SA wine industry leads way on solar uptake

Dozens of wineries in Australia’s premier wine state are harnessing the sun’s power for purposes beyond growing grapes.

South Australian wineries are embracing solar energy at twice the rate of other business sectors, installers say. Yalumba Wine Company in the Barossa Valley is just weeks away from completing one of the largest commercial solar system installations in South Australia and the largest to date by any Australian winery.

It will have taken more than three months to put the 5384 individual panels in place at three sites: Yalumba Angaston Winery, Yalumba Nursery, and the separate Oxford Landing Winery.

When fully operational, the 1.4 MW PV system will produce enough renewable energy to reduce Yalumba’s energy costs by about 20 per cent and cut its annual CO2 emissions by more than 1200 tonnes, equivalent to taking 340+ cars off the road.

“It is an exciting project and one that will deliver us significant savings, as well as being consistent with our corporate focus on sustainability,” said Managing Director Nick Waterman. Yalumba is currently the leader of the pack, but it is an increasingly large pack.

No one keeps a detailed list, but wineries with systems in excess of 100kW include D’Arenberg, Seppeltsfield, Peter Lehmann, Angove, Torbreck, Wirra Wirra, Jim Barry and Gemtree. Many smaller wineries are installing smaller systems.

In the Adelaide Hills, Sidewood has flicked the switch on a 100kW solar system as part of a $3.5m expansion project at its Nairne winery.

With the support of an $856,000 grant from the South Australian Government, the system will provide more than 50 per cent of the winery’s annual consumption.

Sidewood has also become the largest sustainable winery in the Adelaide Hills after receiving full Entwine Accreditation for all four of its vineyards in September.

There was a brief lull in solar installations after the current Federal Government scrapped the financial support provided under the previous government’s Clean Technology Investment Program (36 of the 80 projects funded in South Australia in 2012-13 were in wineries) but things are moving again.

David Buetefuer is Director of Sales and Business Development for The Solar Project, which has worked with a number of local wineries including D’Arenberg, suggests four reasons for this: the wine industry is starting to recover from a slow patch; the price of electricity is at an unprecedented high; the cost of solar is coming down; and there are new ways to get started.

Yalumba, for example, has signed a 10-year power purchase agreement with energy supplier AGL, which is installing and maintaining the system and will own the energy produced.

This will be sold to Yalumba at a rate comparable or lower than its current per kilowatt hour rate. Another alternative is a rental model under which, as Buetefuer puts it, the bank owns the system. In both cases, the winery does not have to find the capital up front and the system is off balance sheet.

“It’s an interesting time because all three models now work – power-purchase, rental and straight purchase – whereas not that long ago the only people buying solar were those who had the available capital and could justify payback times of five, six or more years,” Buetefuer said. “It’s opened up a lot more opportunities.”

Buetefuer said the wine industry recognised the benefit of harnessing solar power at its most productive period of the year, which coincided with the summer to autumn vintage when the demand for electricity was at its peak in wine production.

“One of the defining features of the industry is the long-term planning that goes into establishing vineyards and infrastructure to support wine production well into the future,” he said. D’Arenberg’s chief winemaker Chester Osborn agrees.

He said one of the important things for the winery last year was reducing peak demand from the grid. “A big portion of our electricity cost comes from our peak requirements which we only need for a couple of months a year, but get charged for every month,” he said.

“We have reduced our power bill by 40 per cent and we are hopeful that the advances in battery technology will lead to further efficiency improvements.”

D’Arenberg’s 200kW system in McLaren Vale was the largest in a winery in South Australia when installed at the end of 2013.

The company made the investment so it could generate 20-30 per cent of its power from solar energy and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent. Among the most publicly visible solar installations in South Australia are the two arrays that line the road to the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre in the Barossa.

They not only produce all the energy the winery needs, they feature in quite a few visitor photographs.

South Australia is consistently responsible for about 50 per cent of Australia’s annual wine production, including iconic brands such as Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek, Hardys and Wolf Blass. From The Lead

Small manufacturers will get into the zone at foodpro

Australasia’s iconic food manufacturing event, foodpro, will be partnering with Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) in a brand new initiative: The Supply Chain Integrity Zone.

Security in the supply chain is vital to the food manufacturing process with traceability and audit compliance a priority; however smaller manufacturers often find it costly to comply.

The majority of technologies for traceability are often geared to larger manufacturers, which causes obstacles and barriers for smaller players in the industry.

In response to this, foodpro and FIAL have launched the Supply Chain Integrity Zone, a new initiative focusing on solutions available for small manufacturers who produce pre-packaged goods for sale to the consumer.

Companies across the various stages of the supply chain will be represented, allowing visitors to discuss end-to-end solutions with suppliers best suited for their business.

The zone will also include a series of seminars covering the latest technology, capabilities and insights.

“The Supply Chain Integrity Zone is a really important and exciting addition to foodpro” says Peter Petherick, foodpro Event Director.

“Foodpro has supported Australia’s manufacturing needs for 50 years, and it’s important we continue to respond to the industry as it changes. It’s become clear that there are an increasing number of smaller manufacturers whose needs, although similar to the bigger companies, must be met in more specific ways. The new zone serves a purpose for solutions and importantly, for discussion and engagement. With a focus on improving traceability and supporting audit compliance, the benefit to the industry will be incredible.”

The zone will feature companies that offer solutions specifically for smaller manufacturers who produce less than 10,000 units a week with a focus on areas including: materials in, processing integrity, packaging integrity, shipping & receivables and quality management solutions for traceability. FIAL is directly supporting the zone with the objective of increasing industry capability and compliance.

FIAL was established to foster commercially driven collaboration and innovation in the Australian food and agribusiness industry.

They are industry led and take a collective approach to ensure productivity, profitability and resilience in the food and agribusiness sector. Along with the partnership with FIAL, foodpro 2017 will also host wider discussions around innovation and the food industry with the annual AIFST (Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology) Convention.

Over 400 delegates are expected to attend the Convention’s 50th year to hear about topics such as the future nutritional needs, technology driving innovation, regulations related to imports as well as a roundtable discussing financing innovation and growth in the food industry.

For more information see: https://www.foodproexh.com/

PET bottle making stability increased with less energy

Production lines for still beverages utilising nitrogen dosing can now also take advantage of the Sidel StarLite PET bottle base with the launch of the Sidel StarLite Nitro version.

The new base ensures bottle resistance and stability, even under extremely high temperature conditions, while also providing benefits in terms of both lightweighting and energy saving.

The new non-petaloid StarLite Nitro base utilises a unique shape that significantly increases base resistance and stability.

This means the new base design can simultaneously increase PET bottle rigidity by enhancing resistance to the internal pressure created by nitrogen dosing, even in harsh conditions, while lowering package weight and energy consumption.

It also offers packaging design differentiation and optimised aesthetics, importantly without compromising product safety. The StarLite Nitro base takes all the benefits of the StarLite base, introduced in 2013 for the production of still and carbonated beverages bottled in PET, which has been recognised as the ‘Best Environmental Sustainability Initiative’ at the 2013 Global Bottled Water Awards.

The Sidel StarLite Nitro base ensures improved PET bottle quality without compromising strength and increases stability throughout the entire supply chain. It enables producers to increase bottle resistance to deformation in any production environment.

“The large and stable surface upon which the bottle stands, combined with other structural elements within the bottle design, enables the formed PET bottle to better withstand the internal pressure caused by the addition of nitrogen and improves bottle stability during conveying, depending on the wall thickness of the base,” says Vincent Le Guen, Vice President, Packaging & Tooling at Sidel.

PepsiCo gets gender equality award

PepsiCo Australia has been awarded the Workplace Gender Equality Agency ‘Employer of Choice for Gender Equality’ citation for the third year in a row.

The Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation has been given to the top 100 organisations in Australia that meet the stringent criteria for best practice in promoting gender equality. PepsiCo Australia is leading the way for the food and drink industry – and the only FMCG company on the 2016 citation list.

This accolade is in recognition of PepsiCo’s ongoing commitment and effort to workplace gender equality through encouraging work life quality and flexibility in the workplace; supporting women at all levels of the organisation to progress into more senior positions; and ensuring pay equity within the business.

CEO of PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand, Robbert Rietbroek said: “We are delighted to have received this recognition for the third year in a row – and the only FMCG to do so. We recognise the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce where both men and woman can thrive.

“When it comes to supporting female talent we have a strong track record, with over 40% of senior roles across the business filled by women and almost half of our ANZ executive leadership team are female. We value and actively promote flexibility and work life quality across the organisation.”

To signify PepsiCo Australia’s ongoing commitment to gender equity, CEO Robbert Rietbroek became a Pay Equity Ambassador earlier this year, to signify his personal commitment to ensuring that PepsiCo people processes are free of bias to achieve equity and pro-actively manage pay equity.

WGEA Director Libby Lyons said: “WGEA data shows there is progress towards gender equality in Australian workplaces, but it is too slow. It is only through more employers adopting leading practices to promote gender equality in the workplace that we will see the pace of change pick up.

“That’s why it is so encouraging to see more than 100 organisations meet the very high standard required to receive the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation this year.

“I congratulate all the 2016 citation holders for their commitment and recognition of the strong business case for gender equality. I hope to see continued growth in this community of leading practice employers.”

Heineken’s partnership with Royal Croquet Club extended

Following a successful Sydney debut last weekend, Heineken is set to bring its Heineken Saturday event to the rest of Australia, and in turn, extending the partnership with the Royal Croquet Club.

The next stop for the event of the beer brand will be Melbourne on 17 December, before rolling out at Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane over the first half of 2017.

Nada Steel, Marketing Manager, Heineken Lion Australia, said, “Bringing Heineken Saturday to Sydney for the first time proved to be a big success. As part of our ongoing commitment to deliver unique world class Heineken experiences for our 18-29-year old consumers, we are excited to extend our relationship with Royal Croquet Club and take Heineken Saturday across Australia.”

Annies Fruit Bars clean up at the Munch Awards

Annies Fruit Bars, a subsidiary of Kono NZ,  has been named as the Best Kids Food Product in the 2016 Munch Foods Awards.

The awards, now in their fourth year, are run by Munch, an eco-friendly New Zealand company that makes and markets products and offers ideas and recipes online to feed the family.

The Munch Food Awards raise awareness about kid’s food marketing and products and allow parents to give players in this industry some feedback.

Nominations for finalists are made by the public and then both public vote and a judging panel choose the category and supreme winners.

“We are thrilled to be recognised in the industry as a product that parents trust to give to their children. Our fruit bars are made from 100 per cent fruit, and nothing else. They have no added sugar, and are free from additives, concentrates, gluten, dairy, and nuts,” said Mel Chambers, GM Food, Kono NZ.

Stainless steel pipe conveyor for food makers

Exair has added smaller and larger sizes to the air operated 316 Stainless Steel Threaded Line Vac conveyor product line, which is designed to convert ordinary pipe into a powerful in-line conveying system for food products, pharmaceuticals and other bulk materials.

The 316SS Threaded Line Vac is now available with NPT threads for use on 3/8 NPT through 3 NPT pipes.

Featuring large throat diameters for maximum throughput capability, these conveyors are designed to attach to plumbing pipe couplers, sanitary flanges and other pipe fittings.

Available from Compressed Air Australia, the 316SS Threaded Line Vac conveyors eject a small amount of compressed air to produce a vacuum on one end with high output flows on the other. Response is instantaneous.

Regulating the compressed air pressure provides infinite control of the conveying rate. Construction is durable Type 316 stainless steel to resist corrosion and contamination.

The 316SS Threaded Line Vacs can withstand temperatures to 204ºC.

Nine sizes are available. Applications include gas, grain or ingredient sampling, part transfer, hopper loading, scrap trim removal, tablet transfer and packaging. Other styles and sizes are available to suit hose or tube.

Additional materials include aluminium and abrasion resistant alloy. 316SS Threaded Line Vacs are CE compliant and solve a wide variety of conveying applications.

Australia’s newest distillery made Pozible by crowdfunding

Australia’s newest distillery, Cape Byron Distillery has launched its first spirit, Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin via Australian crowdfunding platform Pozible.

Created by Eddie Brook and acclaimed Scottish distiller Jim McEwan, Brookie’s captures the unique tastes and flavours of sub-tropical New South Wales.

The distillery itself is nestled in the very heart of the Brook family’s macadamia farm and is surrounded by a lush rainforest.

A traditional “dry style” Gin, Brookie’s is a balanced combination of the traditional and local native botanicals, trickle distilled in a custom hand-made copper pot still.

Jim McEwan said, “We’re bringing a new level of excellence to distillation. When you taste this gin, it tastes pure. You’re tasting a bit of nature, you can taste the salt air, you can taste the fruits and flowers of the rainforest, it has the warmth of the personalities associated with family distillers.”

Brookie’s is a gin also has a strong environmental message. Over the past 30 years the Brook family have planted over 35,000 native trees, mostly sub – tropical rainforest trees. Today the farm is thriving eco system.

A percentage of the profits from every bottle sold will support the work of the local Big Scrub Landcare group, whose sole mission is to protect what’s left of a mighty rainforest and to encourage new plantings.

 

Hilton Food Group to open $115m meat plant in Queensland

According to reports, UK-based meat processor Hilton Food Group has announced the opening of a new meat processing facility in Queensland.

The facility will be primarily supplying Woolworths  and will be capable of supplying Woolworths stores across both Queensland and parts of New South Wales, with beef, lamb, pork and other meat products.

The company is now in the process of acquiring an appropriate site for the facility and securing the relevant government approvals.

“It is proposed that Hilton’s Australian subsidiary, Hilton Foods Australia, will finance the new food packing facility, with current target for the commencement of production of 2020,” a company statement said.

Asahi Beverages & Wipro partnership recognised with award

Asahi Beverages, the Australia New Zealand business of the Japanese beverage giant and Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology business services company, have been jointly recognised for the ‘Best BPO Sourcing’ partnership of 2016 by the ANZ Paragon Awards, presented in Sydney.

Now in their sixth year, the Paragon Awards honour and recognize companies that have demonstrated ground-breaking and innovative approaches to sourcing, resulting in a positive impact on their clients’ businesses.

Wipro and Asahi Beverages entered into a multi-year contract in September 2014 to jointly innovate, improve organizational efficiencies and enhance customer satisfaction for the beverage company.

Wipro developed a Process Migration Solution that enabled Asahi Beverages to make a robust transition of shared services by mitigating the risks. The solution was delivered through a combination of process migration levers, procedures and tool sets.

Peter Dalins, General Manager, Enterprise Solutions, Asahi Beverages, said, “We are proud to have won this award jointly with Wipro. Our partnership with Wipro is of key strategic value to us. Wipro has understood many critical elements of our business, and has also helped us improve services to our internal and external customers.”

Riviana releases pressed pear juice in a 1 litre Tetra Pak

Pressed Pear Juice from Riviana has been released in a 1 litre Tetra Pak.

According to the company, Riviana Pressed Pear Juice is made from quality fresh pears which have been pressed against a fine sieve to extract the juice.

The cloudy appearance underscores the fact that it is not made from concentrate and has not been diluted with water.

“We don’t ‘produce’ juice – we press and then pack it,” explained Riviana Foodservice Channel and Strategy Manager Nick Dymond.

“Taking this approach ensures quality and flavour and makes the product much more appealing than reconstituted juice.”

The shelf-stable packaging with convenient resealable screw cap is designed to ensure ease of use.

John West lands top sustainability award

Solidifying its position as Australia’s most sustainable tuna brand, Simplot Australia owned John West, was awarded the highest accolade at the 2016 Banksia Sustainability Awards, in Sydney recently.

John West Australia, the only national supermarket brand to be recognised in the awards this year, won the Communication for Change Award, followed by the prestigious 2016 Banksia Gold Award, which reflects the ‘Best of the Best’ across the categories.

Earlier this year, alongside the WWF-Australia (WWF) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a world leading brand commitment was made, to help end unsustainable fishing methods within the canned tuna industry in Australia, thanks to Pacifical, supplied by the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery, controlled by the PNA (Parties to the Nauru Agreement).

The alliance with WWF, MSC and Pacifical and Simplot’s supplier network, is the result of years of the entities working together to find a way to overhaul John West’s supply standards within Australia, moving towards a more sustainable future for the world’s oceans.

Simplot Australia Managing Director, Terry O’Brien, said, “We feel privileged to have been awarded such an accolade in Australian sustainability. The category shift has been years of work alongside our partners, to truly lead the industry, consumers and the environment, towards a more positive future. We look forward to continuing the work, as we move into the next phase of ensuring a positive future for our oceans.”

The Banksia Awards is the longest running and most prestigious acknowledgement of commitment to sustainability in Australia. They recognise Australian individuals, communities, businesses and government for their innovation, achievement and commitment to sustainability.

ELIX Polymers launches new food grade contact material

ELIX Polymers has launched a new ABS grade for use in products that come into contact with food and which also require extra toughness and resistance to high temperatures.

Target applications include kitchenware, products for preparation and storage of food, and also toys.

The new M545TF grade will enhance the company’s Healthcare portfolio, which already includes grades for medical devices, cosmetics, food contact applications and toys.

The latest grade has been migration tested with different food simulants.

This enables ELIX Polymers to advise its customers about migration issues and regulatory compliance during the product design phase, helping to prevent problems before they occur and shortening time to market.

M545TF can be supplied precolored, with ELIX taking the responsibility for compliance of the pigments with food contact regulations.

ELIX Polymers’ current portfolio of FDA-approved colors already includes more than 120 active recipes; new colors are under continual development.

“ELIX Polymers offers a high level of service to our customers, especially for the healthcare portfolio,” says Aurelie Mannella, Industry Manager Healthcare at ELIX Polymers.

“We are pleased to have gained a reputation among our customers as a company that consistently offers excellence in service, along with high-quality products and constant innovation. We have implemented a rigorous selection of our pigments and suppliers in order to be able to guarantee consistent and zero-risk solutions.”

 

What bulk packaging system should you choose?

When it comes to choosing a bulk packaging system, every business has its own unique needs. There are different types of bulk packaging systems available on the market, and each machine comes with its own uses and advantages.

Some focus more on outer packaging functions such as forming, cleaning, and sealing. Others focus more on the interior of the package through filling, wrapping, and creative packaging solutions. What you’ll need depends on the type of items you’ll be packaging and the type of packaging you’ll be using, as well as your budget.

Form, fill and seal machines (FFS)

These machines are commonly used for food packaging, although they can also be used for other items including liquids and solids. The FFS machine creates a bag from a flat roll of film, while simultaneously filling the bag with the product and sealing the bag once it’s full. The advantages of FFS machines are that they can operate at a high speed and they’re ideal for running the same product continuously.

The cost of the film is cheaper than purchasing pre-made bags, so you will save on operating costs. However, changing the film is time-consuming, and if the bag is dropped it will often break.

Vertical form, fill and seal machines (VFFS)

VFFS machines fill each bag before heat sealing it, labelling it with a time stamp, and auto cutting the bag. Most VFFS machines can operate at about one finished bag per second, so they are ideal for businesses with high output requirements.

They can be used for small individual packages (like sachets) or for larger bags, and they can package a wide variety of materials like seeds, powders, liquids. VFFS machines are suitable for bagging oats, hay, mulch, fertilisers and more.

Bale packaging machines

Bale packaging machines use hydraulic cylinders to compress products to a quarter of their original size. This allows you to store more products, maximise your available space, and save on packing and transportation costs. This type of bulk packaging system is normally used for cereals, rags, sawdust, humus, straw, hay and fodder.

Valve bag fillers

These machines are consistent, accurate, and simple to install and adjust. Valve bag fillers use a two-stage filling system. The majority of product is filled at maximum rate, and then just before the bag reaches its target, the machine reduces the fill rate to a dribble feed.

This way, the machine can stop filling more accurately when the bag reaches its target weight.

Valve bag fillers are relatively small machines, so they don’t take up a lot of floor space. They’re suitable for packaging dry materials, powders and granular products such as soil, mulch, minerals, grains or concrete mix.

Pre-made bags or open mouth baggers

These systems are extremely flexible. They are compatible with paper bags or woven bags, heat sealers, inner liners, stitched outer bags, fold overs and taped seals.

They offer various feeding methods including gravity feeding, auger feeding, and vibratory feeding, providing you with the ability to package unusual products.

You can add dust extraction systems or bag compression functions depending on your business needs. Poly woven bags are, on average, more robust than FFS bags, but your cost per bag will be higher. Open mouth baggers also tend to be slower than FFS systems.

Visit www.accupak.com.au to find out more.

Did milk processor overstate its accounts?

A forensic accountant has alleged that dairy processor Murray Goulburn may have overstated its earnings and even lost money in the last financial year.

It was claimed in early November that its treatment of the milk supplier support program in its accounts was wrong.

This in turn has led to dairy farmers doubting whether they’ll get repaid, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Not helping the situation is the company’s decision to write off part of the advance.

Forensic accounting company, Morris Forensic, says Murray Goulburn’s pretax profit of more than $57 million should have been a loss of just over $92 million.

Morris Forensic believes that Murray Goulburn treating the advance as an ‘asset’ is not correct because there is no right to recover the advance from farmers. “In my opinion, Murray Goulburn’s financial statements should have been prepared on the basis that the amounts paid or payable to suppliers for milk purchased during the year were inventory purchases,” Morris Forensic argues in its report.

Murray Goulburn has confirmed to the SMH that farmers do not have to repay the advance and that the company has already written off part of the advance.

“In my opinion, the manner in which Murray Goulburn recognised the MSSP assets of $183.334 million in its 2016 financial report resulted in Murray Goulburn increasing its reported profit before income tax by approximately $150 million,” Morris Forensic said in its report.

Murray Goulburn is the subject of a class action and of ASIC inquiries due to allegations that it misrepresented certain aspects in its prospectus when it raised capital from investors last year.

Rosella flies off with new branding

Rosella is set to unveil a new logo this November, which the company claims will be the most dramatic change in the company’s visual identity for 20 years.

According to Senior Brand Manager, Kristine Dalton, “The most immediate change is the rosella bird itself. We have revisited the grassroots of our original logo whilst preserving the distinctive, native Eastern rosella and have given it flight to represent the company continuing to keep pace with modern Australian eating.”

“We believe the change will be welcomed. The new design will appeal to a new generation of Australian families by capturing the essence of our Australian Spirit, our vibrancy, energy and our free spirit.”

Designed by Melbourne Design House Disegno, the logo represents the company’s colourful history in a modern and evolving style.

“As an organisation so engrained in Australian culture, we are excited for this change to continue our longstanding relationship between the Rosella brand and customers,” concluded Dalton.

The new logo will first appear on the 600ml sauce bottle, on shelves nationally in all Coles, Woolworths and Independents late November.

General Mills announces major restructure & closure of Victorian facility

General Mills has today announced that it will be restructuring its Australian operations.

Part of this restructure will mean the closure of General Mills’ manufacturing facility in Mount Waverley, Victoria along with the consolidation of its Australian manufacturing activity into an expanded production facility in Rooty Hill, New South Wales.

The closure of the Mount Waverley facility will occur between April and June 2018.

All staff in both locations have been informed of the closure. General Mills will be working to re-deploy and relocate employees to Rooty Hill as appropriate, but it is likely that most roles from Mount Waverley will become redundant.

The difficult decision to close the Mount Waverley facility, which makes pasta, sauce and ready-to-eat meals, was taken to simplify General Mills’ supply chain and secure the future growth of the business, according to a company press release.

Coca-Cola launches Aussie summer ‘sweat smasher’ with sports stars

Coca-Cola  has announced details of Powerade’s new Australian Summer campaign ‘Smash the Sweat’.

The campaign is designed to encourage consumers to smash the sticky, humid conditions associated with the season through the launch of limited edition Powerade sport-themed ‘shrink packs’ aimed at generating cut-through during the key summer period.

The strategy, said the company, revolves around tapping into the Aussie’s love of sports through collectable summer sports-themed packaging, featuring imagery from a range of sports including rugby, cricket, basketball, tennis, soccer and athletics.

The signature packs are signed by sporting legends and Powerade Ambassadors Greg Inglis, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Bogut.

Appearing from early November, the limited edition packs will be promoted in-store at point-of-sale and supported on social media channels in the build up to summer.

As the summer sport season kicks off, the campaign will be boosted through outdoor media calling on consumers to ‘Smash the Sweat’.

Sarah Illy, Brand Activation Manager, Powerade, said: “We all love an Aussie summer, but with the hot, sticky conditions it becomes even more important to stay hydrated. So this summer we are challenging people to ‘Smash the Sweat’. Being a sports-obsessed nation, we decided to tap into that trend through our collectable sport-themed packs to encourage people to be active and stay hydrated.”

“The limited edition bottles have been inspired by Australian sporting legends with the objective of keeping Powerade ION4 top of mind for rehydration needs. Powerade ION4… is scientifically formulated to help replace four of the electrolytes lost in sweat and is an ideal way to ‘Smash the Sweat’ this summer,” said Illy.

 

With the familiar Cavendish banana in danger, can science help it survive?

The banana is the world’s most popular fruit crop, with over 100 million metric tons produced annually in over 130 tropical and subtropical countries. Edible bananas are the result of a genetic accident in nature that created the seedless fruit we enjoy today.

Virtually all the bananas sold across the Western world belong to the so-called Cavendish subgroup of the species and are genetically nearly identical. These bananas are sterile and dependent on propagation via cloning, either by using suckers and cuttings taken from the underground stem or through modern tissue culture.

The familiar bright yellow Cavendish banana is ubiquitous in supermarkets and fruit bowls, but it is in imminent danger. The vast worldwide monoculture of genetically identical plants leaves the Cavendish intensely vulnerable to disease outbreaks.

Fungal diseases severely devastated the banana industry once in history and it could soon happen again if we do not resolve the cause of these problems. Plant scientists, including us, are working out the genetics of wild banana varieties and banana pathogens as we try to prevent a Cavendish crash.

The cautionary tale of ‘Big Mike’

One of the most prominent examples of genetic vulnerability comes from the banana itself. Up until the 1960s, Gros Michel, or “Big Mike,” was the prime variety grown in commercial plantations. Big Mike was so popular with consumers in the West that the banana industry established ever larger monocultures of this variety. Thousands of hectares of tropical forests in Latin America were converted into vast Gros Michel plantations.

But Big Mike’s popularity led to its doom, when a pandemic whipped through these plantations during the 1950s and ‘60’s. A fungal disease called Fusarium wilt or Panama disease nearly wiped out the Gros Michel and brought the global banana export industry to the brink of collapse. A soilborne pathogen was to blame: The fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc) infected the plants’ root and vascular system. Unable to transport water and nutrients, the plants wilted and died.

A cross-section of a banana plant, infected with the fungus that causes Fusarium wilt.
Gert Kema, CC BY

Fusarium wilt is very difficult to control – it spreads easily in soil, water and infected planting material. Fungicide applications in soil or in the plant’s stem are as of yet ineffective. Moreover, the fungus can persist in the soil for several decades, thus prohibiting replanting of susceptible banana plants.

Is history repeating itself?

Cavendish bananas are resistant to those devastating Fusarium wilt Race 1 strains, so were able to replace the Gros Michel when it fell to the disease. Despite being less rich in taste and logistical challenges involved with merchandising this fruit to international markets at an acceptable quality, Cavendish eventually replaced Gros Michel in commercial banana plantations. The entire banana industry was restructured, and to date, Cavendish accounts for 47 percent of the bananas grown worldwide and 99 percent of all bananas sold commercially for export to developed countries.

Bananas in Costa Rica affected by Black Sigatoka.
Gert Kema, CC BY

But the Cavendish unfortunately has its own weaknesses – most prominently susceptibility to a disease called Black Sigatoka. The fungus Pseudocercospora fijiensis attacks the plants’ leaves, causing cell death that affects photosynthesis and leads to a reduction in fruit production and quality. If Black Sigatoka is left uncontrolled, banana yields can decline by 35 to 50 percent.

Cavendish growers currently manage Black Sigatoka through a combination of pruning infected leaves and applying fungicides. Yearly, it can take 50 or more applications of chemicals to control the disease. Such heavy use of fungicides has negative impacts on the environment and the occupational health of the banana workers, and increases the costs of production. It also helps select for survival the strains of the fungus with higher levels of resistance to these chemicals: As the resistant strains become more prevalent, the disease gets harder to control over time.

Aerial spraying of fungicides on a banana plantation.
Gert Kema, CC BY

To further aggravate the situation, Cavendish is also now under attack from a recently emerged strain of Fusarium oxysporum, known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4). First identified in the early 1990s in Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia, TR4 has since spread to many Southeast Asian countries and on into the Middle East and Africa. If TR4 makes it to Latin America and the Caribbean region, the export banana industry in that part of the world could be in big trouble.

Cavendish varieties have shown little if any resistance against TR4. Growers are relying on temporary solutions – trying to prevent it from entering new regions, using clean planting materials and limiting the transfer of potentially infected soil between farms.

Cavendish banana trees in China infected with new fungal disease TR4.
Andre Drenth, UQ, CC BY

Black Sigatoka and Panama disease both cause serious production losses and are difficult to control. With the right monitoring in place to rapidly intervene and halt their spread, the risks and damage imposed by these diseases can be considerably reduced, as has been recently shown in Australia. But current practices don’t provide the durable solution that’s urgently needed.

Getting started on banana genetic research

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the sad history of Gros Michel, it’s that reliance on a large and genetically uniform monoculture is a risky strategy that is prone to failure. To reduce the vulnerability to diseases, we need more genetic diversity in our cultivated bananas.

Local banana varieties in southern China.
Andre Drenth, UQ, CC BY

Over a thousand species of banana have been recorded in the wild. Although most do not have the desired agronomic characteristics – such as high yields of seedless, nonacidic fruits with long shelf life – that would make them a direct substitute for the Cavendish, they are an untapped genetic resource. Scientists could search within them for resistance genes and other desirable traits to use in engineering and breeding programs.

To date, though, there’s been little effort and insufficient funding for collecting, protecting, characterizing and utilizing wild banana genetic material. Consequently, while almost every other crop used for food production has been significantly improved through plant breeding over the last century, the banana industry has yet to benefit from genetics and plant breeding.

But we have started taking the first steps. We now know the genome sequences of the banana and the fungi that cause Fusarium wilt and Sigatoka. These studies helped illuminate some of the molecular mechanisms by which these fungal pathogens cause disease in the banana. That knowledge provides a basis for identifying disease-resistant genes in wild and cultivated bananas.

Researchers now have the tools to identify resistance genes in wild bananas or other plant species. Then they can use classical plant breeding or genetic engineering to transfer those genes into desired cultivars. Scientists can also use these tools to further study the dynamics and evolution of banana pathogens in the field, and monitor changes in their resistance to fungicides.

Availability of the latest tools and detailed genome sequences, coupled with long-term visionary research in genetics, engineering and plant breeding, can help us keep abreast of the pathogens that are currently menacing the Cavendish banana. Ultimately we need to increase the pool of genetic diversity in cultivated bananas so we’re not dependent on single clones such as the Cavendish or the Gros Michel before it. Otherwise we remain at risk of history repeating itself.

The Conversation

Ioannis Stergiopoulos, Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis; André Drenth, Professor of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, and Gert Kema, Special Professor of Phytopathology, Wageningen University

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

Global water crisis a concern for food and drinks makers

Market research company Euromonitor International’s white paper “Sustainability and the New Normal for Natural Resources” has revealed that reliable access to natural resources is of critical importance to governments, businesses and consumers.

According to the whitepaper, in 2015, the World Economic Forum mentioned water crisis as the number one long-term global threat.

Still underestimated by many businesses, water risk is a very serious and complex issue which threatens wildlife, human access to clean water and continuation of business through shortage, flooding and pollution.

A well-managed water strategy, conversely, can help build a resilient and innovative business and a strong ethical brand image.

“Water stress and poor water stewardship can have a sizeable impact on profit and a huge impact on businesses’ reputation and operations.

The most obviously affected sector is the food and drinks industry, where water is a key input.

But many other sectors are also at risk, including apparel, energy and beauty and personal care,” says Sarah Boumphrey, Global Lead of Economies and Consumers at Euromonitor International.

The whitepaper also reveals that a large amount of packaged food companies’ growth is increasingly reliant on water-stressed regions with India having the largest area harvested for cereals in 2015.

It also mentioned that soft drinks and beer record the highest absolute volume of water consumption and are highly vulnerable to water risk.

The prediction is that by 2020, 50 per cent of the global laundry detergents market by volume will be accounted for, by water-stressed countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the US.