Technavio market research analysts forecast the global automated food sorting machines market to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of close to seven per cent during the forecast period, according to their latest report.
The research company’s analysts highlight the following three market drivers that are contributing to the growth of the global automated food sorting machines market:
Retrofit activities carried out in aging food processing facilities
Rising demand for food products and shorter delivery cycle
Implementation of standards applicable to food processing
The food industry is the oldest industry that has gone through several revolutions such as Green Revolution, White Revolution, and Pink Revolution. Depending on the type of food products manufactured, there have been several changes in the methods of food processing witnessed in the industry. However, the introduction of automation in the industry is transforming the aging industry by integrating new methods and technique, according to Technavio.
“Automation has allowed the industry to reduce the manual work, improve hygiene, and speed-up the process. Also, realising the cost benefits achieved in terms of return-on-investment in the long run, small and medium-sized enterprises too have switched to automated machines to optimise industry operations,” says Sushmit Chakraborty, a lead analyst at Technavio for automation research.
Rising demand for food products and shorter delivery cycle
The improving economy of developing nations has witnessed a rise in the demand for different food products and changes in eating habits. To serve the growing need for food, the food industry is required to reduce the process time and delivery time. This can be achieved by reducing the process cycle time and implementation of automated machines.
Implementation of automated machines has drastically reduced the process time and increased the quality of food products manufactured. The demand for various food products such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, oils and fats, and meat and seafood can be fulfilled by integrating the processes that require minimum process and cycle time.
“Automated food sorting machines are used for different food items, thus making the processes faster and more hygienic. Industrial automation and information analytics allow the user to extract the data and perform the activities more accurately and fast, thereby reducing the delivery cycle,” says Sushmit.
Implementation of standards applicable to food processing
The food industry must adhere to food and safety standards that regulate and monitor the food quality. For every food product manufactured, there are a set of quality standards that are to be maintained during the manufacturing process. Traditionally, food industry involved manual efforts during the manufacturing processes. However, to achieve the quality standards decided by food safety and standard authority, it is necessary for food manufacturing companies to rely on food processing equipment.
Automated food sorting machines provide speed and allow the industry to optimise the quality standards. The improved quality achieved by implementing automated machines and integrating methods with artificial intelligence will result in the further growth of the market.
New technologies could see us eating algae-based sources of protein, developing allergenic-free nuts and tolerable varieties of lactose and gluten, and reducing environmental impact through edible packaging.
Speaking at the launch during the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology’s (AIFST) 50th Anniversary Convention in Sydney, Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Craig Laundy , highlighted the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in driving new economic growth in the industry.
Keeping a greater share of food processing onshore and better differentiating Australian food products are major themes across the Roadmap, which calls on businesses to act quickly or risk losing future revenue streams to the competitive global market.
Developed with widespread industry consultation and analysis, the Roadmap seeks to assist Australian food and agribusinesses with the desire to pursue growth and new markets.
Deputy Director of CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Dr Martin Cole said Australia was well positioned to act as a delicatessen of high-quality products that meet the needs of millions of informed and discerning customers both here and abroad.
“Australian businesses are among the most innovative in the world, and together with our world-class scientists, can deliver growth in the food and agribusiness sector amid unprecedented global change,” Dr Cole said.
“Less predictable growing conditions, increasingly global value chains and customers who demand healthier, more convenient and traceable foods are driving businesses to new ways of operating.
“Advances are already being made through the use of blockchain technology and the development of labels that change colour with temperature or time, or are programmed to release preservatives.
The Roadmap was developed in collaboration with the government-funded food and agribusiness growth centre: Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL).
Recently, FIAL launched their Sector Competitiveness Plan, which outlines the over-arching industry vision to grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace and the necessary strategy to achieve the vision.
“With the growing Asian middle class, Australia is in the box seat to take advantage of the many emerging export opportunities,” FIAL Chairman Peter Schutz said.
“Consumers are looking for differentiated products that cater to their needs.
“This is especially exciting for Australian food and agribusinesses which have the capability to respond with customised and niche products.”
Currently, Australia exports over $40 billion worth of food and beverages each year with 63 per cent headed for Asia.
Dr Cole explained that Australia is a trusted supplier of sustainable, authentic, healthy, high quality and consistent products.
“We must focus on these strengths and enhance the level of value-adding to our products,” DrCole said.
“Recent Austrade analysis shows early signs of such a shift, as for the first time in Australia’s history value-added foods have accounted for the majority (60 per cent) of food export growth.”
The Roadmap outlines value-adding opportunities for Australian products in key growth areas, including health and wellbeing, premium convenience foods and sustainability-driven products that reduce waste or use less resources.
Five key enablers for these opportunities are explored in the Roadmap: traceability and provenance, food safety and biosecurity, market intelligence and access, collaboration and knowledge sharing, and skills.
These enablers align with FIAL’s knowledge priority areas that are central in helping the food and agribusiness industry achieve its vision and deliver increased productivity, sustainable economic growth, job creation, and investment attraction for the sector.
The Roadmap calls for improved collaboration and knowledge sharing to generate scale, efficiency and agility across rapidly changing value chains and markets.
“To survive and grow, the challenge facing Australia’s 177,000 businesses in the food and agribusiness sector is to identify new products, services and business models that arise from the emerging needs of tomorrow’s global customers,” Dr Cole said.
Australia’s food industry is taking a hit by the ongoing energy crisis, according to the agriculture industry.
A warning has been fired that the country’s ability to deliver affordable food and fibre is at threat, as federal and state energy ministers met to discuss the industry’s future.
The Council of Australian Government’s energy council meeting in Brisbane heard concerns from Labor states, which are calling for policy that aims to encourage investment and the delivery of a clean energy target (CET).
“Importantly, governments will be provided with greater visibility of retail electricity prices, retail margins and factors affecting price, to ensure they are in a stronger position to respond to any inappropriate market practices,’’ said federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg .
While the council agreed on 49 recommendations of the Finkel Review, there were fears that rising costs would lead to mothballing of important infrastructure.
Claiming that CET was “critical”, Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey said the Finkel Review “clearly showed a CET would deliver lower electricity prices, more investment and lower emissions compared to a business-as-usual approach”.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions on a proposal to amend maximum residue limits (MRLs) for certain agricultural and veterinary chemicals.
FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Mark Booth said the proposal aimed to harmonise limits in the Food Standards Code with limits used overseas.
“If a chemical is found in a food product that does not have an MRL for that chemical it cannot be legally sold in Australia,” Mr Booth said.
“Chemicals can be used differently around the world because of different pests, diseases and environmental factors. This means residues in imported foods may differ from those in domestically produced products, but that does not mean there is a safety issue.
“FSANZ has assessed the proposal and concluded there are no public health and safety concerns relating to the changes.”
All FSANZ decisions on standards are notified to ministers responsible for food regulation. The ministers can decide to adopt, amend, or reject standards or they can ask for a review.
Australia is planning temporary trade conditions for uncooked prawns as the end of an enforced six-month suspension is anticipated.
The department of agriculture and water resources is pencilling interim import conditions to allow the “safe resumption of trade in uncooked prawn and prawn meat”.
The ban was declared on January 6 by the director of biosecurity and will lapse on July 6.
Some prawn products, including dried prawns, uncooked Australian prawns, and uncooked prawns and prawn meat marinated for human consumption, have been exempted from the suspension.
To manage the biosecurity risks of the exempt prawn products, interim import conditions were developed which include strict pre-export and on-arrival testing for prawn diseases, including white spot syndrome virus and yellow head virus.
It is intended that requirements for pre-export and on-arrival testing will be maintained for those categories of prawns currently exempt from the import suspension.
It is also expected that the interim import conditions developed for the remaining categories of prawns will include similar stringent measures.
“In preparation for the end of the suspension, the department is informing prawn importers about expected changes to import conditions for all prawn products, including the uncooked prawn products which are still subject to the suspension,” a department spokesperson said.
“These interim import conditions are likely to apply until the formal review of import conditions for prawns and prawn products for human consumption is finalised.
“This thorough review is considering the biosecurity risks of imports from all countries and will recommend appropriate import conditions to manage them. This process is expected to take up to two years.”
Prawn importers will be informed of any decisions concerning interim import conditions before the July 6.
Food is important for our survival, which is why all living beings have developed an urge for high energy foods, like those high in sugar and fat. Historically, this hadn’t been an issue, as energy dense foods weren’t always as available as they are today.
But in modern societies, we not only have easy access to cheap, high-energy food, we also have marketing companies pushing them at us. Food packaging plays a big part in triggering brain processes that influence our food choices – similar brain processes that get us stuck on addictive behaviours.
In the 1950s, two Canadian physiologists ran experiments with electrodes implanted in specific brain regions of rats. The rats were then given the opportunity to stimulate these brain regions, later termed “reward centres”, by pressing a button. Once they started pressing the stimulation button, they stopped doing anything else, which was the first hint of a strong behavioural reinforcing mechanism.
Since then, researchers have shown that this reward centre of the brain – termed the “ventral striatum” – is also involved in substance addiction, such as to heroin or cocaine. Just showing people drug-related pictures led to a strong activity in the parts of the brain related to craving for the drugs.
How our brain responds to junk foods
With methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows us to measure brain activity in healthy volunteers, researchers have started to investigate processes underlying how we eat and view foods.
Such studies robustly show that images of high caloric foods, like chocolate bars or cakes, lead to a stronger activity in the reward areas of the brain, in contrast to apples or salads.
Foods like cakes and burgers lead to stronger activity in our brain’s reward areas in contrast to apples or salads. www.shutterstock.com
Longitudinal studies, which follow people over a period of time, have shown that the stronger the reaction in the brain’s reward areas when confronted with these foods, the more weight people will gain over the next year.
These insights have made scientists think about how they could intervene to make people less reactive to foods high in calories. One important mechanism, which was researched by a team in California, is that of self-control.
Volunteers were able to regulate the reward-related brain activity towards junk food. While in an MRI machine, they were instructed to focus on health attributes while making choices for healthier food options. When doing so, another region of the brain strongly involved in self-control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) was more active and regulated the spontaneous rewarding brain activity.
We may think our eating decisions are mainly driven by rational factors such as weighing up the different attributes of products – for example, prices and content. But research shows we are strongly influenced by environmental factors that nudge us into making different decisions.
Designs of packages, brands or claims on food products also influence how we value and consume them. These influences are of course extensively used by companies to affect consumers’ choices.
Companies make use of bright colours, and well-known characters from movies or other celebrities to distinguish their products from others. These visual properties act as signals that influence the way we value products and make people more likely to be attracted to certain items over others.
Some studies in children show food-directed commercials influence the amount of calories they consume, with this effect especially pronounced in overweight children.
But the fact contextual factors play a strong role in the perception of foods can also be used to help consumers in their choices.
We conducted a study in school children where we presented the same cereals in different packages. One of these was especially designed to be more appealing to children – we created cartoon characters and placed them on the package.
The same cereal not only tasted better when it was in the more appealing package, but children were also willing to make more effort to receive it (by more strongly pressing on a specially designed hand lever).
This influence of marketing on the actual taste experience has also been referred to as the marketing placebo effect. Expectations consumers may have about a known brand or a nice design can lead to actual differences in taste and consumption patterns, probably by acting on the human reward circuitry and raising the subjective pleasure of the taste experience.
Arrow Energy has announced plans to double the production capacity of its Tipton gas project in Queensland amid an east-coast industrial gas shortage.
The planned expansion of Arrow’s Tipton operations is expected to involve 90 new wells in the initial phase and another 180 wells over the next 25 years.
It will also include new gathering lines, an upgraded water treatment facility and four new compressors.
“This project continues the development of the Arrow resource which will see more gas in the market,” said Arrow Energy CEO Qian Mingyang.
The project follows investment of more than $600 million by Arrow in its Surat Basin infrastructure, including $500 million towards its Daandine expansion project commissioned in late 2016 and more than $100 million to expand capacity at its Daandine and Tipton fields.
“We only hope that the other states follow Queensland’s lead and open up gas reserves to help fix the energy crisis households and businesses, especially manufacturers, along the eastern seaboard are facing,” said Mingyang.
B&R has expanded its range of automation-ready Panel PCs with a new series of widescreen formats ranging from 7″ WVGA to 24″ Full HD.
These Panel PCs are suited for use in harsh environments and are the perfect visualisation devices for Box PCs while at the same time offering easy and flexible mounting options.
With a slender design, all models are available with a single-touch or multi-touch screen and connecting the panels to a PC unit turns them into a full-fledged PC, complete with scalable processing power.
The core component of the panel is the widescreen, which ranges from 7″ WVGA to 24″ Full HD, while the panels also have the possibility of adding a modular SDL/DVI receiver that turns the panels into operator terminal.
With SDL3 digital signal transmission technology with standard Ethernet cables, it is even possible for the panels to bridge more than 100 meters between terminal and PC.
The Panel PCs offer scalable computing power by using anything from Intel Atom processors all the way up to the powerful Core i7 family.
The modular platform – consisting of the actual panel, SDL/SDL3 receiver and PC unit are designed to deliver a considerable reduction in maintenance costs, and in the event of an upgrade, there is no need to replace the entire Panel PC.
Added to this, with its uniform interface, B&R has established a flexible system platform for any future and expanded PC architectures.
Since the display and PC components are separate, it is also possible to upgrade the internal PC technology while at the same time, keeping the original display unit.
The Victorian Government has funded the appointment of a Fruit Fly Regional Coordinator in the Yarra Valley to help protect horticultural production and keep the area fruit fly free.
While many methods are used to control fruit fly, the critical factor is people working together. In the current Action Plan, the role of the Regional Coordinator is crucial for ensuring industry, community and government cooperate to effectively manage fruit fly.
Bronwyn Koll has been employed by Agribusiness Yarra Valley to work directly with the fruit fly Regional Governance Group which includes representation from major horticultural producers, local and state government, and community members from the area.
Bronwyn’s two year appointment is part of the $6.7 million Managing Fruit Fly – Regional Grants Program to provide a coordinated and collaborative approach to fruit fly management across the Greater Sunraysia, the Yarra Valley and the Goulburn Murray Valley.
Bronwyn’s family has been growing fruit in the Yarra Valley for four generations, so she understands the local industry and is passionate about protecting it for future generations.
“My top priority is to work with Yarra Valley fruit and vegetable industries, council and the local community to keep the Yarra Valley free from Queensland fruit fly.”
“Our fresh produce industries and amazing edible home gardens in the Yarra Valley are very valuable assets and worth protecting,” Koll said.
Based in Wandin, Bronwyn will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Yarra Valley Fruit Fly Regional Action Plan that was developed collaboratively by industry, government and community in the area.
Some of the tasks include working with the Yarra Valley horticultural community to reduce the risk of fruit fly entering the Yarra Valley, establishing a fruit fly trapping program as an early warning system to prevent fruit fly and engaging with the local community to build capacity to identify Queensland fruit fly.
“Building awareness within the Yarra Valley community is an integral part of the state wide approach to controlling the population and movement of Queensland fruit fly, and reducing the devastation it causes.”
“I look forward to also working with the Goulburn Murray Valley and Sunraysia Regional Coordinators. Together we play a significant role in protecting our fresh produce industries and our home gardens in Victoria.”
XTS Hygienic, the stainless steel version of the eXtended Transport System from Beckhoff, opens up a wide spectrum of new applications for processing and filling liquids.
Allowing optimal cleanability with the high protection rating of IP 69K, very good chemical resistance and without any hidden corners, edges or undercuts, the hygienic design offers maximum production line availability even when the demands made on hygiene are high.
The XTS replaces mechanics with software functionality to allow for a high degree of design freedom in realising completely new machine concepts.
Through a significant reduction in mechanical engineering requirements, machines can be set up with the XTS more compactly, at a lighter weight and with less wiring.
Thus, machine builders can now offer smaller, more powerful and more efficient systems and the end user benefits accordingly from a smaller footprint, higher productivity and quicker product switchovers.
With the XTS Hygienic, which is so much easier to clean compared to more complex mechanical systems, the routine cleaning tasks along with those for product switchover – which are optimally supported by the XTS as standard – can be performed much more quickly. .
Vantage Australia has just been awarded the silver medal in this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC).
More than 2,100 spirits were judged this year, the largest number of entries in the competition’s 17-year history with the botanical Vantage Australia taking home the silver medal in this year’s awards.
The San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2017 silver medal demonstrates that Vantage Australia is among the finest in the spirits industry, awarded for its ability to show refinement and finesse.
Vantage Australia was recognised for its multi-layered complexity, the smooth yet peppery mixture is made up of Australian botanicals, lemon myrtle, Tasmanian mountain pepper berries with a hint of mandarin oil from Australian produced imperial mandarins.
Complimented with zesty citrus notes, this unique premium Australian tipple has the ability to cut across traditional spirit genres, making it the perfect base for most mixers while also giving life to old classics, with an Australian twist.
Riding on its 2016 success, where Vantage Australia won Best Innovation-Best in Class 2016 from the Australian Drinks Awards, the Aussie spirit was also recognised for strong performance across key measures, including purchase intention, excitement, and relevance.
Vantage Australia was honoured with this prize for having the highest level of uniqueness, reflected through its inspiration of Australian native flora.
The complex flavour comes from only using natural bush foods to create a blend that blurs the lines between sweet and dry, giving this multi-layered spirit the uniqueness that it has been nationally and now internationally, recognised for.
“We are honoured by the international award Vantage Australia has received from the highly competitive San Francisco World Spirits Competition and now having been involved with this year’s TV Week Logie Awards, we appreciate the overwhelming domestic and international support our Australian owned and produced spirit has received,” said Bill Hargitay, Vantage Australia Owner.
FMCG giant Woolworths has posted its strongest sales growth in seven years- with sales rising 4.5 per cent in the March quarter, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review (AFR).
This figure was well above market forecasts between 3.2 per cent and 3.6 per cent and compared is the strongest quarter for Woolworths supermarkets since the first quarter 2010.
According to Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci, “We are pleased with the continued improvement in Australian food sales in the third quarter, particularly the more stable and predictable nature of our daily and weekly sales,” he said.
Banducci also said that he wanted to build on this figure well into the next financial year.
“We are focused on making sure we continue our progress in rebuilding sustainable sales momentum for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018,” he told the AFR.
In a sign of the impact the falling milk price is having on the food sector, food company Murray Goulburn (MG) said it will be closing down factories and reducing its farmgate milk price in a bid to address its “cost base, improve efficiencies and ultimately increase earnings.”
This will include closure of MG’s manufacturing facilities at Edith Creek, Rochester and Kiewa, forgiveness of the Milk Supply Support Package (MSSP), total write-downs of up to $410 million, and a dividend suspension.
The factory closures, the company said, are expected to impact some 360 employees while at the same time delivering a net financial benefit of $40 million to $50 million per annum. Overall, MG said that it anticipates a net financial benefit in FY18 from the closures of approximately $15 million.
However, the dairy company said that it needed to spend $60 million of capital expenditure to enable the closures, which will be largely funded by maintenance capital expenditure no longer required at the sites.
MG also announced that it will write off farmers loans incurred in the MSSP, with all future repayments of the MSSP which were to recommence from July 2017 ceasing, meaning the company will write-down $148 million.
Due to weaker trading conditions, the FY17 forecast available FMP of $4.70 per kilogram milk solids is expected to be fall to $4.60 per kilogram milk solids.
The company said that it remained “committed to paying a FY17 average FMP of $4.95 per kilogram milk solids.”
In order to protect against any potential further losses this financial year, MG has provided access of up to $30 million of additional debt funded milk payments, so as to maintain the forecast FMP of $4.95 per kilogram milk solids up until the end of this financial year, the company said.
Australia is strengthening its position as a major exporter of lentils following a bumper crop.
Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) show lentil farmers Down Under harvested a record 620,000 MT of mainly red lentils late last year, double the previous record of 310,000 MT set in 2010.
The majority of the crop was grown in South Australia (420,000MT), which increased its yield to 2.95MT per hectare in 2016/17 from 1.58MT per hectare in 2015/16 thanks to excellent winter rainfall.
The record result was also helped by an 11 per cent increase in hectares planted in South Australia and Victoria, the only lentil-producing states, to 253,000 ha.
Australia is now among the biggest producers of the soup-and-curry pulse behind India, the biggest lentil consumer, and Canada. More than 90 per cent of Australia’s lentils are exported to countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Egypt.
Pulse Australia CEO Nick Goddard said high global prices in recent years driven by poor seasons in India and low wheat and barley prices had convinced more Australian farmers to plant lentils.
He said although prices had fallen from the recent spikes of more than AU$1000 a tonne in 2015 they remained above long-term averages.
“They are still an attractive proposition for growers in Australia relative to wheat and barley,” Goddard said.
“Last season was certainly a record in Australia by a long shot … the extra rain had a very positive affect in almost doubling the yield.”
South Australia is well suited for growing larger red lentil varieties that are proving popular in India and Sri Lanka.
“We compete head-on with Canada on the medium size but there’s a large variety called Jumbo we produce that really does have a strong place in the market over there,” Goddard said.
Farmers in Australia are also turning to pulses as a means of improving soils while rotating fields away from traditional cereal plantings.
The United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses sparking a campaign to increase domestic consumption, including the launch of Australia’s first lentil beer.
Australian lentils are harvested and processed in November and December, taking advantage of a window between the Canadian (August/September) and Indian (March/April) harvests.
CEO Peter Wilson said although prices had stabilised to about AU$650 a tonne, they were at a level where they were trading internationally, which was “a good thing”.
“The great thing about red lentils is that they have fairly broad and deep markets around the world,” he said.
“The red lentils are relatively stable at the moment. We’ve got to be striving for really good quality all the time so we encourage farmers to continue to invest in the product to ensure we can position it to the highest paying market.
“I think we’ll continue to see good growth based on profit – farmers are going to plant things that are going to make them money, that’s the bottom line.”
Australian farmers are at risk of missing out on a global boom in “crop probiotics”, because lax regulations make it less likely the supplements they buy to boost their crops will actually work.
Similar to the probiotics that offer health benefits for humans, certain natural bacteria can make crops healthier, hardier and more productive, by increasing their resilience to pests, pathogens and environmental stresses and improving access to soil nutrients.
But our research has found that the quality of products sold as “biostimulants” in Australia (which includes crop probiotics) varies wildly, with many available that do not deliver the promised benefits.
This potentially deprives our farmers of genuine products developed and tested with scientific principles. It muddies the waters, as companies selling effective products compete with those peddling “snake oil”. It also raises concerns about biosafety: importers can simply tick a few boxes and claim there aren’t pathogens in the bottle, without hard proof.
How do crop probiotics work?
Bacterial biostimulants naturally form a mutually beneficial bond with plants. One of the better known examples involves legumes, like clover and soybeans, which have rhizobia bacteria living in their roots. Rhizobia absorb nitrogen from air and deliver it as a natural fertiliser to their plant host in a symbiotic exchange.
As well as helping the plants thrive, farmers can use legumes to replenish nitrogen in soil, reducing the use of man-made nitrogen fertiliser. This symbiosis has been researched for over a century, and is well understood.
While we know less about other crop-beneficial bacteria, our understanding is growing. Microbes have been found that make crops more resistant to heat, waterlogging, drought and certain diseases.
But although the effects have been studied extensively in laboratories, it’s a big step to translate fundamental science to farm-relevant application.
Many factors, including the particular crop, soil and climate, influence the effectiveness of crop probiotics. The bacteria must survive transport and storage, and have to associate effectively with crops in the presence of many potentially competing microbes.
The communication between beneficial bacteria and crops is finicky as both partners have to produce mutually understandable chemical signals. We listened in on the conversation between beneficial Burkholderia bacteria and sugarcane, confirming that both undergo complex change to accommodate the partnership.
Finding the right microbes and making them work with crops in field settings remains difficult. Each group of useful microbes has many species and subtypes, and only few generally convey benefits, and often only in certain situations. Scientists are working to address these constraints.
Bold claims, inconsistent results
While crop probiotics offer an ecologically friendly option for farmers looking to improve and protect their harvests, the Australian market is far from reliable.
Our research group was asked to evaluate commercial crop probiotics. Over a year of experimentation on a sugarcane farm, we tracked the supposedly beneficial bacteria and fungi of two Australian probiotics products from soil to crop.
DNA analysis didn’t detect changes in root-associated bacteria, but the composition of root-associated fungi changed. Whether these changes are meaningful is unclear, as the manufacturers didn’t specify how the products work and which changes are to be expected. Clearly, studies over multiple years and sites are needed to confirm if and when products are beneficial.
The problem isn’t that biostimulants don’t work in principle. Many laboratory experiments have shown bacteria can help plants grow faster, stronger and bigger. But the real world is messy, with plenty of variables. Manufacturers who aren’t pushed by legislation can take shortcuts, and nebulous marketing is common.
Our second investigation involved a commercial seedling nursery. The international manufacturer of the probiotic didn’t provide instructions for dosage, leaving us to guess at the correct application rate. In the first round of experimentation, the seedlings died. Feedback from the manufacturer was quick: we had used the wrong dose.
The next round of research used a lower dosage, per the manufacturer’s advice, that did not improve seedling growth. In its absurdity, this example highlights the need for tighter market regulation.
Since the benefits of currently available biostimulants are imprecise, many people are divided on their use. Better regulations would promote certainty, and prevent farmers wasting money on unreliable products.
The future of crop probiotics
Currently Australian regulations emphasise flexibility, offering multiple options for manufacturers to prove their crop probiotics work. But this leaves the door open for ineffective products.
Crop probiotics are currently regulated under the umbrella of pesticides (although they’re often marketed as providing other benefits). The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority guidelines say “up to 10 field trials may be required depending on the crop’s economic importance”, making it difficult to tell how many trials are expected. One industry partner we spoke to said that, while he has chosen to do field trials, he didn’t have to supply that data to the APVMA to get his product registered.
Companies have to prove their products are “effective as per the label claims”. But as we found in our research, this doesn’t help when manufacturers exclude crucial information from their labels.
Manufacturers can sell probiotics that have been tested overseas, although studies “should be done under conditions that are typical of Australian climatic conditions”. However, because they’re not automatically required to retest in Australia, different soils, climates and crop types can render them essentially useless.
Consequently, many products exist on the Australian market which don’t have clear label instructions for effective use, claim to work on an outlandish number of crops and don’t even touch on the topic of which soils they work effectively in.
Australia contrasts with the European Union, which demands multi-step scientific testing of products. For a product to be permitted for use in agriculture, EU legislation requires 10 or more field trials, conducted over two growing seasons in different climates and soil types. Delivery methods and dosage must be evaluated and effects confirmed. Crop trials have to ensure statistical validity. The EU has created an online database of detailed reports and standards that can be easily searched by the public.
These regulations have an impact on which biostimulants reach the market. European products often contain only one type of active microbe, as it’s otherwise difficult to meet the strict criteria. On the other hand, many biostimulants sold in Australia contain multiple microbes that are not clearly classified on labels.
This makes it more difficult to tell what’s actually in a product, how useful it will be under different conditions, or if it contains bacteria that are beneficial for certain crops but harmful for others.
We recommend that Australia adopts the EU model of a regulated biostimulant market to encourage investment. Scientifically rigorous, multi-year studies are also needed, to test and develop effective products.
There is much research expertise in Australia, but currently farmers must rely on marketing rather than science.
Le Mac are suppliers of the linerless labelling system that is self-adhesive for trays of meats, ready meals, salads etc.
Linerless labels are an environmentally-friendly innovation: they do not use backing liner like traditional labels, which cannot be recycled and does not decompose in landfill.
The system itself is fully automatic and delivers significant efficiency gains over traditional pressure sensitive labelling machines or hand-application of carton sleeves.
It works with heavy gauge cardboard, film or paper labels in 8 formats (top, top & side, top & 2 sides, Full-wrap, C-Wrap, D-Wrap, Skin Packs and Slide Sleeve). It is suitable for stretch wrap trays, top seal trays and vacuum skin packs (with protrusions). To top it, all this can be run on the same machine without change parts.
The La Mac linerless systems are used by a number of major Australian food manufacturers, and they are currently also used on a range of Woolworths and Coles products.
A new study has found that despite consumers’ decreased sugar intake, Australian obesity rates are higher than ever.
In recent years, scientists have linked excessive sugar consumption with obesity.
This has led to a number of initiatives to decrease added or refined sugars in Australia’s food and beverages.
The nation has recently experienced the biggest increase in adult obesity levels since 1980 (16 per cent). The number of overweight or obese Australians is now 63 per cent, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
This is despite the fact that in Australia, the per capita availability of added or refined sugars and sweeteners was shown to have fallen by 16 per cent between 1980 and 2011, according to the study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Specifically, in national dietary surveys in 1995 and 2011-2012, added sugar intake saw a marked decline in men (18 per cent), but little to no decline in women.
However, during the same period, the proportion of sugar-sweetened beverage intake (including 100 per cent juice) fell 10 per cent in men and 20 per cent in women.
The most significant changes were seen in children aged 2-18 (who currently have an overweight/obesity rate of 25 per cent).
According to the study, data from national grocery sales indicated that per capita added-sugars intakes derived from carbonated soft drinks decreased from 26 per cent between 1997 and 2011, with similar trends for non-carbonated beverages.
However, Australia’s childhood obesity rate has also been steadily increasing over the years.
The study suggests that the link between sugar consumption and obesity may not be as strong as scientists initially thought.
According to a story in stuff.co.nz, Fonterra has introduced new traceability technology allowing shoppers to instantly check the authenticity of infant formula products while they are still on the shelfs.
The Quick Read (QR) codes have been initially put on the co-operative’s infant formula brand Anmum in New Zealand stores, said the story.
Each baby formula can has a unique QR code when scanned connects the buyer to a webpage with information and a batch number verifying that it is authentic.
Consumers can also scan cans at any stage after they have bought it to get up to date information about the product.
By the end of this year, Fonterra says it will have 90 per cent of its global plants with traceability data electronically connected, with the remaining 10 per cent to be completed by 2019.
Food industry design specialist, Wiley has been awarded a construction tender for the Singleton Regional Livestock Market upgrade.
Wiley will undertake a range of works including installing a roof over the Northern Yards selling area, upgrading walkways to comply with structural standards, updating onsite services and amenities such as electrical, hydraulics and fire services, installing rainwater harvest tanks and upgrading the intersection leading to the Gresford Road facility.
Michael Johnsen MP, Member for Upper Hunter, announced the tender result.
“Beef production is big business in Singleton for both our local famers and suppliers, and the wider NSW economy,” Johnsen said.
“This upgrade will allow the Singleton Regional Livestock Market to meet the current demands of local beef producers and provide the infrastructure for the growth of this vital industry.”
Wiley Managing Director, Tom Wiley said the company was proud to be supporting the upgrade and helping secure the future of the agricultural community.
“We are looking forward to the construction phase and working closely with the local community,” he said.
The NSW Government provided $6m in funding for the project under the Restart NSW Resources for Regions program, which aims to support regional communities that are related to mining. In addition, Singleton Council contributed another $1.73m.
Construction works are expected to commence by early May.