Research Council.

Global Table Conference: John Kerry calls for smarter agriculture to feed growing population

The former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, warned that feeding a rapidly growing world population would be one of the greatest challenges of climate change.

The amount of food wasted was not sustainable with the impact of climate change and the world’s population set to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion in the next 35 years, said Kerry, in his opening keynote address at the Global Table conference at Melbourne Showgrounds on Tuesday morning.

The three-day food innovation and agribusiness summit brought together global industry leaders and innovators from the Asia-Pacific, America, Europe and the Middle East, to discuss the future of food.

While a third of all food went to waste in wealthy countries, nearly half of the 8,000 child deaths each day globally were caused by lack of food, said Kerry, who succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state for the last four years of the Obama administration.

“Right now today every one in nine people wakes up in the morning with hunger pains and they go to bed with an empty stomach,” Kerry said. “We have to increase food production by 60 per cent between now and 2050 just to keep pace.”

READ MORE: How climate change could change the face of Australian agriculture

Growing more food was only part of the challenge, said the former Democrat Party presidential nominee, who lost his 2004 bid for the White House to George W. Bush by only one state.

“We have to become better stewards of the land. The truth is we are not smart enough that way,” Kerry said. He also called for improvements to food storage, transport and distribution.

Switching to renewable energy sources was an urgent priority to address climate change, Kerry said.

“Anybody who persists in putting before people the notion that you have to make a choice: you either get to have jobs and prosperity or you can protect the environment and the future, that’s a lie,” he said.

Reducing emissions and choosing renewable energy remained the best solution to combat climate change.

“The solution to climate change is staring us in the face. It’s not some pie-in-the-sky thing. Basically it’s called energy policy. That’s the solution to climate change: energy policy.

“The choices of how we produce electricity, how we transport ourselves from place to place, how we do industry without polluting.”

TAFE graduate loves role at AEGIC

Baking whiz and TAFE NSW student Sabrina Lim knows precisely what she needs to progress her career.

After graduating university in 2016, Sabrina landed a job as a food scientist in baking at the prestigious Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC), researching and testing Australian wheat varieties.

Australian wheat has an excellent reputation and is in demand in international markets, especially in Asia. About 65-75 per cent of Australia’s total wheat production is exported each year.

“My role at AEGIC Sydney involves a variety of tests on wheat varieties, working with cakes, sponges and bread, researching how different flours perform in terms of texture and crumb structure,” Lim said.

When an opportunity to expand her skills and knowledge of baking at TAFE NSW Ryde came up, she leapt on it.

“Each year AEGIC runs the LA Judge Award for Baking Apprentice of the Year, and one of the judges was TAFE NSW teacher Denise McCallum. She suggested I enrol in the Certificate III in Retail Baking to expand my skills.”

Lim completed the Certificate III one day a week while working and is grateful she was able to fit her study around work and home life.

“I’ve always been a keen home baker, and the TAFE NSW course gave me fun, practical experience working with different baked goods. The knowledge I gained has helped round out my understanding of how different varieties of flours can be used to produce different results.”

The grains industry makes an essential contribution to the Australian economy. In 2017–18, production of grains, oilseeds and pulse crops accounted for around 21 per cent ($12.8 billion) of the total gross value of farm production and about 23 per cent of the total value of farm export income.

AEGIC increases value in the Australian grains industry by gathering, analysing and sharing market intelligence the industry needs to breed, classify, grow and supply grain that markets prefer. AEGIC has offices in Perth and Sydney staffed by leading industry experts. Facilities include research laboratories, a pilot mill, pilot bakery and commercial analytical laboratories.

Lim’s supervisor at AEGIC said, “The skills Sabrina acquired at TAFE NSW have made her a valuable asset to us.”

“The cake and pastry knowledge Sabrina gained through TAFE NSW has been especially appreciated. Sabrina is a joy to work with and perfectly complements our team.”

Lim said her teachers at TAFE NSW gave her the drive she needed to succeed and provided compelling and engaging course content.

“The teachers at TAFE NSW were incredible and took an interest in what I was doing at work and encouraged me on a personal level to succeed. I also run training courses as part of my job and have adapted my own teaching style based on the methods of the teachers I had at TAFE NSW.”

Frozen foods can help reduce waste

Over one billion tons of food is wasted every year. The Food and Agriculture Organization also estimates that in developing countries, up to 40 per cent of total food produced can be lost before it even reaches market. As such, implementing methods of safely storing and transporting food is crucial for being able to continue to feed the planet. Here, Darcy Simonis,  food and beverage group vice president at ABB, explains how frozen food can help reduce food waste.

Food and beverage manufacturers understand that they must reduce food waste to improve profitability and their environmental impact. Freezing is a simple way to preserve food for long periods of time, particularly as food can be frozen either directly at the source or once it has gone through processing. This flexibility to preserve perishable food at the source is crucial across the globe. For example, in developing countries it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of root crops, fruits and vegetables are wasted due to improper transport and storage.

However, this is not to say that producing frozen food is simple. There are many different and complex processes that must work together to deliver frozen food to the consumer market. For example, freezing, storing and maintaining temperature during transportation all require specialist technology to properly maintain the product and ensure that it is kept safe for consumption.

Freezing methods
Freezing is a well-established food preservation method. However, it is a delicate task. If large ice crystal form within the products cells it can easily destroy the cellular membrane of the product, which can not only alter the thawed products taste but can potentially make it unsafe for consumption.

There are three main freezing methods; air blast, contact and immersion freezing. Each of these methods has a number of additional variants to cater for specific food types or cellular structures, which can affect the ability to freeze and subsequently thaw food correctly.

Air blast freezing works by passing products through below-freezing air flows. Since air blast can freeze products on the move, this method benefits rolling production. Contact freezing is when products are placed between two metal plates with internal cooling systems. This method is three times faster than air blast but is only suitable for products with two flat surfaces, such as prepackaged items.

Immersion freezing requires products to be immersed or sprayed with liquid refrigerant. There are a variety of different refrigerant liquids available, however, the most common are liquid nitrogen or a mixture of ethanol and dry ice.

Regardless of the method, freezer components must be tough to cope with the drastic temperature shifts between their insides and outsides. Furthermore, to keep up with hygiene requirements in the food industry, freezers must be regularly and thoroughly cleaned. This can mean that certain parts, such as paint, can corrode which could contaminate the food products.

For this reason, at ABB we provide motors that have been designed from the ground up to only include unpainted components. These motors are made for use in freezer applications where the rapid changes in temperature — from 25 degrees to minus 30 degrees Celsius — and humidity from 0–50 per cent, can lead to flaking and chipping on painted motors.

Cold supply chains
Cold supply chains are the leading modern method for transporting items that must be kept at a constant cold temperature. In a cold supply chain, every part of storage and transportation is temperature controlled to stop products from decaying. Food products can be very sensitive to temperature fluctuations, with sudden changes often leading to premature spoilage.

In fact, research demonstrates that there are several key variable factors in the food spoilage process: pH, water activity, salt content, gas composition, pressure, humidity and temperature. Of these, temperature is the main instigator, as when a product is stored above its individual temperature limit it can encounter rapid bacteria growth, which accelerates decay.

Modern food supply chains are also long, meaning that keeping produce at a constant temperature is vital. However, due to the rigorous standards that implementing a cold supply chain requires, not everyone is able to use them. This is because the window of temperatures at which products must be kept is very narrow, so any deviation and the produce will be deemed unsafe and rejected. As such, the cold system must be able to be monitored and controlled from start to finish.

Therefore, paper controls and monitoring cannot keep up with the precision needed for cold food supply chains, because they can only register an average temperature. Accurately controlling the temperature inside cold storage requires a smart system, because multiple sensors can record and analyze a constant temperature.

For example, imagine a refrigerated container being kept at minus eight degrees Celsius to store frozen fruit. If one of the cooling systems was to malfunction, a paper-based system would only register a slight anomaly in temperature variation. A smart sensor-based system would be able to identify exactly which cooling system was malfunctioning and directly identify the affected packages as well as alert maintenance and monitoring teams.

ABB’s ControlMaster range offers a choice of communications options. Ethernet communications provide the ability for users to be automatically notified of critical process events via email. The systems also allow for remote monitoring through the ControlMaster’s integrated webserver, or by simply using a standard web browser.

Overall, freezing is an extremely flexible method of preventing food waste. It can cater for all types of food and, though intricate, the tools for implementing cold supply chains are prevalent and widely accessible.

As food consumption and the global population continue to grow, food waste must be reduced. One easy method of achieving this is extending the life span of the products on the market. Freezing food is a well-developed technique that can reduce food waste in all parts of the food chain and hopefully, the one billion tons of food wasted every year will be reduced.

Growth in premium livestock feeds spurs by-product demand

Livestock feed company, Castlegate James Australasia, is seeking to purchase greater volumes of by-products from food manufacturers, and establish new suppliers, due to strong growth in demand for its high-performance products.

Castlegate James Australasia has been working alongside the Australian food industry since 1923, buying by-products from large FMCG food and beverage companies and converting these organic ingredients into highly sought-after premium livestock feeds.
The company supports many of Australia and New Zealand’s most respected food industry suppliers and large-scale livestock producers, converting what some may see as surplus into nutritionally balanced, performance-based feeds for the dairy, cattle and sheep markets.

Castlegate James Australasia’s Group CEO, Steven Chaur, is a 30-year veteran of the Australian consumer food industry and claims the growth potential for re-purposing or upcycling food industry ‘by-product’ into high-performance livestock feed is both on-trend and exponential.

Importantly, demand for improved on-farm performance, animal welfare and feed reliability are driving interest in and sales of the company’s unique product offer on both sides of the Tasman.

“Each year across Australia and New Zealand, we will convert over 700,000 tonnes of consumer food by-product into quality livestock feeds that would otherwise not be consumed. The ingredients include high quality materials generated as part of a food production process such as production line trimmings or grade-outs, out of specification, over production or unused raw materials. It’s all perfectly good quality and safe but it can’t be used for consumer product and there is increasing pressure on food companies not to add to landfill.”

Many of the ingredients purchased for the company’s unique feed rations include packaged bread, biscuits, dough, yeast, vegetables and fruits, brewers’ grains, food grains and nuts, flour, dairy powders and even confectionery. These ingredients are then formulated by the company to make a unique balanced ration depending on the livestock application and farm productivity goal.

“Our nutritionally balanced feed is produced from high quality, consumer grade food product inputs and because it’s been already fully or partially processed, the ingredient digestibility and calorific value tends to be superior for livestock, relative to a conventional grains based stockfeed, delivering better energy, protein and fibre in a way that increases weight gain, marbling scores or improved milk production. It’s a joy to see livestock chasing the feed wagon. Even cattle like confectionery, in moderation, or the sweet smell of brewers grain.”

Castlegate James operates 10 high volume production facilities across Australia and New Zealand, servicing both suppliers and customers through fast lead-times and unique processes that can efficiently de-package retail ready or bulk packaged foods. The company is planning production investment in both Australia and New Zealand over the coming 3 years to meet increasing livestock customer demand, as well as pursing innovative new high value markets.

“Because a large amount of the by-product that we purchase is branded perishable food, our production sites tend to be state based close to both the customer and supplier, ensuring we can handle significant volumes reliably and operate a fast turnaround to ensure the best quality feed is delivered to our large-scale farm customers, who demand reliability and consistency. Critically, we ensure our suppliers can operate efficiently by providing a professionally managed and timely on-site collection service, as well as confidentiality in dealing with branded packaging materials.”

Demand is growing rapidly for the company as it continues to explore new sources of by-product supply from food manufacturers, food retailers and QSR franchise operators.
“Importantly, we are not a site services company so we don’t manage general waste. We are every bit a premium food manufacturing company, we just feed livestock instead of consumers. We pay a premium for the consumer food grade ingredients used in our livestock feeds and so we have high expectations on suppliers for reliable supply and quality. In turn, we provide a consistent commercial service to our ingredient suppliers.”
“It is a win-win relationship and we’re delighted to play a key role in helping to make a unique contribution to food industry sustainability and support an important livestock value chain,” Chaur said.

How to make money from your wastewater

We often hear about innovation in the food industry as it relates to core business. Whether innovation is thought of as new product development, packaging design, or adoption of concepts like automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) or even blockchain, it is easy to focus on the glamorous, as opposed to the pragmatic aspects of future business.

Wastewater ranks among the most important sustainability challenges facing our agri-food system. As populations increase, product demand grows, as does the need for effective wastewater solutions. In the hope that ground water salination and ocean acidification won’t be our leading legacy, innovators are working to transform wastewater from a hazard into a profit-generating asset that works with the environment.

Industry is now entering an era where wastewater is seen as an asset of a mature sustainable business. It’s time for wastewater to contribute to the bottom line. Project delivery company, Wiley, has explored how to stop money from going down the drain and to make money off wastewater.

An example of next-generation wastewater treatment comes from the Norwegian company BioWater Technology. Its unique biofilm carrier blocks are designed to grow micro-organisms that efficiently absorb pollutants from the water. This process has proven effective in treating biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), a characteristic of food wastewater, which makes it harmful to the ecosystem.

Key to BioWater’s success is the ability to work with food processors. With outflows varying in richness, volume and temperature, it is easy to kill or overwhelm bio-wastewater processing organisms. BioWater can keep up with this fluctuating input and delivers excellent water processing outcomes in a cost-effective and energy-efficient way.
BioWater’s approach is a good solution for removing pollutants, however, it doesn’t transform wastewater into a revenue-generating asset.

To produce revenue from wastewater, algae is the food industry’s secret weapon. Algae has been used in two distinct ways in the management of waste. First, algae can be grown off the nutrients in wastewater, producing high-value bioproducts as the nutrients are extracted, cleaning the water. Second, algae can sequester carbon from the exhaust of coal and gas boilers, directly reducing the emissions of energy generation, while producing the same high-value bioproducts.

The opportunity for the food industry is that food processors bring together both a nutrient-rich wastewater stream and CO2 rich smoke. With these two resources at hand, it is possible to provide everything an algae culture needs, giving a unique edge to the food industry in profitable waste management.

If successful, this concept means food processors may cease to pay for wastewater treatment and will instead profit from their nutrient-rich waste stream by selling valuable bio-products. As a bonus, this will slash their direct CO2 emissions.

This kind of cooperation with biology is indicative of how industrial waste could be processed in future. The algae-based value generation concept is effective because it works with the organism, providing everything it needs through combining multiple waste streams. In this way, a small but complete ecosystem can be created, developing untapped value and transforming the food system from – an impost, to a constructive piece of the sustainability puzzle.

These ideas are still at the early stage, but conceptually speaking, it is certainly possible to grow algae and produce bioproducts directly from industrial waste streams. The economics of these solutions may take some time to develop but investment continues to flow into these areas and more solutions will begin to surface. As innovative companies enter the market, one thing is certain – profiting from waste streams will be too compelling for the market to ignore making this approach part of the future of responsible food businesses.

Terms of reference released for Murray Darling Basin water market

The Coalition Government has today released terms of reference for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin water market.

The inquiry, which delivers on a Coalition Government election promise, will look at options to improve the transparency and efficiency of the water market.

It will also examine changes in water use, carryover water, trade between water valleys and systems and the effect of water speculators on the market.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that water was the lifeblood of communities in the Murray Darling Basin and it was important that the market operated in a transparent and effective manner.

“As with any market it is important to take a look at how it is performing and whether it is operating as intended and to the benefit of communities who rely on the Basin.”

Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Government had listened to the concerns of farmers in delivering on this election commitment.

“I promised this thorough inquiry after hearing from farmers as I travelled up and down the Basin,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Farmers told me they had concerns around changes in water use, trade between valleys and the effect speculators have on the water market.

“It’s important to make sure the market is operating as intended – our regional communities depend on it. We need a transparent market in which farmers have timely access to accurate information.

“I invite farmers to participate in this inquiry.”

The Government has asked for an interim report to be delivered early in 2020 with a final report by the end of 2020.

An outline of the terms of reference for the inquiry can be found via the Treasury website.

Drought-induced destocking of beef reaches record levels

Cow turnoff has reached record levels as severe water shortages across many key beef production regions have accelerated the pace of drought-induced destocking, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Cattle Industry Projections August Update.

Cow and heifer slaughter reached 58 per cent of total adult cattle slaughter for three consecutive months from March to May, as many beef producers continue to destock or manage significantly depleted breeding herds.

MLA Senior Market Analyst, Adam Cheetham, said total Australian adult cattle slaughter for 2019 is now forecast to increase three per cent year-on-year to 8.1 million head.

“Elevated female slaughter and poor conditions have combined to drive average carcase weights lower so far this year to 282.5kg/head,” Cheetham said.

“Despite national slaughter being revised higher, the lower carcase weights have underpinned unchanged production levels at an estimated 2.3 million tonnes carcase weight (cwt), two per cent below the five-year average.

“The lot feeding sector continues to support national beef production and has been a critical link in the supply chain during the prolonged dry period. The number of cattle on feed reached a new record in the March 2019 quarter and has remained above the 1.1 million head mark for the fourth consecutive quarter.

“This number is expected to remain high, given the challenges of finishing cattle on limited pasture reserves.”

Cheetham said the national herd is estimated to have declined 7.3 per cent, to 26 million head for the year ending June 2019, while estimated branding rates have also fallen, reducing the number of calves on the ground this season.

“On the upside, prices for finished cattle have improved this year and are likely to find continued support given an expected tightening of supply during the remainder of the year,” Mr Cheetham said.

“This year has seen the largest premium between the heavy steer indicator and the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) in the last decade.

“Young cattle prices have been reasonably subdued and, until seasonal conditions allow restockers to re-enter the market with confidence, the store market is unlikely to see any significant price corrections. However, if a solid break in conditions were to materialise, there is the potential for young cattle and productive female prices to experience significant increases.”

Cheetham said demand for Australian beef has remained robust this year, supported by a depreciating Australian dollar and rising demand from China.

“In the first half of the year, Australia’s total beef exports increased six per cent and grainfed shipments reached record levels. However, coming up against some supply constraints in the second half of the year, 2019 exports are expected to finish the year steady at 1.13 million tonnes shipped weight (swt),” said Cheetham.

“Dry conditions have also supported cattle exports, with total shipments up 19 per cent in the first half of 2019. Cattle shipments are forecast to finish 2019 at 1.15 million head, up six per cent year-on-year.

“Beyond the weather, factors such as exchange rates, production in the United States and cattle price movements, trade developments and demand from China will remain important price drivers for Australian beef.”

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Cattle company serves up carbon neutral beef

One of Australia’s largest and oldest cattle producers has launched one of Australia’s first carbon-neutral beefs.

Five Founders is the first branded beef product to be launched by the North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCo) and has been officially accredited as carbon neutral after meeting the Australian Federal Government’s strict criteria.

NAPCo, which was founded in 1877 and manages approximately 200,000 head of cattle across Queensland and the Northern Territory, undertook a 12-month accreditation process as part of its journey to provide consumers with a unique beef product.

Five Founders will initially be sold in NAPCo’s current markets of Australia, China and Singapore before a staged and measured expansion to other markets.

NAPCo CEO Phil Cummins said the company’s decision to pursue carbon neutrality in its first foray into selling its own cuts was to meet the desires of the modern consumer.

“When we decided to launch our own branded beef product, we studied the market and quickly realised that people increasingly want produce that not only delivers the highest quality eating experience but respects their affinity for environmental and animal care,” he said.

“Consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever and this is especially the case among younger generations such as Millennials, who want confidence they are buying sustainable products.

“NAPCo has always prioritised our animal welfare and environmental practices and embracing carbon neutrality has been a natural progression of this. NAPCo’s care for animals is also demonstrated in our ‘whole-of-life’ advantage as we breed and raise our own cattle, ensuring good health and full traceability within our supply chain.
“Creating such a ground-breaking beef product has been an eye-opening and incredibly rewarding experience for our staff.”

Cummins said the company engaged an independent national carbon and energy management consultancy company to help guide its bid to produce Australia’s first carbon-neutral beef.

“Pangolin and Integrity Ag Consultants were engaged to calculate our carbon footprint through a hybrid lifecycle assessment (LCA) of our herd, which was then combined with estimation of energy-related emissions from the properties and feedlot,” he said.

“A range of improvements on our properties and in our herds has subsequently allowed us to reduce our footprint, including genetic improvements that allow our cattle to breed and be processed at a younger age and thus emit less methane.

“Having made these efforts to reduce our overall footprint, we then purchased carbon credits approved by the Federal Government to offset the remainder.”

Cummins said NAPCo was also committed to conservation activities such as securing land for nature refuge programs and performing carbon sequestration trials.

“We are also looking to trial feed additives that will reduce the amount of methane emitted directly from our cattle,” he said.

“This is the beginning of our carbon journey, not the end, and we will be working to further reduce our footprint.

“NAPCo has prioritised animal welfare and environmental practices for almost 150 years and see it as our duty to find innovative ways to tackle this global challenge.”

Prior to launching Five Founders, NAPCo spent more than a century solely focused on breeding, growing and finishing cattle for both domestic and export markets.

The company manages more than 6.1 million hectares in Queensland and the Northern Territory, along with the award-winning Wainui Feedlot and Farm on the Darling Downs. About 180 people are employed across all aspects of its operations.

NAPCo is owned by a variety of shareholders, including the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) which bought an 80 percent stake in the company in 2016.