QUT to lead alternative food research and support food security

QUT will play a leading role in ensuring food security and positioning Australia in new food industries expected to create thousands of jobs with its partnership in two newly funded projects.

QUT will provide expertise and major infrastructure as a key partner in the University of Queensland-led $160 million Trailblazer Universities Food and Beverage Accelerate (FaBA) – a food and beverage accelerator focused on supporting the growth of new food manufacturing industries.

QUT will also expand its research with FaBA consortium partner Change Foods, which recently received a $1 million Securing Raw Materials Program grant towards a new $5.2 million precision fermentation project.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil said QUT was proud to have such a vital role in future food research, manufacturing, and commercialisation.

“QUT has a strong research reputation in sustainable food systems and synthetic biology, delivering high impact innovations for a greener and healthier future,” Professor Sheil said.

Professor of Microbial Biotechnology, Robert Speight from the QUT Centre of Agriculture and the Bioeconomy said QUT had strong capabilities in precision fermentation and biotechnology focussed on developing new sustainable food products and processes.

“Our QUT Mackay Renewables Biocommodities Pilot Plant in particular is unique in its ability to demonstrate these new technologies at scale which helps drive commercialisation of these new food technologies,” Professor Speight said.

“The pilot plant will play an important role in providing capabilities and infrastructure for scaling-up production of new food ingredients for a global market.

“QUT has the infrastructure and research expertise to support research in this area and advance the growth of precision fermentation companies – and is already working with many of the FaBA consortium partners.”

QUT researchers have been working with Change Foods for two years to develop microbial systems that produce ingredients found in products like milk, butter, and cheese.

Through the Securing Raw Materials Program, QUT will also expand its collaboration with Change Foods to transform sugarcane products into valuable feedstocks for precision fermentation to produce novel food ingredients that will support future global nutrition demand.

QUT researchers will work with Change Foods to find innovative ways to use sugarcane bagasse to produce new food products. (L-R) Dr Nida Murtaza, Dr Gui Qin Cai, Associate Professor Mark Harrison, Dr Tuan Tu Dam and Dr Nayana Pathiraja.

The research will be carried out at QUT in Brisbane, in the QUT Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant, and at a new purpose-built Change Foods research facility.

Vice President of Research and Operations (APAC) for Change Foods, Tom Davies attributed the company’s recent grant successes to its strong relationship with QUT and access to world-leading experts.

“Queensland also has a wealth of world-leading micro-biologists and access to sugarcane that uniquely positions it to benefit from the shift to synthetic biology and future food manufacturing,” Mr Davies said.

“We are developing more sustainable food solutions that reduce greenhouse emissions and, through the upcycling of waste, will promote the circular economy.”

QUT Change Foods project leader, Associate Professor Mark Harrison from the Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy said the research would use QUT’s cutting-edge capabilities in feedstock development, next generation genomics, synthetic biology, and analytics.

“With 30 million tonnes of sugarcane harvested in regional Queensland each year, there is more than 10 million tonnes of residual fibre, or bagasse, produced,” Professor Harrison said.

“This project aims to turn that by-product into a valuable feedstock that can be used to produce future foods.”

QUT and Change Foods are among a consortium of 18 research, industry and commercialisation partners in the UQ-led FaBA, which is expected to attract $1 billion investment into food and beverage manufacturing, create 1700 skilled positions and a further 15000 jobs across the sector by 2030.

The FaBA will receive $50 million over four years from the Trailblazer Universities Program to boost growth and innovation in the sector, with $110 million in further investment from university partners and industry collaborators.

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