The recipients of this year’s Australia-India Council (AIC) grants have been announced, including research identifying drought-resilient chickpeas, and how climate change impacts mango cultivars. Read more
As the experts in what consumers want and why Mintel is best suited to accurately predict the future of consumer behaviour and what that means for food, drink and foodservice brands and global markets. Read more
GrainCorp has partnered with the CSIRO and the plant-based food producer, v2food, on a $4.4 million research project in the fast-growing plant-based protein market. Read more
Adelaide will continue to grow as the nation’s hub of food waste research, development and engagement thanks to a new three-year Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) funding boost from the South Australian government. Read more
Queensland researchers have developed Australia’s guide for storing pulses and managing pests to support the state’s rapidly expanding chickpea and pulses industry. Read more
CSIRO has purchased a 77-hectare property in Forest Hill in Queensland to continue its research in support of agriculture in the north, including new and improved crop varieties, agricultural tools and agronomy. Read more
Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Edith Cowan University have found that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin K could have a 34 per cent lower risk of atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease. Read more
Consumers around the world believe companies are the most responsible for a whole host of sustainability issues, but also acknowledge that consumer behaviour can make a difference, according to the latest research from the newly-released Mintel Sustainability Barometer.
Consumers around the world believe companies are the most responsible for a whole host of sustainability issues, but also acknowledge that consumer behaviour can make a difference, according to the latest research from the newly-released Mintel Sustainability Barometer. Read more
Steven Sischy likes a challenge. The automation and drives business manager for APS Industrial joined the company three months ago with the brief to work together with one of its manufacturing partners – Siemens – to make them the leading automation brand in the country. Siemens already has a great reputation in Europe and Australia, but Sischy is keen to take them one step further.
“My aim is to increase Siemens market share in Australia. Currently, they don’t hold the position of number one. They are definitely a mainstream player in a lot of the sectors where they are active, but they don’t have the dominance they have in Europe.
“My challenge is to see how quickly we can get them up there with Europe and help local industry experience these world-class products and technology. In the short amount of time I’ve been with APS we’ve started to see some returns with having a big focus in particular areas.”
This includes the food and beverage market where over the past two years, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0 have started to take hold in the processing and manufacturing of goods.
“We also see the packaging industry as a very big market within the Australian and New Zealand markets,” he said. “What we have seen, with COVID, is a lot of people are more interested in knowing where their food is coming from.”
And this is one core principles of how Siemens does business – helping make sure that the food supply is secure, especially when it comes to traceability.
“What is important is cyber security,” he said. “If you look at the food and beverage sector, you will see that Siemens has a cyber security policy within its entire range. When they talk about traceability – especially when you start looking into food and beverage, as well as pharmaceutical – you want to know who has actually put what ingredients where, but they want to now go down to even the operator who packed the product.
“This is part of Siemens core DNA. This technology is already in place and gives manufacturers the capability to say ‘I can show whatever is going into a product has been made with a particular recipe and we will track the entire process from start to finish. We will also note when an operator has changed anything, down to the time and date when it occurred.’”
But there is also a component of the security protocols that is sometimes not taken into consideration, especially when it comes to bespoke manufacturing processes.
“The other side, with the technology – is the intellectual property, which is a massive component,” said Sischy. “Cyber security – because the products are already in place – protects the companies that are investing in these technologies to make sure their knowhow does not fall into foreign hands or any of their competitors’ hands.
“Siemens cyber security is very robust. A lot of the exposure that Siemens has to essential services – whether it be water, wastewater, electricity generation, transport – needs to have robust communication protocols secured end-to-end, so nobody can get in there and potentially harm those processes in any way.”
Sischy said it is also critical to note that Siemens has got a cyber security team that constantly looks at any of these issues that may arise. In the event of a breach, or a potential attack, they can get in contact with the security division who will act on their behalf to ensure that the processes are still intact. Sischy said it is important to protect your assets and if a company already has the necessary security steps in place at a high level, it is easy to integrate these types of measures down to individual processes.
“When it comes to starting your digital journey, we have already got it down to the Siemens LOGO!, which is a very small micro-based controller for home automation, as well as small pump stations,” he said. “It has already got cloud connectivity, so you can put it to the local cloud, or you can send it something like mindsphere if you choose to do that. But the point is you do have that capability.
“Like AI, as well as vison-based systems, we’ll start seeing the evolution of what we call edge-based processors where you are going to have a fair amount of processing sitting very close to the action and then sending that information, or digitalised image, back to some central-based cloud solution, which will then give you the ability to interrogate the information even further.”
Digital twins are also part of the Siemens’ portfolio. Digital twins have come to the fore over the past 12 months, whereby it is possible to create a virtual twin of a physical item. This gives companies the ability to start developing a process, have a look at what they want to do with the process, how they want to improve it, and put in the diagnostics before they connect any physical device to the network.
“Also, through a process that we call Team Centre, you’ve got the ability to also then work out from a manufacturing side, ‘How do I increase the movability? Do I have the right product for the solution? How do I reduce costs and how do I improve the quality of the system?’” said Sischy.
The end game to all these processes is giving processors and manufacturers the ability to achieve the productivity outputs they want, and streamline global processes.
“If you look at it – it doesn’t matter where you look – where any food and beverage company have global location, how do we see whether or not a certain geographical area is more deficient or even profitable versus other areas?” said Sischy.
“What we find, if you have a progressive company, is that they are always looking to be at the forefront of their competitors, or always be ahead of their competitors, which means the uptake of technology is relatively easy. It is where you have companies that may not have the capacities internally, that it becomes more challenging. Sometimes in those instances it can sometimes be harder.”
He said that APS’s philosophy, and therefore something that they are also trying to bring with the Siemens’ suite of products – and Team Centre in particular – is trying to improve the overall quality but also try and lower costs.
“A big part of this going forward, in the Australian market, is to try and reduce your energy consumption and CO2 emissions,” said Sischy. “It is going to be a massive focus going forward, so we need to look at the end goal and determine the true cost of its implementation. With Team Centre, because of the development and also looking at efficiencies, you can also look at the process flows, and that improves it – the actual physical prototyping reduces the development costs and improves the quality.”
He said that Siemens and APS can provide a complete solution including all the Siemens componentry – the PLCs, the drives, the switchgear, the power supplies, the networking devices, as well as panels and cabling.
“Through the company’s system integration program, end users will have the ability to get an end-solution product for the customer,” said Sischy. “It is not only providing product with the inclusion of the APS system program, but it also gives the customer the ability to understand and deliver their needs.
“To make manufacturers locally more cost effective, they need to adopt these technologies. If they are going to try and do this with their standard ways – ‘this is how we have done it over the years etcetera’ – they might not succeed. They need to adapt to the latest technologies.”
Overall, Sischy is excited about the future of the APS/Siemens relationship. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both companies – and of course, Australian industry who is better placed than ever to access these products.
Scientists have uncovered the origins of the world’s deadliest strain of cereal rust disease which threatens global food security.
Researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, together with partners in the US and South Africa have solved a 20-year-old mystery with findings published today in Nature Communications.
Their works shows that the devastating Ug99 strain of the wheat stem rust fungus (named for its discovery and naming in Uganda in 1999) was created when different rust strains simply fused to create a new hybrid strain.
This process is called somatic hybridisation and enables the fungi to merge their cells together and exchange genetic material without going through the complex sexual reproduction cycle.
The study found half of Ug99’s genetic material came from a strain that has been in southern Africa for more than 100 years and also occurs in Australia.
The discovery shows that other crop-destroying rust strains could hybridise in other parts of the world, and scientists found evidence of this in their study.
READ MORE: How to better manage animal diseases
It also means Ug99 could once again exchange genetic material with different pathogen strains to create a whole new enemy.
While it was proposed that rust strains could hybridise based on laboratory studies in the 1960s, this new research provides the first clear molecular evidence that this process generates new strains in nature.
Rusts are a common fungal disease of plants. Globally they destroy over $1 billion worth of crops each year. Australian crops have largely been protected for the past 60 years by the breeding of rust-resistant crop varieties.
Group Leader at CSIRO Dr Melania Figueroa said Ug99 is considered one of the most threatening of all rusts as it has managed to overcome many of the stem rust resistance genes used in wheat varieties and has evolved many variants.
“While outbreaks of Ug99 have so far been restricted to Africa and the Middle East, it has been estimated that a nationwide outbreak here could cost Australia up to $500 million in lost production and fungicide use in the first year,” Dr Figueroa said.
“There is some good news, however, as the more you know your enemy, the more equipped you are to fight against it.
“Knowing how these pathogens come about means we can better predict how they are likely to change in the future and better determine which resistance genes can be bred into wheat varieties to give long-lasting protection.”
Earlier this year, CSIRO worked with the University of Minnesota and the 2Blades Foundation to achieve good results in wheat resistance by stacking five resistance genes into the one wheat plant to combat wheat stem rust.
This latest research is the result of a collaboration between scientists from CSIRO, the University of Minnesota, University of the Free State, and Australian National University.
The breakthrough came as Dr Figueroa’s group was sequencing Ug99 (then at the University of Minnesota) and at the same time a CSIRO team led by Dr Peter Dodds was sequencing Pgt 21 in Australia.
Pgt21 is a rust strain that was first seen in South Africa in the 1920s and believed to have been carried to Australia in the 1950s by wind currents. When the two groups compared results, they found the two pathogens share an almost identical nucleus and therefore half of their DNA.
“This discovery will make it possible to develop better methods to screen for varieties with strong resistance to disease,” Dr Figueroa said.
“There was an element of serendipity at play in this work. We never expected that Ug99 and an Australian isolate might be related but only through a multi-continental collaboration was it possible to make the connections needed to achieve this discovery.”
There is a range of new technologies that are set to take the food and beverage industry by storm. We list what we believe will be the next big five technologies that will change the way food and bev does business.
Being developed by Australia’s own CSIRO, shockwave technology is at proof-of-concept stage. The idea of shockwave technology for meat applications first came around in 1997 when scientists decided to put pre-packaged meat under water and detonate explosives to see if they could tenderise meat.
Shockwave technology is where high pressures are applied for a short time – micro seconds – to meat. In previous studies, 100gms of explosives, placed underwater, were used to tenderise meat. Scientists thought, ‘this is great, but how can we commercialise something with explosives?’
In 2001, dielectric discharge came into being, which helped recreate the shockwave. The technology uses two electrodes to generate a similar effect to the explosives. The scientists put voltage through the electrodes and the resulting arc causes very high pressure under water.
The CSIRO thinks it might cause tissue disintegration, which can accelerate the tenderisation of meat.
When it comes to modelling and pressure, scientists aimed to understand shockwave distribution in the treatment chamber and to identify the area of maximum impact. There was a tenderisation effect that was measured objectively using a Warner Bratzler shear test, where the peak force required to cut through treated meat samples is recorded. The CSIRO is now working towards optimising this effect.
VOW in Sydney and Brisbane-based Heuros are two Australian companies who are delving into the lab-grown meat space. Using stem cells from animals, the two Australian firms join a growing number of enterprises around the world that are looking to make meat-based protein without using abattoirs. While progress has been relatively quick, none of the companies have been able to make lab-grown meat a commercial reality due to the costs of producing it. Apparently the growing of the meat is not an issue, but scaling up production is. However, once that issue is solved, the next one will be trying to persuade consumers how ‘natural’ the meat’s taste and texture can be. Watch this space.
Not to be confused with its biodegradable cousin, compostable packaging is being worked on by an array of companies in the food and beverage space. The winner of this year’s Packaging Innovation category at the Food & Beverage Industry Awards was PA Packaging Solutions’ home compostable packaging that breaks down completely after 26 weeks in a home compost bin. The issue with biodegradable claims is that all items can wear that label, after all, every product is biodegradable – it’s just a matter of how long it takes; 1 year or a 1000. Compostable packaging is aiming to target the greenie in all of us. There are a couple of issues, one being the bigger a piece of compostable packaging becomes, the more compromised it is – ie, it has issues holding the weight of the contents.
Not only is technology processing our food and drink faster, and getting it to market quicker, it will soon be able to customise individual food needs of consumers. In an era where allergies and intolerance to certain ingredients are growing, there will soon be a demand for foods that meet the requirements of individuals within a family as opposed to the whole family group. It will be a challenging prospect but already companies like Sunbasket and Platejoy are tapping into the healthy/organic arena with their offerings.
Not strictly food and beverage-only related, but something that will be happening more as the world becomes more and more digitally connected. Whether it is a local café, or a multi-national food outlet like Starbucks or McDonalds, data is currency. AI will be the key driver as food manufacturers and the outlets they sell to try and find out more about the consumers of their products. Is the Venti big in Sydney’s western suburbs, or is it the Trenta? Where are most Big Mac’s consumed? Perth or Adelaide.
And while some may think that it has a feel of Big Brother about it, there is also an upside. It should lead to less food waste and packaging as certain sectors of the community can be targeted and their specific needs met without oversupplying a particular outlet.
African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal pig disease. And it’s on Australia’s doorstep with confirmation of outbreaks in Timor-Leste, 680 kilometres from northern Australia.
The disease is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has been detected in countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. This year we have seen the disease sweep down through Asia and towards Australia.
ASF kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects and there is no vaccine or cure. Some estimate a quarter of the world’s pigs will be dead by the end of this year from ASF.
The consequences cannot be understated as pork and other red meat prices are already seeing an increase in Europe and Asia. There is also talk of a global protein shortage for 2020 as a result of ASF.
Australia, which has a $5.3 billion pork industry and 2700 producers, continues to be free from the disease. The CSIRO is working with the Australian government and industry to keep it that way.
ASF on our doorstep
The Department of Agriculture has implemented tight biosecurity measures. This maintains strict controls over imported products, which could be contaminated with the ASF virus. It also has heightened surveillance and increased screening for banned pork products.
Recently, Australia deported a Vietnamese tourist after border officials found 10 kilograms of banned food products in her luggage. This included a large amount of raw pork. She was the first tourist to have her visa cancelled and be expelled from the country over breached biosecurity laws.
In September 2019, researchers at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) tested pork products, seized at international airports and at international mail processing centres, for ASF virus. AAHL is Australia’s leading high-containment laboratory for exotic and emerging animal diseases. It has unique facilities and expertise to manage the biosecurity risks of testing samples for the virus.
The results from AAHL’s testing last month showed 48 per cent of seized products were contaminated with ASF virus fragments. This is an increase from 15 per cent in the testing AAHL undertook earlier this year.
Detection of these virus fragments does not necessarily mean they can cause infection. But it does highlight the need for Australia’s strict biosecurity measures. Authorities are now using these results to refine and strengthen Australia’s border measures.
ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly
ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly among domestic pigs and wild boars through direct contact or exposure to contaminated feed and water. For instance, farmers can unwittingly carry the virus on their shoes, clothing, vehicles, and machinery. It can survive in fresh and processed pork products. It is even resistant to some disinfectants.
With no vaccine available, controlling the spread of the virus can be difficult. This is especially so in countries dominated by small-scale farmers who may lack the necessary resources and expertise to protect their herds.
For example, swill feeding—giving pigs kitchen and table waste in which the virus can persist—is a common practice throughout Asia. This is a major factor contributing to the spread of ASF. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to enforce a ban on this practice. Especially across so many small holder farms in resource-poor countries affected by the disease.
But, action is being taken.
Australia’s domestic biosecurity network
many Australian agencies are working together to manage surveillance and monitoring as the risk of ASF entering Australia is on the rise.
In addition to testing, these agencies continue to strengthen our national biosecurity network. The CSIRO is working with quarantine services, agriculture and human health organisations to build awareness, assessment, resilience, preparedness and response.
Our researchers are working on understanding how ASF infects pigs as well as looking at novel approaches to producing a vaccine. With no vaccine currently available, outbreaks of ASF are difficult and costly to contain and eradicate.
In the policy space, a round table meeting at Parliament House was recently held. Along with other leaders, scientists and governments, the CSIRO shared the work currently being undertaken and the actions needed to keep ASF out of Australia.
Plans are underway for a simulation exercise later this year. This will test Australia’s disease response capabilities to make sure the country is as prepared as it can be.
Helping our international neighbours
AAHL has an important role to play in the Asia-Pacific region. Its international team work with partner agencies and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide expertise, training and laboratory skills to rapidly identify disease.
This support enhances the region’s capacity to manage emergency disease outbreaks. It also assists Australia’s pre-border security through better threat assessment and management of viruses circulating in neighbouring countries.
It also provides regional expertise to the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (a specialised agency of the United Nations) for emergency preparedness missions to the number of countries at risk of virus.
We can all help
Fortunately, Australia’s pig industry is better equipped to manage the necessary biosecurity measures. And producers are willing to put strict controls in place to keep the disease at bay. Hobby farmers must also be careful to follow the rules.
Nobody wants to see images of dying pigs and farmers struggling to make ends meet on our screens. Everybody can play a role in good biosecurity.
Be aware of the risks and, most importantly, please don’t import illegal meat products or feed pigs with food scraps.
Consultation on Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system: Discussion paper has been extended until 25 November, 2019, giving stakeholders more time to put forward imaginative and innovative ideas to drive future success in Australian agriculture.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the discussion paper was calling for ideas to modernise Australia’s Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) to support the next wave of innovation for Australian farmers.
“Australian agriculture is an international success story and the Morrison McCormack Government is working to ensure farmers can build on that success,” Minister McKenzie said.
“Our farmers feed and clothe our nation and send safe, high-quality, sustainable products to markets around the globe.
“Farming underpins profitable farming families, strong rural and regional communities and contributes to our national economy.
“That’s why our Government is committed to realising a $100 billion industry by 2030.
“Agriculture in the 21st century will be science-led, employ more cutting-edge technology and need highly skilled workers.
“If we’re to position agriculture as an agile, industry of choice for the 21st century we need to see what improvements we can make that will help us get there.
“This is an opportunity for those who have a stake in the system to be involved so we can make sure our agriculture sector is operating as effectively and efficiently as it can.
“This discussion paper is about modernising our agricultural research and development to ensure the RDC system is delivering value for our levy and tax payers into the future.”
The Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system: Discussion paper is available for comment until 25 November, 2019. Go to: haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/modernising-rdc
Discussion paper questions:
- Is the current RDC system delivering value for levy payers and taxpayers? In what ways?
- What are some of the benefits of keeping the same number of RDCs?
- What are some of the benefits of changing the number of RDCs?
- What are some of the cross-sectoral issues being faced by the wider agricultural sector?
- How can RDCs increase collaboration to ensure better investment in, and returns from, cross-sectoral, transformative and public good research?
- What are the cultural changes necessary in RDCs to achieve a modern fit-for-purpose RDC system?
- What other ways are there for increasing investment in cross-sectoral, transformative and public good research?
- What is the best way for RDCs to engage with levy payers to inform investment decisions?
- How can we encourage increased investment in the RDC system from the private sector and international partners?
- How can we form stronger linkages between the RDC system and the food value chain?
- What changes might encourage improved RDC collaboration with the private sector, including those outside the agricultural sector?
- Where should the balance of investment between R&D and extension lie?
- How could RDCs play a stronger role in extension service delivery, in light of existing private and state government extension efforts?
- How could RDCs help researchers, entrepreneurs and others better engage with producers to accelerate uptake?
- How could industry and levy payers drive increased uptake of R&D?
- How might RDCs be able to increase their role in policy research and development and participate in policy debate alongside industry representative bodies?
- If RDCs were to play a greater role in this area how could this activity be clearly distinguished from partisan and political activity, which must remain a role for industry representative bodies?
Consumers are quickly waking up to the fact that consuming meat — especially highly processed meat — can have negative health outcomes and is contributing to the destruction of the environment.
Recognising both the health and environmental upsides of eating plant-based meat alternatives is translating to commercial success for businesses savvy enough to capitalise on this early trend.
With a market cap of almost US$7 billion, none have been more successful than Beyond Meat (NASDAQ: BYND).
Beyond Meat’s burgers and other plant-based products appeal not only to vegetarians, vegans, and the environmentally conscious, but they have now received official kosher certification. In a major coup, last month the company was selected by McDonald’s to supply the patties for burger its burger chains. The burgers will be known as P.L.T. burgers.
Also capitalising on the trend is the Bill Gates backed Impossible Foods, which just raised US$700 million from US venture capital firms to further its plant-based meat offerings.
Impossible Foods’ sells its burgers in US supermarkets and supply a number of major fast food outlets, including the country’s second largest fast food company, Burger King.
Its plant-based Impossible Burger “bleeds” like the real thing. Yet, it’s made from soy and potato proteins and its signature ingredient — the iron-rich compound, heme. Heme is produced when soy leghemoglobin is cooked and gives the veggie burger a meat-like flavour and its bleeding look.
However, plant-based meats may not be as healthy or environmentally friendly as its seems.
The industry relies heavily on industrially grown, high protein crops including soy, pea and potatoes, which require heavy use of herbicides and pesticides. This is the case for producers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and is one of the major criticisms they face.
For that reason, there’s growing demand for organically grown and environmentally conscious options for consumers.
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies addresses critical problems being faced by agriculture, including plant climate management and the shortage of water for irrigation.
Importantly, its technologies can assist in growing high-end organic meat replacement crops.
Roots has expanded into the plant-based meat market, initiating a planting program to examine the effects of its Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) and Irrigation by Condensation (IBC) technologies on several protein-laden crops to increase the content of leghemoglobin.
Its technologies work to increase a crop’s leghemoglobin – also known as “heme” — a form of haemoglobin in plants and the key ingredient in what makes plant-based meats so tasty.
Stabilising plants’ root temperatures stimulates their immune systems, reducing susceptibility to pathogens and increasing the total biomass, and therefore potentially increasing total protein content.
Off the back of this discovery, ROO intend to lead the organic segment of the artificial meat replacement industry.
Roots is examining crops with a high protein content, either in the roots or in the canopy, which can be grown year-round using its RZTO technology. High end protein laden crops can be grown indoors where organic methods and cater for a lucrative organic meat replacement niche.
Roots will formally test the concept on high protein crops already planted at the company’s farm in Bet Halevi, Israel. Two high protein crops were planted in September 2019 using three configurations of the RZTO technology — horizontal, “Stub T-shape”, and a control group.
What is an audit? Probably one of the most common and used audit definition is the one provided by the ISO 19011 – Guidelines for auditing management systems. In its last update (2018) the ISO document defines audit as systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining objective evidence and evaluate it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.
In this definition, ISO decided to reinforce the importance of the evidence being objective since the only change from the 2011 definition was the substitution of audit evidence for objective evidence. More details can be found in the GFSI definition for audit present in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements version 7.2: A systematic and functionally independent examination to determine whether activities and related results comply with a conforming scheme, whereby all the elements of this scheme should be covered by reviewing the supplier’s manual and related procedures, together with an evaluation of the production facilities. Clearly, in common, we have that audits should be a systematic and independent process to determine compliance with criteria.
1. Validating that the food safety systems are thought and built to fulfil the criteria
2. Verifying that the activities performed to comply with what is planned and are effective.
As presented above, during an audit the auditor must be able to validate and verify compliance with criteria or requirements. For that, the auditor must have adequate attributes and knowledge. In the diagram below are presented the main elements of an auditor and an audit.
Another aspect that needs to be improved is the perception of value added by food safety audits. Auditors should do everything in their power (without compromising the independent, systematic and documented approach) to make the process beneficial to the organisation and their food safety system.
Technology is evolving at an outstanding pace but for the moment the adaptation of new tools and technologies to auditing seems delayed. It is not difficult to foresee that technologies like smart glasses can play a role in the future of audits. Mainly people advocate that this tool could reduce travel costs but maybe we should focus more on how this technology could increase the number of audits for the same cost.
Oil – in all its forms, including vegetable – doesn’t have the best of reputations when it comes to sustainability and the environment. It takes a long time to break down, can have a disruptive impact on habitats, and can take on toxic forms once used.
With tens of thousands of eating establishments throughout Australia – all of which use one form or another of cooking oil – it is an issue that bulk oil specialist Cookers Bulk Oil knows all too well. When it comes to sustainability, traceability and how vegetable oil can affect its surrounds, the company has processes in place aimed at keeping the environment free from any negative outcomes caused by vegetable oils. National quality and safety manager for the company Hari Srinivas makes no apologies for the standards the company sets when it comes to where it sources its vegetable oil supplies.
“To deal with Cookers, you need to be an approved supplier, which means we look and see what sort of practices and standards you are following,” he said. “Suppliers need to meet minimum standards. And it means we don’t go to any supplier who hasn’t got a certification/traceability system in place that is not internationally recognised.”
READ MORE: Sustainability at core of bulk oil business
He cites the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which is a private organisation, established and managed by the Consumer Goods Forum in Belgium. It maintains a scheme to benchmark food safety standards for manufacturers.
Certification can be achieved through a successful third-party audit by schemes recognised by the GFSI, including the BRC (British Retail Consortium) Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8, IFS Food Version 6 and SQF Safe Quality Food Code 8th Edition to name a few.
“Without those types of certifications we don’t even entertain any supplier,” said Srinivas. “We are stringent with our suppliers. If you look into the way the industry is going now, the majority of the supply chains are going through some sort of certification system including HACCP. These sorts of certifications are one of the core fundamentals for traceability. The product could be coming from anywhere in the world nowadays. It may be via an underdeveloped country, a developing country or a developed county. Also, most of my customers whom I supply to have at least some food safety certification. Cookers ensures product integrity with no dilution as we provide Certificates of Analysis to meet specifications. ”
He said that although 99 per cent of the oil is refined locally, even the small amount of product they source from overseas has to have a certain standard of certification. This includes where the seed has been sourced, where it is crushed and even the batch number it came from.
“If they give us a batch number you can trace it back to the farm,” said Srinivas. “This is why farm to fork is the new mode that everybody follows, including us. We make sure we go back to the beginning and we use GSFI-certified refineries where they can trace backward from their end, too.”
Srinivas doesn’t want to tempt fate, but he is proud that the company has yet to have any of its products recalled. He puts it down to not only the standards it sets, but also compliant suppliers, and their own end users as well. This doesn’t mean the company is complacent. In fact, far from it. Frequently, they do an exercise where they have a mock recall, which involves checking its suppliers’ traceability to make sure they have the correct systems in place, and that they are working. This is because he knows that if there ever is a recall, they need to know where every drop of oil they have distributed has ended up. The good news for end users is that if that does happen, Cookers Bulk Oil will be able to trace the batch number and know where the offending product is very quickly through their centralised system.
Traceability is also key when it comes to dealing with customers in case things go wrong once the oil has been distributed. As mentioned, Cookers makes sure its customers also comply with standards and regulations, too. This is important to ensure customers are getting the product they paid according to specifications.
“We get audited every year, and our auditor checks things like how long it takes to check something, and the accuracy of our traceability,” said Srinivas. “If we have an issue we can compare it with the same batch delivered nationally to different customers,” said Srinivas. “We can get a sample and test it with same batches from other customers who have used the same batch.”
And the environmental side of the equation? Well, it is simple really: the customers who they supply their fresh oil to are also their used oil suppliers. The Cookers Bulk Oil truck fleet is divided into two types of vehicle. The stainless-steel trucks deliver fresh cooking oil, while the blue ones pick up the used product. Cookers not only supplies fresh oil and pick up used oil, it provides separate purpose built storage equipment used on-site by the customer, one for fresh and another for used oil. Not only does that help the customer, but it allows Cookers to make sure that they know what is happening with the oil.
“Once a customer uses the oil, we provide the equipment to transfer the used product into our on-site mobile storage units, which are emptied at regular intervals,” said Srinivas. “We get the oil back and we have got mechanisms to handle the oil in such a way it can go into biodiesel production. It means that with every drop of oil we sell, we make sure not a single drop goes into the drain.”
But what about the client? How does Cookers know that the amount of oil they delivered and collected is roughly the same? Sure some, might get absorbed into food, but there could be huge discrepancies between the amount delivered and what they pick up after use, right? Not so, said Srinivas.
“We measure UCO, which is collected,” he said. “We do all the calculations, so if there are any big variations, we will go and speak to the customer to see if there is anything going wrong and find whether we can help with oil management.”
He said another reason to use a company like Cookers Bulk Oil is that, due to its tanker delivery method, there are no empty oil tins heading to the local landfill. If a customer needed 100 litres of oil per week, that would usually consist of five 20-litre drums, which may end up in land fill. With Cookers’ tankers, the drums are redundant.
And where exactly does the company source it oils from? Srinivas is quick to point out that they don’t use palm oil, and their main oils are canola, sunflower and cottonseed.
“We get most of our oil in Australia, and over 90 per cent is refined in Australia,” he said. “For example, the canola oil we sell is 100 per cent Australian. Other oils, depending on the cropping situation, are imported in crude form from reputable suppliers who have proper certifications in place – usually from Argentina and European countries.”
At the end of the day, traceability is one of the key planks upon which Cookers Bulk Oil has built its reputation – thus the plethora of certifications and processes it has in place to make sure its meets its customers’ needs.
“The traceability is so important,” said Srinivas. “When you think about it, it is important in anything you do. If you are buying a piece of land you have to have documentation to see who the previous owner was, and the owner before them, and before them and so on. It is the same with anything that you are putting into your mouth, which is going to impact your health – we need to know the traceability and this is why we have these processes in place.”
Supply chain, factories of the future, Industry 4.0, and an aging manufacturing workforce – all subjects that recently have started to have an impact on the food and beverage industry. It’s no longer enough to go after market share; processors and manufacturers in this space have to play the long game and ask themselves some questions about where they are heading, such as: What does the future hold in the supply chain space? Do we need to adopt an Industry 4.0/Internet of Things (IoT) strategy? Does it even affect my business? What is a factory of the future?
Pollen Consulting Group is a company that specialises in value chain transformations in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. It recently hosted a networking event where a panel consisting of some of the brightest minds in the digitisation area came together to discuss some the issues that both multinationals and SMEs are facing within the sector.
Facilitated by Pollen’s managing director, Paul Eastwood, the event showcased insights into the aforementioned issues.
Linda Crowe, head of supply chain at wines and spirits producer Diageo, knows that the company has to get onboard with sustainability initiatives –but at what cost?
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“We had our global supply and procurement director out recently and we talked about sustainability,” she said. “And the biggest message he landed was that we don’t have a choice anymore, but we need to find a way to be sustainable without impacting costs. Or, if it’s going to be more costly, then we have to pull it out of the profit and loss (P&L) somewhere else. We definitely need to start looking within to get ahead of the trends and do it in an intelligent way.”
And while some talk the talk, as James Magee, CEO of Operations Feedback Systems (OFS), explained, when it comes to walking the walk, some baulk.
“From my time working in Visy’s recycling department, there were many brand owners and organisations that came in and said they wanted to go down the path of sustainability,” he said. “They wanted to promote it, but of course it came at a higher cost. When that resolve was tested, in many cases, neither the brand or consumers, despite outwardly promoting it and testing at shelf, decided they would go for the cheaper option. It’s interesting to hear Diageo’s approach. That is a breath of fresh air because a lot of companies will chase profits over sustainability.”
And while it is easy to be cynical about costs over profit, at least one person on the panel was not willing to compromise when it came to making sure her company was minimising its impact on the environment, even if it affects the bottom line. Diem Fuggersberger is the CEO of Berger Ingredients and food company Coco & Lucas, and her values in her home life cross over into her professional life.
“I have certain values in my personal life, so I have to make sure those things are the same in my business,” she said. “When I started Coco & Lucas I wanted sustainability, but it has hurt my profitability by at least $250,000 a year. All the packaging used in Coco & Lucas is biodegradable. Instead of paying $0.12 for a plastic food tray, I’m paying $0.28 for a biodegradable one. Initially my family wondered why I was paying all this extra money but I was determined to be the first national brand that doesn’t have plastic going into the earth. I felt it was my responsibility for me to have a biodegradable tray.”
The executive general manager at CHEP Australia, Lis Mannes, brought up the issue of waste in the food and beverage industry. Mannes was involved in companies that have had a large sustainability arm, yet the infrastructure within some of them has not been mature enough to handle the amounts of waste being created.
“We are in a lag position where we do not have, as a country, the infrastructure to handle the amount of waste we create,” she said.
To take it one step further, not only do companies have to think about what side effects waste will have on the environment, but there is a generation of younger workers coming through that are interested in their employer’s stance on the environment.
“I did an induction recently for some new employees, and one of my slides goes, ‘Why CHEP?’” said Mannes. “As I went around the room I asked people why they joined us. I would say over half of the room actually cited [the company’s attitude towards] sustainability as one of the core reasons that they joined the company. I don’t think I would have had that answer 10 years ago.”
Another point up for discussion was the role of technology in the supply chain, something that manufacturers and distributors in the food and beverage space need to take into consideration as digitisation starts to take hold. There were duelling trains of thought with this aspect of business in general – digitise completely now, or do it gradually.
Pollen Technology director, Oliver North believed that because technology is ever changing, there is a conundrum, which is that nobody knows what these changes will entail when it comes to supply chain.
“Nobody can predict what is going to happen,” said North. “The only thing we know is that it is going to change. The question being asked was, ‘How do we as a business adopt these changes?’ And when it comes to technology the first thing you should be looking at is where the pain points are in your supply chain.
“You need to look internally at a business and understand the areas where we have a problem, and where we can use technology to solve it. Then you look at the market and understand what technologies can help us there, and what technologies will fix that need.”
Mannes also delved into a few issues that need addressing within the Australian food and beverage industry – distance that products need to travel; legacy plant and machinery that needs upgrading; the need to diversify outputs during production; and an aging manufacturing workforce.
“When I look around the infrastructure in the food and beverage industry in Australia, there is a lot of legacy assets that exist, and one of the challenges of our economy is the distances versus the population that we are trying to service,” she said.
Mannes also touched on Australia being in a unique situation whereby the nature of the country – its size and the supply chain distances travelled – creates natural constraints that have to be considered. According to Mannes, some start-ups are often scared off by the scale of economies that exist in the country and the possibility of making a business work where they are servicing so many locations.
“To establish a fresh sandwich factory in Sydney, and to service the country, you just can’t do it, because you can’t get it with a three-day shelf-life to Perth,” she said.
Then there is the issue of the condition of the some of the plant and machinery in some factories, as well as the aging population of workers in the food and beverage processing and manufacturing industries.
“We have factories in many of our food industries that have these legacy assets that are looking tired,” she said. “Then, you have the generation of workers coming through who don’t want to work in them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been in endless discussions about aging employment and aging workforces and what that is going to do the economy, because we have a generation of people coming through who don’t want to work with our aged assets. But we have an economy that makes it really hard to have a business case to keep industry here. I don’t know what the solution for that is.
Generationally, as we start to adopt Industry 4.0 in the appropriate places, we will gradually get a younger segment coming though that do want to work in those kinds of environments.”
Eastwood then touched on workforce issues and how automation would affect factories of the future. In 2018, a Swiss think tank, The World Economic Forum, released a statement that stipulated that half the work force could be replaced by robots by 2025. However, it also said that robots could create twice as many jobs as currently exist now.
“I think the main problem is going to be a race between technology and education and which one is going to win,” said Eastwood. “I think if technology is going to win, you are going to have people without skills; if education wins then we might be okay. At the moment, technology is winning.”
This was backed up by productivity expert Ishan Galapathy who said we should be working smarter, not harder. “If we can build the capability of our frontlines leaders to problem solve, they will be using the skills that won’t go away – like empathy and courage,” he said.
The next topic on the agenda was about working in a factory of the future from an employee’s point of view. They would be ripe for the gig economy, said Magee, with gig referring to independent workers who contract their services out for short-term jobs.
“I would say that in the future an opportunity exists for manufacturing employees to share in the gig economy,” he said. “Why couldn’t there be a star rating where I’m an employee, or a hired gun, who can work in any factory. If you only need me for five hours, you don’t have to pay me to sweep the floor to fill out the contract if I finish early. I’ll walk across the road and go and work at another place for few more hours.”
A similar scenario could be played out for excess factory floor space. Diageo already thought ahead before it built its new distribution centre, according to Crowe. It intentionally built the factory bigger than it needed because it was taking into account the growth of the company. For about four months of the year it runs at full capacity, while in the other months it runs at about 50 to 60 per cent. It can rent out the extra space to, as Crowe puts it, “sweat the asset to make it profitable”.
The final point of the discussion, made by Eastwood, was about food and beverage processors and manufacturers taking on digitisation – don’t rush into it, he said.
“I don’t think you have to worry too much about being left behind because it takes time,” he said. “You won’t change the world tomorrow, but you do need to start thinking about it, because some companies are clearly starting to nudge ahead. There is no one that is miles ahead at the moment. Think about it. Take your time. And get it right. It doesn’t cost millions.”
In what’s believed will be a world first in agriculture, researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, will use popular gaming platforms, sensor technologies and next-generation data interaction techniques to help prawn farmers make decisions in a bid to boost productivity.
Water conditions in prawn ponds can quickly change from healthy to threatening in a matter of hours, but current methods for monitoring water quality are labour intensive and cause significant delays between the measurements and being able to see important trends in the data.
Speaking at D61+ Live in Sydney, Australia’s premier science, technology and innovation event, CSIRO Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Mingze Xi said they have developed technology that will give farmers near real-time understanding of key water quality parameters like dissolved oxygen and pH levels.
“This is done using state-of-the-art wearable and hands-free technologies that they use while they’re walking around and managing the ponds,” Xi said.
“Prawn farmers tell us that they don’t actually farm prawns, they farm water quality.
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“This could give them the information they need to better manage animal health and feed inputs, for example, and even share the visuals in real time with managers in the office or external experts for fast input.”
The technology draws on CSIRO’s domain expertise in agriculture and the capabilities of its data and digital specialist arm, Data61. It was developed by CSIRO’s Digiscape Future Science Platform and uses the power of Data61’s Senaps platform, which helps businesses connect data in a range of different formats, integrate complex analytics and turn it into useful intelligence that can make a difference.
Pacific Reef Fisheries, a prawn farm operator in Ayr near Townsville in northern Queensland, is working with CSIRO to provide real world conditions for testing the system.
Environmental manager Kristian Mulholland said augmented reality in the aquaculture industry had the potential to transform productivity in the industry.
“Augmented reality technology could be a huge game changer for our industry to make water quality monitoring so much quicker and easier, all in real time, and bringing a visual aspect of data display to efficiently make more accurate management decisions,” he said.
“We could gain huge productivity improvements using this technology, and we’re incredibly excited to be a part of its development.”
CSIRO has chosen prawn farming as the first agricultural industry to test this technology, with a view to expanding into other sectors shortly.
“We can see this technology becoming a normal part of farm operations no matter what you farm, as all types of farming become more reliant on gathering and understanding data from sensor technologies,” Xi said.
In addition to augmented reality technology, cutting edge projects across artificial intelligence, privacy, security and blockchain, will be on show at CSIRO’s D61+ Live in Sydney on 2 and 3 October 2019.