Food waste: Turning waste into profits

4 April 2014

Australia's next generation of food technology and manufacturing experts will be educated at a new training centre led by University of Sydney chemical engineers.

The ARC Biotechnology and Food Processing Training Centre will be kick started this week at a roundtable conference attended by as many as eleven food industry partners.

Funded for three years the centre will be directed by Professor Fariba Dehghani from the University's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Professor Dehghani said the centre will support Australian businesses to design better methods of food processing and storage, as well as develop advanced manufacturing techniques aimed at reducing costs and increasing energy efficiency.

"A key objective is to boost the Australian industry's capacity to compete in a global market particularly in the production of nutraceuticals - food products that are fortified with vitamins or minerals and which provide health benefits as well as nutritional value," said Professor Dehghani.

"Nutraceutical products include pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, or food ingredients.

The centre will design cost-effective and sustainable processes for producing these types of products with a view to minimising waste while enhancing efficiency and reducing energy consumption," explained Professor Dehghani.

"These nutraceuticals are highly valued products with potential to boost not only our industry partners' revenues but also significantly boost Australian exports in agribusiness" states Professor Dehghani.

"The centre will solve real-world problems and major issues currently faced by manufacturing companies" states Professor Dehghani.

Professor Dehghani's team has previously helped to reveal strong evidence of vitamin MK-7's role in reducing the risk of common health disorders such as arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins. She says the centre will look at how to develop nutraceutical products that can also help reduce the risk of viral diseases and diabetes.

Baby Roma Tomatoes (Photo Perfection Fresh Pty Ltd)
Baby Roma Tomatoes (Photo Perfection Fresh Pty Ltd)

Fruits, vegetables, grains and their residues potentially contain numerous underutilised bioactive compounds says co-director Associate Professor Robyn McConchie head of Plant and Food Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment .

"One great example of repurposing waste is whey protein which was once a troublesome by-product from cheese-making and now retails at a considerable sum. There's evidence that whey protein assists in muscle repair. Similarly there is evidence of anti-cancer properties in fruit extracts so one project will be investigating the drying of the liquid extracts from products such as cranberries," says Associate Professor Robyn McConchie.

The work of the engineering team will be complimented by the expertise of food science and chemistry researchers based in the university's Department of Plant and Food Science. Thirteen PhD students and three Post-Doctoral Fellows will work on research projects at the Training Centre.

The multi-disciplinary research team will work closely with industry partners including AB Mauri Technology & Development Pty Ltd, Casella Wines, Ecopha sdn. Bhd, PharmaCare laboratory Pty Ltd, Stahmann Farms Enterprises Pty Ltd, Lang Technologies International Pty Ltd,Agricure Pty Ltd, Marine Biotechnology Australia Pty Ltd, Perfection Fresh Australia Pty Ltd., Batlow Premium Juices and Peanut Company of Australia Limited.

Contact: Professor Fariba Dehghani

Phone: 02 9351 4794

Email: 5e511d3f1553682036073002141c0b09051f30212752182651465b312c