We don’t need to double world food production by 2050 – here’s why

For decades, American agriculture has been a paragon of productivity, churning out record crops at a steady clip. We have exported both our farm products and our way of farming around the world, and global production has risen relentlessly. The Conversation

Yet now there is concern that even this is not enough. The United Nations projects that the global population will increase from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 9.7 billion in 2050. This growth will be concentrated in the world’s poorest countries, where standards of living are set to rise rapidly, increasing demand for resource-intensive meat and dairy products. Together, these trends are heightening fears that the world’s cupboards may run bare in the coming decades.

Food availability is higher in wealthy countries than in developing nations. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization considers 2700 kcal/capita/day a satisfactory level of food supply.
Masaqui/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

This scenario leads to the nearly ubiquitous assertion that we must double world food production by 2050, which is widely repeated by agribusinesses and scholars alike. This claim is often coupled with calls to reduce impacts on the environment even as food production ramps up. The common prescription is for a “sustainable intensification” of agriculture that both increases yields and reduces the harmful side effects of tilling and fertilizing billions of acres of land.

But do we really need to double food production? And what will it take for agriculture to be sustainable?

In an analysis published in BioScience, my coauthors and I offer a recalibrated vision of sustainable intensification. We conclude that food production does not need to double by 2050, which would require unprecedented growth, but instead needs to continue increasing at roughly historical rates. We also highlight quantitative goals that indicate the scope of agriculture’s environmental challenges.

Lower food production targets

Our analysis updates the two most widely cited projections of food demand, one by U.S. scholars and the other from the United Nations, using the most recent available data. Both of these studies used a baseline year around 2005, which made sense at the time they were published, but global cereal production jumped 24 percent between 2005 and 2014. So, we updated the baseline to 2014. We also factored in the most recent U.N. population estimate for 2050, which is higher than the estimates used in the original studies.

Based on our projections, the world will need only 25 percent to 70 percent more crop output in 2050 than was produced in 2014. This includes grain used to feed livestock and, to some extent, grain used for ethanol production.

Strips of corn and soybeans on a northwest Iowa farm.
Lynn Betts, USDA

We did not question the approaches of the original studies. Indeed, the differences between the two studies’ approaches reflect some of the main uncertainties inherent to these long-term projections, including different scenarios of future economic growth and different assumptions about how growing wealth will affect human diets.

Food production will still need to keep growing to meet our updated goal of a 25 percent to 70 percent increase, but at an annual rate that is closer to the historical average. Hitting these lower targets will put much less strain on the global agriculture system – and the land, water and air that supports it – than doubling production. To double output, we would have to boost food production more rapidly than ever before, driving increases in soil tillage, fertilizer and pesticide use, and water withdrawals for irrigation.

New focus on environmental goals

This additional breathing room may be critical, because our analysis also shows that agriculture’s environmental footprint must shrink drastically to safeguard the ecosystems that humans rely on. We reviewed quantitative goals for agriculture’s environmental performance that are tied to specific outcomes for ecosystem function.

For instance, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are crawling steadily upward. Scientists have called for reducing these emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 to avoid temperature increases greater than 2 degrees Celsius.

Nutrient pollution, mainly from farms, forms a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico every summer.

Similarly, nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin creates a massive dead zone every year in the Gulf of Mexico, suffocating aquatic life and impacting commercial and recreational fishing. Reducing the dead zone will require cutting this pollution – which predominantly comes from agriculture – to about half of its historical baseline. Despite decades of effort by farmers and conservationists, annual nutrient loads remain stubbornly high.

Given these challenges, it is good news that the world’s appetite in 2050 may not be as voracious as some estimates have indicated.

The path forward

Our revised food production and environmental goals are just the beginning of a new approach to sustainable intensification in agriculture.

More research is needed to refine the projections of food demand in 2050 and identify options for flattening the demand curve while enhancing human health. Regional studies are also needed, so that areas poised for rapid population growth can plan for their future food needs. And new research can draw clearer links between environmental impacts and ecosystem outcomes, so that farmers and the public can make informed decisions about the costs and benefits of different ways of farming.

Meeting both production and environmental goals will be a monumental task, especially in the face of new challenges such as water shortages, pesticide resistance and the changing climate. However, clear targets may help farmers, researchers and policymakers focus on the right long-term challenges.

Congress has just begun hearings on the 2018 farm bill, which will set policy for five years of agricultural production, conservation and research. The new bill can support research efforts aimed at refining and achieving agriculture’s long-term goals. Just as important, it can begin transforming farm subsidy, crop insurance and conservation programs to help farmers make changes on the ground.

With our lower food demand projections in mind, there is an opportunity to start providing incentives for farming practices that keep soils covered with living plants year-round, store more carbon in the soil and prevent nutrients from entering waterways. More broadly, these lower targets create space for a new conversation, one focused not on doubling production, but on developing a new food system that keeps people fed while focusing just as much on keeping ecosystems healthy.

Mitch Hunter, Ph.D. Candidate in Agronomy, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bosch Australia partners with Food CRC

While the recently-announced Food Agility CRC will be funded with $50 million over ten years along with $160 million in commitments from 54 partner organisations, Bosch Australia will be a lead technology partner and will apply its agriculture technology expertise and resource to projects in connected agriculture and automation.

The Food Agility CRC will integrate the agile culture and processes of the digital economy through a whole-of-value-chain lens for fresh and processed food.

“Global food production needs to double by 2050 and the opportunity that presents to the Australian food industry is enormous,” says Mike Briers, CEO of the Food Agility CRC and UTS Industry Professor.

Bosch Australia said it is making significant investments in connected agriculture and food automation oriented activities in this region, including direct investment in Australian start-ups.

Most recently ‘The Yield’, an early stage Internet of Things (IoT) company focused on Micro-Climate sensing technology in Agriculture and Aquaculture. “

The Food Agility CRC will have a direct impact on the food and agriculture sector,” said Gavin Smith, Bosch President with responsibility for the region Oceania.
“There’s no better place than Australia to develop digital and automation solutions in food technology.”

Tumeric-rich Arkadia Golden Latte released

Arkadia Beverages has released a blend of high of turmeric, spices and organic panela sugar and called it Arkadia Golden Latte.

This turmeric blend is designed to be ready to drunk with hot or cold milk.

With no added dairy, vegan friendly and gluten and caffeine free, Arkadia Golden Latte is claimed to imbue the natural benefits of turmeric – often referred to as the most powerful herb on the planet for helping to fight a range of diseases.

Bellamy’s investors in class action

A shareholder class action against troubled infant formula supplier Bellamy’s has been filed in Victoria to give investors try try and claw back some of their losses.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn lodged the action in the Federal Court in Melbourne on Tuesday on behalf of aggrieved investors who bought shares between April 14 and December 9 last year.
It will be a new challenge for Bellamy’s brand new chairman, Rodd Peters, who was appointed after most of the board resigned or were dumped in a recent shareholder backlash.
The Tasmanian company has suffered a massive plunge in share price and flagged a significant drop in sales in China, and twice downgraded its full-year earnings forecast.

The rebel shareholders who dumped the board at a fiery meeting on February 28 said a turnaround would be complex.
But they said they had a plan to address problems related to product distribution and pricing in China.
Maurice Blackburn principal Ben Slade said the class action was a chance for investors to seek some justice.
“We’ve put together a comprehensive set of pleadings that we’ve now filed with the court, and we are confident that will give aggrieved shareholders the best chance possible of achieving financial redress for some of their losses,” he said in a statement.

Australian fruit destined for Chinese retailers

Winha Commerce and Trade International, the Australian paddock-to-plate Chinese retailer and wholesale food company, has announced that it will use its participation in a new Australian agricultural research centre to help create new products for the Chinese market.

Last month Winha announced it would be a foundation partner in Ausway College to be created in Deniliquin, which aims to become Australia’s leading agricultural research facility in Australia. Winha hopes to ensure that Australian agricultural producers can develop products that will be sought after by Chinese consumers.

“China is the world’s top fruit consuming nation, but at the moment not all Australian fruit is represented in the country. We need to ensure there are more pears, plums, mangos and other specialised fruits like star fruit created and produced for the Chinese market,’’ said Winha Chairman, Jackie Chung.

“Chinese consumers love the quality of Australian produce, but they also have slightly different tastes and likes to Australian consumers, so we must work with Australian fruits producers to create the right looking and tasting fruit to sell into China,’’ he said.

To illustrate its intentions to continue to promote Australian food in China, Winha has also announced it will import locally made Crystal Nest, Australia’s finest bird’s nest, into China.

Crystal Nest founder James Liew said: “We are delighted to be associated with Winha and we are excited to take our quality Australian product to China.’’

Chinese families who appreciate the reported health benefits of bird’s nest are willing to pay up to $US60 a bowl for the product – making the raw bird’s nest one of the most expensive food items in the world.

Australian owned and operated Crystal Nest sells its bird’s nest product all around Australia and now with the help of Winha (and its chain of retail outlets and enormous customer reach in China), Crystal Nest has found the perfect distribution channel into China.

Winha congratulates Crystal Nest for the extra care it puts into the handling and cleaning of its bird’s nests, ensuring it exceeds the highest global quality standards.

Bird’s Nest Soup is considered a delicacy amongst the Chinese upper classes.

Mechatronic drive awarded HACCP certification

 Understanding the extremely high standards that Australia’s food and beverage manufacturers work towards to ensure that consumers receive the highest quality products, SEW-EURODRIVE has announced the recent Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification of its mechatronic drive system MOVIGEAR type B, variant for wet areas.

Traditional machine components are not only difficult to clean thoroughly; they also generally require production areas to shut down – at least in part – for cleaning activities to take place. This procedure places strain on production timeframes, contributing to reduced product throughput affecting the overall profitability.

Machine components mounted in production or processing areas are often exposed to harsh cleaning chemicals. The shape of the component, its material composition and the method of substrate protection all play a large role in the cleaning efforts, likelihood of becoming a source of contamination and product longevity.

Designed specifically for the food and beverage industry MOVIGEAR for wet areas has a number of advantages over traditional drive solutions. Up to three core products can be assembled into a “self-draining” and compact housing: gear unit, motor and drive electronics (optional).

Combining the technical and practical advantages of all three drive components leads to an increase in the performance, efficiency and reliability. The MOVIGEAR product range can be easily integrated into most materials handling applications such as conveyor systems.

The smooth housing of the MOVIGEAR for wet areas is finished with a ‘HP200’ treatment which is burned-in-to the surface during the application process. Highly resistant to rigorous cleaning regimes, including chemical and high pressure wash down, the integrity of the surface finish eliminates the possibility of “paint-lift-off” often associated with traditional surface coatings.

The inherent anti-stick properties contribute to a reduction of debris build-up resulting in reduced cleaning efforts and system downtime. Standard inclusion of stainless steel shafts, fasteners and auxiliary fittings further enhances the MOVIGEAR for wet areas anticorrosive properties.

The totally enclosed non-ventilated mechatronic drive system is designed according to the principle of convection cooling, eliminating the need of a motor fan. Motor-fan noise spread of germs and bacteria due to air swirls are a thing of the past with the MOVIGEAR product range.

Compliant with IE4 (Super Premium Efficiency) standards, a major benefit of the MOVIGEAR is the impressive energy savings potential.

 

 

Temperature controller

Oven has announced its 5R6-900 temperature controller with ramp/soak capabilities. Contained all in one enclosure, the device can be plugged into the wall as a self-contained temperature control system, which has its own power supply.

This feature makes the device convenient for users. The controller can also be used universally, which allows the user to use the device wherever they are located.

As a solid state MOSFET bidirectional compact unit featuring an internal power supply, it is also capable of loading currents up to 10A.

The controller is suited to usage in universities, science laboratories, industrial plants and PCR research.

It features an easy-to-read digital display for controlling functions, including adjusting output voltage and setting the desired temperature.

Complete with an auto output shutdown if the sensor is opened or shorted, the unit also includes high, low and no alarm settings.

Food industry penalty rate change applauded by business

The Australian Industry Group has welcomed today’s Fair Work Commission (FWC) Penalty Rates Decision.

“The Commission has accepted Ai Group’s evidence and arguments to re-set penalty rates in the fast food industry to better align them with the characteristics and needs of 21st century workplaces,” Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said.

“Ai Group represented the fast food industry in the case.  A great deal of evidence was presented from Ai Group members, McDonalds and Hungry Jacks, and from relevant experts.”

“A very high proportion of employees in the fast food industry are young people who have study commitments during normal business hours.”

The Commission accepted Ai Group’s evidence that young people often prefer to work in the evenings and on weekends, and that many prefer to work on Sundays rather than Saturdays.

“In the fast food industry, weekends and evenings are peak times. Regular business hours have little relevance to businesses in the fast food industry and, therefore, penalty rates that were designed many decades ago around regular business hours need to be re-set.”

“In the Decision, the Commission has recognised that existing Sunday penalty rates in the fast food industry are not fair for employers and no longer relevant.”

“The new penalty rates will be phased in over at least two years to reduce the impact upon employees.”

“The five-Member Full Bench, headed by FWC President, Justice Iain Ross, made their decision on penalty rates in the fast food industry after a case which continued for over two years. The Full Bench carefully weighed up all the arguments and evidence and arrived at a fair and sensible outcome.”

“What is important now is that the decision by the independent umpire is implemented as soon as possible, and that all parties accept the outcome,” Willox said.

Nanoparticles could be the future of agriculture

MICROSCOPIC particles that have always been considered a pollutant are being studied for a range of agricultural uses.

South Australian researchers are working on a number of novel uses for engineered nanoparticles including efficient fertilisers, agricultural ‘amendments’ and a unique way to clean-up contaminated land.

Engineered nanoparticles are currently used in a range of industrial materials, such as ceramics and advanced polymers, and are also commonly used in the production of household materials, personal care products and clothing.

These particles are considered a pollutant risk if they are able to accumulate in the environment.

With a maximum diameter of just 100 nanometres, it is easy for the particles to be widely dispersed across soil and accumulated by plants.

As a result, nanoparticles have been considered a pollutant and eco-toxicological risk to both plants and wildlife.

But researchers at the University of South Australia have found that the very same nanoparticles could also prove beneficial to the growth of plants.

A glasshouse trial conducted by Dr Elliott Duncan, Dr Gary Owens and Nazanin Nikoo Jamal involved exposing rice plants to titanioum and cerium nanoparticles.

Dr Elliott said that instead of proving toxic to the plants, the nanoparticles aided the growth of the rice plants.

Current laboratory tests have focused on rice plants, but Dr Duncan said the same particles could also be used to benefit other grain crops and horticultural species, with tests expected to begin on wheat later this year.

“There’s a lot of concern in terms of whether engineered nanoparticles are toxic, whether they’re accumulated by plants and what the end effect is for humans and the environment,” he said.

“But we found these particles may actually provide some benefits for the plants, and, if we could harness those, this could be a big deal for the agriculture industry.”

The experiment demonstrated that some nanoparticles had the potential to be used as an agricultural supplement, although Dr Duncan said it was still unclear how exactly these particles helped the growth of plants.

“The mechanisms behind it and predicting whether it is going to occur and how best to harness it is still unknown,” he said.

His team will continue with glasshouse experiments to test the safety and effect of the nanoparticles.

Dr Duncan said there was also the potential for specially designed nanoparticles to be used as a way to delivery fertiliser more efficiently.

“With current fertilisers, a lot of the nutrient isn’t available to the plants – essentially the plant can only use 30 to 50 per cent, so up to 70 per cent of the fertiliser expense is just wasted,” he said,

“The idea would be that if we can improve that, you can get away with applying a lot less, which then has benefits for the economics of the farm and the environment.

“This stems from the fact that the nanoparticles are small, which means they’re quite mobile in the environment so they should be able to interact with plants a lot better than more traditional bulk fertilisers.”

The size of nanoparticles also means they possess unique properties such as a high surface-area to volume ratio, which could also make them effective for cleaning up contaminated land.

Dr Duncan is also researching the effectiveness of nanoparticles in binding to toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic.

“To remediate a site is often quite destructive, you cause quite a big change to the environment if you’ve got to say dig it up, it’s quite labour intensive and so on,” he said.

“So this could be a faster, simpler way to remediate a site than current technologies, so we want to see whether these particles can reduce the bio-availability of contaminants, which should reduce how much is available to plants and also how much is lost into water-sources.”

Dr Duncan said more understanding was still needed around the ease with which nanoparticles could move into soil, plants or wildlife, and that long-term toxicity was also an important safety factor to evaluate.

However, if his research continues to yield positive results, he said there was the potential for a commercial product for the agriculture industry.

“We need to do it in an Australian context to see how it’s going to potentially impact our industry,” Dr Duncan said.

“We’re aware that there are risks involved with nanoparticles, but the reward could also be great too.”

 

From The Lead

S&W expands into commercial hybrid sunflower production

S&W Seed Company has commenced commercial seed production for one of its proprietary hybrid sunflower seed varieties in New South Wales, Australia.

This marks the company’s initial entry into the “vertical production model” for sunflower, a nearly $1 billion global crop. It anticipates that the transition into sunflower seed production will allow it to capture a higher gross profit dollar and move closer to the end customer. The move continues the company’s recent strategic initiatives to expand vertically by leveraging the company’s key distribution and production capabilities.

S&W acquired the operations of SV Genetics’ (“SVG”) sunflower program in May 2016 with the goal of advancing deployment of the proprietary germplasm that exhibits high yield, high oil, disease resistance, and outstanding standability, on a global basis. The company has royalty-based sunflower licensing agreements with five partners in six countries that are currently increasing production, and commencing commercial-scale production of the hybrid sunflower operations is the first step in the company embarking on its dual strategy to further expand the company’s opportunity within sunflower.

The vertical entry into a production-based model for hybrid sunflower follows S&W’s recent vertical entry into the production of hybrid sorghum, and aligns its operations more closely with its existing alfalfa seed operations where the company is currently one of the largest producers worldwide.

The company is initially producing the hybrid sunflower seed in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area of NSW, with initial end customer markets of Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Pakistan through distribution partners under both branded and private label programs. The variety being produced, SW-S6066, is a medium, late maturity sunflower that has historically performed extremely well in various regions of the world.

 

Australian agriculture looking good, for now

Australian agriculture looks positioned for an overall positive 2017, with a new report from Rabobank expecting relatively “smooth sailing ahead” for most commodities, but warning there are “potential storm clouds gathering on the horizon”.

In its flagship annual Agribusiness Outlook, the food and agribusiness banking specialist says “in most regards”, Australia’s agricultural sector is poised for a good year, with factors in its favour including a projected rise in global economic growth and farmgate prices for most livestock and crops expected to come in above their five-year averages.

Report lead author, RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness general manager Tim Hunt (pictured) said other positive factors included high dam levels, neutral climate indicators and strong on- farm confidence.

“Key dam levels are high following a wet 2016, ensuring good supply and lower pricing for irrigation water in most regions,” he said, “while El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate indications are at this stage neutral.

“While on-farm, confidence levels are strong among producers and their investment intentions are increasing.”

The report does qualify the optimistic view however, noting that the market for grains and oilseeds remains an exception, in particular for wheat.

“Ample global supplies look set to limit any improvement in wheat prices this year, though a large Australian 2016/17 crop has at least partly offset the revenue damage,” Hunt said.

And it’s not all positive news for the sector looking out further, with “some storm clouds gathering on the horizon that will bring at best uncertainty and at worst the prospect of significant turbulence in years to come, in particular on the economic and regulatory fronts”, the Agribusiness Outlook warns.

The Trump effect

The commencement of the Trump presidency brings with it some potential near-term benefit, but considerable uncertainty and concern for the medium-term, the report says.

“There is potential, particularly in 2017, for Australian agriculture to benefit in some regards from the new administration,” said Hunt.

But more generally, he said, the new US administration brings with it a “huge degree of uncertainty about what will be implemented, and its impact on the global economy and geopolitics”.

“The TPP in its current form is already dead, taking the incremental gains in market access it included for products like beef, dairy and sugar off the table,” Hunt said.

Protectionism and political tension

More broadly, the report says, the policies of the Trump administration may contribute to a rising trend in protectionism already evident in recent years in many parts of the world – from which Australia, as an export-oriented agricultural producer, has much to lose.

The potential for political tension between the US and China (two of Australia’s largest trading partners) is also high.

Well placed

Releasing the report, Rabobank Australia national manager Country Banking Todd Charteris noted that the Australian food and agri sector would need to work to ensure it managed this period of uncertainty and potential turbulence, as well as it could.

“As the report finds, this will include seeing if anything can be salvaged from the ashes of the TPP and advancing bilateral trade agreements (including positioning for a FTA with the UK when it leaves the EU). And beyond the trade realm, securing partnerships and stable routes to market will be more important than ever,” he said.

“At the very least, Australian agriculture should enter any potential storm in generally good shape. And turbulence can bring opportunities as well as threats.”

Changing climate has stalled Australian wheat yields: study

Australia’s wheat yields more than trebled during the first 90 years of the 20th century but have stalled since 1990. In research published today in Global Change Biology, we show that rising temperatures and reduced rainfall, in line with global climate change, are responsible for the shortfall.

This is a major concern for wheat farmers, the Australian economy and global food security as the climate continues to change. The wheat industry is typically worth more than A$5 billion per year – Australia’s most valuable crop. Globally, food production needs to increase by at least 60% by 2050, and Australia is one of the world’s biggest wheat exporters.

There is some good news, though. So far, despite poorer conditions for growing wheat, farmers have managed to improve farming practices and at least stabilise yields. The question is how long they can continue to do so.

Worsening weather

While wheat yields have been largely the same over the 26 years from 1990 to 2015, potential yields have declined by 27% since 1990, from 4.4 tonnes per hectare to 3.2 tonnes per hectare.

Potential yields are the limit on what a wheat field can produce. This is determined by weather, soil type, the genetic potential of the best adapted wheat varieties and sustainable best practice. Farmers’ actual yields are further restricted by economic considerations, attitude to risk, knowledge and other socio-economic factors.

While yield potential has declined overall, the trend has not been evenly distributed. While some areas have not suffered any decline, others have declined by up to 100kg per hectare each year.

We found this decline in yield potential by investigating 50 high-quality weather stations located throughout Australia’s wheat-growing areas.

Analysis of the weather data revealed that, on average, the amount of rain falling on growing crops declined by 2.8mm per season, or 28% over 26 years, while maximum daily temperatures increased by an average of 1.05℃.

To calculate the impact of these climate trends on potential wheat yields we applied a crop simulation model, APSIM, which has been thoroughly validated against field experiments in Australia, to the 50 weather stations.

Climate variability or climate change?

There is strong evidence globally that increasing greenhouse gases are causing rises in temperature.

Recent studies have also attributed observed rainfall trends in our study region to anthropogenic climate change.

Statistically, the chance of observing the decline in yield potential over 50 weather stations and 26 years through random variability is less than one in 100 billion.

We can also separate the individual impacts of rainfall decline, temperature rise and more CO₂ in the atmosphere (all else being equal, rising atmospheric CO₂ means more plant growth).

First, we statistically removed the rising temperature trends from the daily temperature records and re-ran the simulations. This showed that lower rainfall accounted for 83% of the decline in yield potential, while temperature rise alone was responsible for 17% of the decline.

Next we re-ran our simulations with climate records, keeping CO₂ at 1990 levels. The CO₂ enrichment effect, whereby crop growth benefits from higher atmospheric CO₂ levels, prevented a further 4% decline relative to 1990 yields.

So the rising CO₂ levels provided a small benefit compared to the combined impact of rainfall and temperature trends.

Closing the yield gap

Why then have actual yields remained steady when yield potential has declined by 27%? Here it is important to understand the concept of yield gaps, the difference between potential yields and farmers’ actual yields.

An earlier study showed that between 1996 and 2010 Australia’s wheat growers achieved 49% of their yield potential – so there was a 51% “yield gap” between what the fields could potentially produce and what farmers actually harvested.

Averaged out over a number of seasons, Australia’s most productive farmers achieve about 80% of their yield potential. Globally, this is considered to be the ceiling for many crops.

Wheat farmers are closing the yield gap. From harvesting 38% of potential yields in 1990 this increased to 55% by 2015. This is why, despite the decrease in yield potential, actual yields have been stable.

Impressively, wheat growers have adopted advances in technology and adapted them to their needs. They have adopted improved varieties as well as improved practices, including reduced cultivation (or “tillage”) of their land, controlled traffic to reduce soil compaction, integrated weed management and seasonally targeted fertiliser use. This has enabled them to keep pace with an increasingly challenging climate.

What about the future?

Let’s assume that the climate trend observed over the past 26 years continues at the same rate during the next 26 years, and that farmers continue to close the yield gap so that all farmers reach 80% of yield potential.

If this happens, we calculate that the national wheat yield will fall from the recent average of 1.74 tonnes per hectare to 1.55 tonnes per hectare in 2041. Such a future would be challenging for wheat producers, especially in more marginal areas with higher rates of decline in yield potential.

While total wheat production and therefore exports under this scenario will decrease, Australia can continue to contribute to future global food security through its agricultural research and development.

The Conversation

Zvi Hochman, Senior Principal Research Scientist, Farming Systems, CSIRO; David L. Gobbett, Spatial data analyst, CSIRO, and Heidi Horan, Cropping Systems Modeller, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New method for converting wastewater nutrients into fertiliser

Researchers from Aalto University in Finland have developed a new, energy-efficient method for capturing nitrogen and phosphorus from different liquid waste fractions. In laboratory studies, with the help of the method, it is possible to separate 99 per cent of the nitrogen and 90-99 per cent of phosphorus in wastewater and produce granular ammonium sulphate (NH4)2SO4 and phosphorus precipitate suitable for fertilisers.

“There are many different methods for removing nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater, but none of them meets the need of capturing their nutrients. It is estimated that the industrial production of nitrogen used for fertilisers is responsible for approximately two per cent of the entire world’s energy consumption. By capture of nutrients from communities’ wastewater it is possible to supplement six per cent of the industrially produced ammoniacal nitrogen and about one-tenth of phosphorus used for fertilisers”, said Riku Vahala, professor of water and wastewater engineering at Aalto University.

The construction of pilot equipment at the laboratory of Water and Environmental Technology at Aalto University will begin in spring 2017. The main objective is to develop an economically profitable process and operation chain for the recycling of nutrients of liquid waste fractions. Simultaneously, entrepreneurs in the field will be encouraged to migrate towards efficient wastewater treatment. Increased efficiency in nutrient capture will reduce nutrient load in the Baltic Sea, reduce the costs of wastewater treatment and promote recycling of nutrients.

“The specific beneficiaries in the project include wastewater treatment plants, sludge producers and handlers, biogas plants and the end users of fertilisers, who will get a sustainable fertiliser product for their use”, said Surendra Pradhan, DSc (Tech).

The capture method is based on the use of calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 to convert ammoniacal nitrogen NH4+ into ammoniacal gas NH3, which are separated through a semi-permeable membrane. Following this, the ammonium is dissolved into sulphuric acid to produce ammonium sulphate. In the process, the phosphorus is precipitated with the help of calcium salt.

“A patent application for the method is currently under way, and the aim of the project is to find company partners who could make use of the patent in the best possible manner, create products with its help and market the new process. If successful, the new process will also create a competitive export product,” said Anna Mikola, DSc (Tech).

The method also has significant positive impacts on the environment.

“Nutrient emissions to waterways will decrease, and the energy savings and reduced use of chemicals in the production of fertilisers will lower the amount of greenhouse gases”, said Vahala.

‘Gene-silencing’ technique is a game-changer for crop protection

Researchers at the University of Surrey and University of Queensland have developed a revolutionary new crop protection technique which offers an environmentally-friendly alternative to genetically-modified crops and chemical pesticides.

The breakthrough research, published in Nature Plants, could have huge benefits for agriculture and positively impact communities around the world. Plant pests and pathogens are estimated to reduce global crop yields by 30 to 40 per cent a year, constraining global food security. At the same time, the need for higher production, regulatory demands, pesticide resistance, and concern about global warming driving the spread of disease all mean there is a growing need for new approaches to crop protection.

The researchers have found that by combining clay nanoparticles with designer ‘RNAs’ (molecules with essential roles in gene biology), it is possible to silence certain genes within plants. The spray they have developed – known as BioClay – has been shown to give plants virus protection for at least 20 days following a single application. When sprayed with BioClay, the plant ‘thinks’ it is being attacked by a disease or pest insect and responds by protecting itself.

The latest research overcomes the instability of ‘naked’ RNAs sprayed on plants, which has previously prevented them from being used effectively for virus protection. By loading the agents on to clay nanoparticles, they do not wash off, enabling them to be released over an extended period of time before degrading.

The BioClay technology, which is based on nanoparticles used in the development of human drug treatments, has a number of advantages over existing chemical-based pesticides. Since BioClay is non-toxic and degradable, there is less risk to the environment and human health. It can also be used in a highly targeted way to protect crops against specific pathogens.

Professor G.Q. Max Lu, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey and co-author of the research paper, said: “This is one of the best examples of nanoparticles being effective for biological molecular delivery with a controlled release rate for combating diseases in plants or animals.  The same nanoparticle technology invented and patented in my laboratory at the University of Queensland was used for effective targeted drug delivery. It was licensed to an Oxford-based pharmaceutical company and is now being commercialised for drug development.”

“I am very pleased to see the exciting results of this project and the publication of our research in the prestigious Nature Plants journal.” 

The research paper, ‘Clay nanosheets for stable delivery of RNA interference as a topical application to protect plants against viruses’ is published in Nature Plants on 10 January 2017.

 The research was led by researchers Professor Neena Mitter and Professor Gordon Xu at the University of Queensland in collaboration with Professor Lu of the University of Surrey.

Food for thought: the rise of Australia’s mighty Brahman

The cattle in northern Australia are different to the rest of the national herd and the most striking thing is they have humps. But these humped Brahman cattle are here for a reason: because they adapted to surviving where others cannot in harsh tropical environments.

Brahmans were first introduced to Queensland in 1933. Today the national beef herd is around 26 million cattle and Brahman genetics can be found in around 50% of the national herd. More than 70% of the bulls working north of the Tropic of Capricorn are Brahman.

Such has been their impact that, before you can leave Ausralia’s beef capital of Rockhampton, you are greeted with a giant statue of a Brahman bull, a tribute to the immense economic benefits it has delivered. In 2001 it was estimated that Brahman genetics had contributed an extra A$8.1 billion to the Queensland economy.

The Brahman cattle statue in Rockhampton.
Michael Thomson, Author provided

But its impact has been far greater than just dollars and cents. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that the great experiment of introducing these bloodlines into Australia laid down the ideal model of research and industry collaboration that all fields of science can still learn from today.

Like all great advances in human endeavour, it began with an insight, followed by a vision and then years of unrecognised and thankless toil.

Inspiration from Texas

In the 1920 the Australian veterinary scientist John Anderson Gilruth toured the United States and viewed the cattle at the Pierce Estate in Texas. According to Angus Packham’s book of Cattle Breeding Research at Rockhampton, Gilruth said that “a vigorously controlled cattle breeding experiment in north Queensland would be wise”.

Gilruth later became the first chief of the new division of animal health at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR was the precursor to today’s CSIRO). There, he put forward a proposal to acquire Zebu cattle (Brahmans are a sub-breed of the Zebu species of cattle).

Wise indeed, but it took until 1933 for the first Zebus to be imported by CSIR on behalf of a handful of cooperating progressive pastoralists, even though most cattlemen did not see value in these humped “feral” cattle of inferior genetics.

The CSIR’s animal geneticist Ralph Bodkin Kelley said at the time:

A cooperator refused to use a CSIR-installed cattle weigh-bridge and another stated that nobody was going to tell him how to breed cattle that were his.

Even then it wasn’t until 1941 that Kelly was able to record that “the most worthwhile experiment with respect to Zebu crossbreeding in Australia” had begun. It was another decade before the property Belmont, north of Rockhampton, was purchased as a dedicated research property for cattle research.

Every scientist with a grand vision would appreciate these long thankless years. In fact, the CSIR Executive Board questioned:

[…] whether anybody is cognisant of the very large number of major and minor difficulties and problems, of husbandry and science, which will have to be overcome or solved on the ground before Belmont can become the centre of a beef cattle research programme of which CSIR can be proud.

Thankfully, things reached a tipping point, and this is where things get really interesting for designing future research collaborations.

Brahman cattle dominate the northern Australian herd.
CSIRO, CC BY

The Queensland herd

In 1965 less than 15% of the Queensland cattle herd contained Brahman genetics. By 1981 it was 60%.

Author provided

That rise coincided directly with a rise in industry visitors to CSIRO’s research facilities at Belmont, which coincidentally or not, tracks a similar rise in the number of scientific papers published by the researchers.

Author provided

Strong links with industry reflected by official visitor numbers appears to have been vital in maintaining research momentum, helping to frame industry-relevant research questions and driving adoption of innovation by Queensland cattlemen.

Alas, amid government funding cuts and rationalisation of research activities, the CSIRO left Rockhampton in 2009. It consolidated its northern livestock program to Townsville, leaving the beef capital without a research presence.

The once crowded Rendel Research Laboratories were emptied, Belmont’s pastures were used by private herds, and producers started looking elsewhere for inspiration.

A new approach

Despite the successes of the Brahman breed, the challenge facing the north Australian industry remains the same: identifying superior genetics that can thrive in harsh and remote environmental conditions with limited human intervention.

Case in point being the abysmally low fertility rates in some northern Australian herds, where 47% calving rates are normal, compared with the national average of 76%.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) research also shows that the 25% of producers in the northern region (i.e. those operating profitably) are acutely focused on their genetics, their pastures and their labour efficiency. They achieve higher reproductive rates, lower mortality rates and heavier sale weights than the rest of the producers.

So the focus now is on engaging producers in the development of new automated monitoring systems to identify new genetics that will take the industry to the next level of productivity.

Systems have been developed that are capable of gathering data on individual animals and Belmont (now owned by farmer association AgForce) is again the touch point for industry.

A stockman musters cattle on CSIRO’S Belmont research station, 32km north of Rockhampton.
CSIRO, CC BY

This allows our researchers to track in real time which cattle are reaching optimal markets weights the fastest, and which cows are most fertile, as well as the pasture and water availability.

If this sort of technology is rolled out across the industry, the data gathered will dramatically enhance analysis of industry-wide genetic linkages. Producers will be able to more accurately select from a larger number of bulls and cows which have detailed fertility records, and whose progeny will grow faster than their ancestors while consuming less pasture.

For the producer this means more beef produced per hectare, bolstering their bottom line and the nation’s export returns. For the consumer it means industry can select genetics that are known to produce tender beef. And for the environment it will reduce the amount of grazing pressure on ground cover and waterways.

But this will all remain just a scientist’s crusade if producers can’t see the value in adopting new innovation. The key to that riddle is once again opening the doors to Rockhampton’s beef research facilities and recreating that strong link between researchers and producers that proved so successful in the past.

The challenge for governments and the research community is to understand the value of investing for the long-term, riding out the dark and lonely days and the importance of engaging with end-users along the way.

The Conversation

Dave Swain, Professor of Agriculture, CQUniversity Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

BCDS appointed master distributor by FOX IV Technologies

BCDS Group has been appointed by automation manufacturer FOX IV Technologies as their master distributor for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Rim region.

“FOX IV’s automated print and apply labeling systems have been a reliable addition to Australian manufacturing facilities for the past 20+ years,” says Rick Fox, president and CEO.  “The addition of the BCDS Group enables FOX IV to continue to provide reliable equipment  sales and service to the market.”

“This new appointment by FOX IV comes with much excitement within the BCDS Group, allowing us to further succeed on our business purpose of making our clients lives easier,” says Ian Jefford, managing director of BCDS.

FOX IV systems will be offered through ALS (Auto ID Labelling Solutions), a BCDS company, which is headed up by Bill Boursianis who has had more than 10 years experience with both FOX IV products and other printing and labelling equipment.

Over the past 20 years, more than 1000 FOX IV print and apply systems have been installed in Australia.  BCDS will provide parts and service for existing FOX IV equipment as well as supply new FOX IV equipment, including the 2010 Series and FOX IV’s innovative Zebra based print and apply systems.

Donut King tries a little magic with new store

Donut King has launched a new store concept, which it claims takes its cinnamon doughnut to new heights.

The company’s new DK Magic store design pays homage to the brand’s most popular product by focusing solely on warm donuts, paired with a hot drink, milkshake or bottled drink.

“In addition to original cinnamon, customers are now able to choose from five…new sugar flavours,” says General Manager Nicholas Brill.

Australia’s first Donut King DK Magic store opened in Toowoomba.

 Franchise Partners Nathan and Pauline Dwight said the concept has been well received by locals.

From the moment we opened, doughnuts have been running hot off the shelves – pun intended – and customers are having a lot of fun with our new dust flavours,” says Pauline.

Small-to-medium machine automation controller

Omron electronics has released its entry level controller, NX1P, designed for small to midsize production machines.

Based on the Sysmas (System for Machine Automation Control) platform, the controller features advanced motion control and networking for onsite IoT.

It is battery free and reduces machine maintenance, featuring an SD memory card slot to restore, back-up and verify data in the controller.

With one or two built-in option boards, there is no need to increase the size of the control panel for adding serial and analog communication.

This makes it a compact controller with push-in-plus terminals at the I/O and CPU unit to strengthen connection and save wiring time. According to the company, these features together with a fast execution time of 3.3ns makes the controller an easy-to-use, high performance compact controller.

Moreover, the controller has built-in Ethernet/IP and EtherCAT ports. EtherCAT allows connection between I/O devices with a single cable providing control for up to eight servo systems, reducing wiring work.

Single-axis position control and four axes of motion control can also be achieved through electronic gear/cam and linear/circular interpolation. IO-Link master is enabled, meaning downtime is reduced and status of machines can be detected quickly and precisely.

Top 5 cybersecurity trends for 2017 for food companies

CyberArk’s Top Five Security Predictions for 2017 are:

1. The Silent Attack on Information – Complete Loss of Trust

The integrity of information will be one of the biggest challenges global consumers, businesses and governments face in 2017, where information from previously venerated sources is no longer trusted. Cyber attacks won’t just focus on a specific company, they’ll be attacks on society designed to eliminate trust itself.

We’ve seen information used as a weapon and propaganda tool in the 2016 U.S. election cycle, but this will move to the next stage where information can no longer be trusted at all. Attackers aren’t just accessing information; they’re controlling the means to change information where it resides, and manipulating it to help accomplish their goals.

For example, consider how the emergence of tools that allow for greater manipulation of previously unquestioned content – like audio files – could lead to increased extortion attempts using information that may not be real, or grossly out of context. It will be easier than ever to piece together real information stolen in a breach with fabricated information to create an imbalance that will make it increasingly difficult for people to determine what’s real and what’s not.

2. Cloudy with a Chance of Cyber Attacks

Cloud infrastructure and the proliferation of cloud-based services have proven to be game changers for business. The benefits of the cloud have not gone unnoticed by the dark side either.

Much like how cyber attackers are channeling the power and insecurity of IoT devices to launch massive DDoS attacks on scales previously thought unachievable, attackers will increasingly use the cloud to ramp up production of attack tools.

With the addition of available computing power and agile development capabilities afforded by the cloud, we’ll see new attack tools that are exponentially stronger than previous iterations, we’ll see attacks that are stronger and more devastating, and ultimately, because attacks are raining from the cloud, attribution will become nearly impossible. This will also increase the agility of attackers – a strategic advantage that they currently hold over organisations.

3. Self-Learning Cyber Attacks

The year 2016 was marked by tremendous progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and subsets of the technology such as machine learning, machine intelligence, deep learning and more.

In the field of cyber security, hundreds of companies are working to incorporate AI and machine learning into their technologies to predict, prevent and defeat the next major cyber attack.

As we’ve seen with other technologies, as AI becomes commoditised, we can expect cyber attackers to take advantage of AI in a similar way as businesses. Much like 2016 saw the first massive IoT-driven botnet unleashed on the Internet, 2017 will be characterised by the first AI-driven cyber attack.

These attacks will be characterised by their ability to learn and get better as they evolve. Think about “spray and pay” ransomware attacks that get smarter, and more targeted about what information is held hostage, and what to charge for it. This will transform the “advanced attack” into the common place, and will drive a huge economic spike in the hacker underground. Attacks that were typically reserved for nation-states and criminal syndicates will now be available on a greater scale.

4. Data Privacy and Pricing Structures

The efforts on consumer data-conditioning are almost complete – consumers know that private information is a commodity they can trade for better service. We’re beginning to see this in the insurance market, where drivers are giving up driving habits, location, destinations and PII to get better rates.

We expect that more companies will take this approach with online data as well and use cyber security fears and concerns over privacy to drive pricing structures.

Consumers will increasingly be faced with a data conundrum – provide more personal information for basic service, or upgrade and spend more money on premium services that require less personal information and provide greater levels of security.

In parallel, small and midsize organisations that have been ‘priced out’ of adequate security options, particularly against threats like ransomware, may also be able to make trades for better protection. In the meantime, the emergence and greater adoption of automated security solutions will help close the gaps between available skills, budget and protection.
5. The Agile Enemy – Hacker Collaboration

Unlike private business and government organisations, cyber criminals are not bound by IP, data privacy, budgets or other concerns. We expect to see hacktivists, nation-based attackers and cyber-criminals accelerate use of the tools used to learn from each other’s attacks – and identify defacto best practices to emulate them on broader scales.

Agile approaches to spur greater black hat collaboration will enable attackers to ‘improve upon’ existing malware and viruses like Stuxnet, Carbanak and most recently Shamoon, to unleash a new wave of threats.

These more dangerous attacks will put pressure – potentially regulatory or merger and acquisition related – on public and private organisations to step up collaboration and prioritise ways to incorporate intelligence gained from these attacks into new innovations meant to combat cyber threats and beat the attackers at their own game.

Composite hoses for food makers

RADCOFLEX offers a whole range of genuine Australian manufactured composite hoses, assemblies and hose fittings for use across chemical, gas and fuel transfer applications.

RADCOFLEX composite hoses are specially engineered and tested in-house and on-site to ensure compliance with industry standards.
Some of the advantages offered by RADCOFLEX composite hose assemblies are:
Lightweight and more flexible alternatives to rubber hoses;
All RADCOFLEX composite hoses are manufactured in Australia to Australian Standards and codes of practice.
The hoses’ applications are easily identifiable by the colours on the hoses’ outer covers;
Standard average connections with visible internal and external wires, which allow for a quick visual check on the ongoing integrity of the electrical continuity of the hose assembly.

RADOFLEX’S range includes the following:
Chemical Composite Hoses
Chemdock: for use in heavy duty suction and discharge of bulk chemicals in road and rail tankers, dockside and ship to shore to EN 13765 and IMO;
Solchem: for the transfer of chemicals and solvents where the fluid may be corrosive to a galvanised inner wire to AS 2594 and EN 13765;
Solflon: for the transfer of the most aggressive chemicals and searching solvents, having a special PTFE liner, to EN 13765;
Transchem: for the transfer of various acids and alkalis to AS 2594 and EN 13765.
Petroleum Hoses
avfuel & avfuel Light: aviation fuel transfer hoses to AS 2683 and EN 13765;
Petrofuel & Petrofuel Light: tanker fuel transfer hoses to AS 2683 and AIP CP27;
Transdock: for the heavy duty suction and discharge transfer of petroleum products in road and rail tanker, dockside and ship to shore applications to AS 2117, EN 13765 and IMO;
Transfuel: a tanker and fuel depot transfer hose to AS 2683 and EN 13765;
Transoil: a hydrocarbon suction and discharge hose for in-plant and light-duty marine applications to AS 2117 and EN 13765.
Air, Gas & Water Composite Hoses
Bituflex: for the transfer of hot bitumen at elevated temperatures;
Transgas: for the transfer of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and cryogenic conveyants down to -50C to AS 1369 and EN 13766;
Transheat: for the transfer of most hot fluids;
Roof Drain: for use with floating roof drain systems;
VRH: for the recovery of vapours from tanks and tankers to AS 2683.
Composite Hose – Additional Protective Solutions
PVC Spiral Guard: a PVC strip wound helically around the exterior of the hose;
PVC Wear Beads: PVC collars attached to the exterior of the hose at intervals;
Rope Lagging: a polypropylene rope wrapped helically around the exterior of the hose.
Composite Hose Fittings
Camlocks: quick-release cam lever fittings in aluminium, bronze, stainless steel, and polypropylene.
Dust Caps and Plugs: to suit camlock fittings
Flanges: standard drillings in carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium;
Threaded Ends: standard threads in carbon steel, stainless steel, and polypropylene.