Modernising agricultural research and development

A thriving agricultural sector underpins the future success of Australian regional communities and national economy and depends on our farmers getting strong returns at the farm gate.

A discussion paper launched recently is calling for ideas to modernise Australia’s Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) to support the next wave of innovation for Australian farmers.

Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, said Australian agriculture is an international success story and the Government is working to ensure farmers can build on that success.

“Our farmers feed and clothe our nation and send safe, high-quality, sustainable products to markets around the globe,” McKenzie said. “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.”

Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system: Discussion paper is available for comment until 4 November, 2019.

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?

Food regulations helps accelerate natural food colour additives sales

The global natural food colour additives market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of more than 5 per cent during the forecast period in terms of value. With the growing awareness of the masses towards using clean label products, the usage of natural food colour additives has been gaining traction. The aversion of consumers towards the synthetic and chemical products has been evident in the recent past. The key factors affecting the natural food colour additives market are the increasing downstream demand and consumer health consciousness.

The rules and regulations regarding the chemical content limits have become stringent and have been heavily imposed by various governments. Major changes have been implemented in the global food colour additives market with the introduction of ISO 22000, designed to address food safety management systems. This will help garner significant demand for product in the forecast period.

The demand for the natural and plant derived products is creating significant opportunities for the food and beverage industry. Manufacturing companies are replacing synthetic or artificial colours with natural food colour additives. According to various health associations and organisations, the consumption of food with such additives are beneficial for health, as it fulfils a  range of nutrients demand. The long-term use of the these additives will help the consumers to sustain better food and snacking habits.

READ MORE: Five signs of a lagging food safety culture

These products refer to any substance used to impart desired colour when mixed. Natural food colour additives are either vegetable and fruit derived, or animal derived, or can be obtained from other natural sources. Multiple product offerings are available for natural food colour additives like Carotenoids, Turmeric oleoresin, Enocianina, Paprika oleoresin, Spirulina Extract, Chlorophyll, Carmine and others. The portfolio of these products is increasing day by day.

Catering to the needs of the consumers, industry players have been using natural food colour additives in beverages, milk products, baked goods, confectionery, snack and cereals, soups and sauces, meat products and others. Among beverages, natural food colour additives are used for carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, milk drinks, juice-based drinks and others. Beverages holds a prominent share for natural food colour additives and is expected to augment the market growth during the forecast period. Use of these additives in dairy products include yogurt, ice cream, frozen dairy products, dips and spreads and cheese. Natural food colour additives in bakeries and similar institutions for making baked goods usually have a standard offering of bread, cakes,  biscuits and cookies. In terms of meat products, these additives are used to make the processed meat and poultry and seafood, aesthetically pleasing.

Due to the shifting consumer behavior toward the vegan and organic trends in United States, the companies with clean labels and organic claims have been gaining special brownie points. The FDA’s ban on PHO’s (Partially Hydrogenated Oils), the majorly used emulsifiers, has created the need for alternatives. The inclination of end use industries for natural food colour additives is due to the broad range of colours and colour stability. Research for cheaper and sustainable ways for extraction of these additives will help the end use industries with a plethora of options. The markets for these products in East Asia and South Asia are expected to have exponential growth rate in the forecast years. Albeit the icky factor that comes with carmine, a colour derived from cochineal beetles, the growth of carmine will hold a steady growth rate in this market

Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

Progressive digitisation is increasingly important in the farming industry: data-supported targeted application of fertiliser and crop protection products, soil analysis sensors and autonomous operation are just a few of the buzz words in the current discussion around Farming 4.0 and smart farming.

“Smart Farming can support more productive and sustainable farming via an accurate and resource-efficient approach,” said Dr Jan Regtmeier, director product management at Harting IT Software Development. Regtmeier demonstrates application of the Harting Mica and its benefits for agriculture. The Edge Computer controls processes and procedures seamlessly and records all of the relevant data. “This gives farmers security, also creating consumer trust,” Regtmeier said.

Two application scenarios show how Mica gathers data. In the first one, Harting Mica  records data from two sets of scales, which are used to weigh tractor and trailer, recording the weight of maize delivered. The tractor is also given a single ID to ensure that it is uniquely assigned to the crop area. The data recorded is processed and sent to the Cloud for further evaluation. In the second application scenario, Mica records data during the critical mashing process. The data is then used for process optimisation with data analytics.

“Data-supported farming allows for new approaches, ensuring sustainable food production now and in the future,” explains Dries Guth, principal innovation manager and Head of the IoT Innovation Lab at itelligence. Data collated via sensors, from the soil and farming machinery and satellite imagery and fed into intelligent systems supports not only yield optimisation, but also the resource-saving application of water and crop protection products. “It is also about exploring new forms of food production, as we are now seeing with the successes in Urban Farming and Vertical Farming for example,” said Dries Guth.

“The potential for smart farming is huge,” says Regtmeier with conviction. “The farming industry has only just begun to make use of digitalisation.”

Nestlé commits to zero net emissions by 2050

Nestlé has announced its ambition to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It embraces the most ambitious aim of the Paris Agreement, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Ahead of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit this month, Nestlé will sign the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’ pledge.

With this announcement Nestlé is accelerating its climate change efforts. This builds on a decade of work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past four years, Nestlé has aligned its objectives with science-based targets to keep the temperature increase below 2°C. The company is determined to play a leading role in tackling climate change. Over the next two years, it will lay out a time-bound plan including interim targets consistent with the 1.5°C path. Nestlé will review its progress annually to ensure it is on track.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face as a society. It is also one of the greatest risks to the future of our business,” said Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO. “We are running out of time to avoid the worst effects of global warming. That is why we are setting a bolder ambition to reach a net-zero future. Deploying Nestlé’s global resources and industry know-how, we know we can make a difference at significant scale. Our journey to net zero has already started. Now, we are accelerating our efforts,” he added.

To achieve its 2050 ambition, some of the company’s specific actions include:

  • Speeding up the transformation of its products in line with consumer trends and choices. Nestlé will launch more products that have a better environmental footprint and contribute to a balanced diet. This includes more plant-based food and beverage options. Nestlé will also look to reformulate its products using more climate-friendly ingredients. Consumer demand for such products is rapidly increasing, and Nestlé’s core strategy is in line with this shift. The company is also moving to alternative packaging materials.
  • Scaling up initiatives in agriculture to absorb more carbon. Nestlé will strengthen its programs with farmers to restore land and limit greenhouse gas emissions. This includes improved management of its dairy supply chain. Nestlé will step up efforts to protect forests by replanting trees and enhancing biodiversity. All of these initiatives will help build resilient agricultural communities.
  • Using 100% renewable electricity in Nestlé factories, warehouses, logistics and offices. A third of Nestlé factories (143) are already using 100 per cent renewable electricity. Nestlé will continue to increase the use of energy from renewable sources. This will enable suppliers to invest in new infrastructure such as wind and solar farms.
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires transformational change across industries, governments and society as a whole. Nestlé will continue its advocacy for government policies to ensure all sectors move faster towards 1.5°C. Supportive legislation could help to reduce barriers to expanding renewable energy markets, incentivize innovation in the agriculture and forestry sectors to capture more carbon, and help to establish carbon pricing.

Varied conditions and modest prospects for winter crops

ABARES’s latest crop report reveals mixed prospects for Australia’s winter crop, according to ABARES acting executive director Peter Gooday.

“Winter crop production is forecast to rise by 11 percent in 2019–20 to 33.9 million tonnes but falls short of the 10-year average to 2018-19 by 16 percent,” Gooday said.

“Wheat and canola production is forecast to increase 10 and 6 per cent respectively, but both are expected to fall significantly below the 10-year average to 2018-19.

“Barley production is forecast to increase by 14 per cent to around 9.5 million tonnes which brings it 6 percent above the 10-year average to 2018‑19.

“Crop production deteriorated in regions across New South Wales and Queensland, due to unfavourable growing conditions over winter. Crop production in these states is forecast to be very much below average.

“On the other hand, crops in Victoria were in good to very good condition at the beginning of spring thanks to generally favourable growing conditions over winter.

READ MORE: Commercially reared bees deliver active ingredient to protect crops

“Crops in Western Australia received timely winter rainfall to help boost yield prospects to around average for most crops after a late break to the season.

“South Australia received sufficient winter rainfall in most major growing regions, but the same can’t be said for northern cropping regions with their prospects generally below average.

“Early spring rainfall will be important to final crop outcomes.”

According to the latest seasonal outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, September rainfall is likely to be above average in Western Australia and below average in most other cropping regions. October rainfall is likely to be below average in most cropping regions.

“If realised, above average September rainfall in Western Australia would give cereal crops in the state a strong chance of achieving average to above average yields,” Mr Gooday said.

Gooday said the seasonal conditions outlook for early spring in eastern Australia is likely to constrain crop prospects in southern New South Wales, and northern cropping regions in Victoria and South Australia.

However, there’s a good chance that most cropping regions in southern Victoria, and central and southern South Australia will still achieve average yields.

Gooday said outlook for summer crops is unfavourable due to poor seasonal conditions in northern New South Wales and Queensland.

“Area planted to summer crops is forecast to fall by 28 percent in 2019–20 to around 758,000 hectares—production of grain sorghum, cotton and rice are all forecast to fall,” Gooday said.

Nestlé inaugurates packaging research institute

Nestlé has officially inaugurated the Institute of Packaging Sciences, the first-of-its-kind in the food industry. The new Institute enables Nestlé to accelerate its efforts to bring functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions to the market and to address the global challenge of plastic packaging waste.

Speaking at the inauguration, Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO, said, “Our vision is a world in which none of our packaging ends up in landfill or as litter. To achieve this we introduce reusable packaging solutions and pioneer environmentally friendly packaging materials. Furthermore, we support the development of local recycling infrastructure and deposit schemes to help shape a waste-free world. The Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences enables us to create a strong pipeline of sustainable packaging solutions for Nestlé products across businesses and markets.”

The Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences focuses on a number of science and technology areas, such as refillable or reusable packaging, simplified packaging materials, recycled packaging materials, high-performance barrier papers as well as bio-based, compostable and biodegradable materials.

Stefan Palzer, Nestlé CTO said, “Reducing plastic waste and mitigating climate change effects through cutting-edge technology and product design are a priority for us. Nestlé experts are co-developing and testing new environmentally friendly packaging materials and systems together with our development centres, suppliers, research institutions and start-ups. Located at our Nestlé Research facilities in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Institute also leverages our existing research capabilities in food safety, analytics and food science.”

Commenting on the inauguration, Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “Nestlé was one of the first companies to sign the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, setting concrete targets to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at the source. It is great to see the world’s largest consumer goods company now increasing its research focus and capacity to deliver on these ambitions.”

Nestlé is already making progress towards its 2025 packaging commitments, and has launched novel packaging solutions. For example, Nestlé packaging experts and suppliers developed products in recyclable paper packaging such as the Nesquik All Natural cocoa powder and the YES! snack bars in under 12 months.

The Institute is part of the company’s fundamental research entity Nestlé Research in Switzerland, reaffirming Nestlé’s commitment to further strengthen the unique Swiss innovation ecosystem.

Speaking at the official opening, Philippe Leuba, State Councilor of the Swiss Canton of Vaud, said: “This new institute will strengthen our Canton as a centre of excellence when it comes to the food value chain and allow the development of innovative packaging solutions that respect the environment and sustainable development. Waste management, a global challenge, will now benefit from an innovation ecosystem in the Canton of Vaud made up of universities as well as research centres from major private sector players such as Nestlé.”

The SliceScope – Scientifica’s slimeline, versatile upright microscope

Introducing Scientifica’s SliceScope, which is a stable, compact and slimline upright microscope. Its modular and versatile design enables it to be used for a range of neuroscience techniques including electrophysiology, fluorescence imaging, two- and three-photon imaging and optogenetics.

The slim profile allows easy placement of other equipment around a sample, including manipulators, light sources and perfusion systems. It provides users with the ability to remotely control the objective and condenser, which enables focus and Koehler to be controlled away from the sample area and ensures a high level of useability in dark/cramped areas and in vivo samples.

The SliceScope is compatible with a range of Olympus objectives, condensers, eyepieces and light sources. It’s also compatible with fluorescence turrets and a range of contrast techniques including devices such as LEDs, halogens and broad spectrum white light sources.

New igus energy chain generation opens without tools

The new E4Q, a lightweight igus e-chain for unsupported lengths and long travels is available from Treotham.

The chain links of the e-chain have a smooth, contoured design and a completely new crossbar concept with locking straps for weight reduction.

These ensure that the new series can be opened and closed in seconds without tools. The energy chain has been specifically developed for the special requirements of unsupported lengths and long travels. The first prototype was presented by igus at the Hannover Messe 2019.

High unsupported lengths and long travels with large fill weight create extreme stress on energy chains. The igus developers have designed the E4Q e-chain intended for such application scenarios. Based on the robust energy chain standard E4.1 from igus, the new series brings along a long service life and a high degree of modularity.

In order to optimise material and therefore the weight of the energy chain, shapes inspired by nature are used. The smooth, contoured design can be found on the outside of the chain links as well as on the stop-dogs. Despite material recesses, the new development has a high strength and stability comparable to the E4.1 series.

Another special feature of the E4Q are the crossbars. These can be opened and closed completely without tools. On the top of the crossbar, there are two hollows for the fingers, by which the locking hooks can be easily pulled up. Unlocked on both sides, the crossbar can be removed with little effort.

This allows the easy opening and closing of the chain even in a guide trough and accelerates the filling of the e-chain by up to 40 percent.

Another advantage is that the new crossbar has significantly higher pull-out forces than its counterparts in the locked state thanks to its innovative type.

Due to the special design of the e-chain, this is very quiet in the movement. However, if the user desires additional noise reduction, igus has integrated an optional system in the inner horizontal stop-dog for the E4Q. These are two connected balls that dampen the impact during the radius and extension stop. The balls are made of a new noise-optimised and soft material that further reduces the sound level without restricting the stability of the stop-dogs.

A2 disruption to milk market not a bad thing

A2 milk had a rocky start when New Zealand businessman Howard Paterson and research scientist Dr Corran McLachlan founded the A2 Corporation in 2000. The milk, which claims to help reduce the risks of digestive problems, diabetes and heart disease because it is said to contain only A2 beta-casein, seemed to hit a nerve with people who were sceptical of its health benefits. Three years after the founding of the company, both men died, which left the company in a state of flux. It went through several highs and lows – including going into administration in late 2003 – before becoming The a2 Milk Company, which now is based in Australia. It is run by Jayne Hrdlicka, who started at the company just over 12 months ago.

Hrdlicka was the CEO of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar before joining the milk company, and has held positions at Ernst and Young, Bain & Co, and was a director of Woolworths between 2010-2016. At the Global Food Forum held in Sydney, Hrdlicka spoke about where A2 milk is headed, why it is seen as a premium brand in China, and the science behind the milk’s claims.

It’s a risky strategy to base your whole business model on one product – more so when some are a little uncertain of what makes it different from similar products. It’s share price has fluctuated over the past 12 months, but it does help when news gets out that discerning Chinese consumers think the milk is a premium brand. It has entered two of the most lucrative markets in the world – the US being the other – and Hrdlicka sees nothing but growth in the company’s near future.

READ MORE: A2 Milk expands range to make milk powder with Mānuka honey

“We’re not talking specific numbers, but we’re playing in the two biggest consumer markets in the world,” she said. “We’re building a deep franchise with those consumers and we’re really excited about what the possibilities bring to the brand and shareholders.”

When it comes to the science behind A2 milk, Hrdlicka makes no apologies about its brand strategy and indicates that it is the disruption that A2 milk is bringing to the marketplace that is causing the issue. Most of the noise about the benefits, or lack thereof, of the milk, is coming from those who have a vested interest in the milk not being commercially successful. The irony being that this is also keeping the brand in the spotlight, which is not a bad thing if you are Hrdlicka.

“We are quite comfortable with the company getting beaten up by big legacy players who feel uncomfortable because we are doing something different,” she said. “It happened in Australia, it happened in New Zealand. We expect it to happen everywhere we go and that is what happens when a disruptive approach to a category that has been around for a long time unfolds.

“It happened in aviation, and it is happening across all consumer products, not just milk. We expect that it is part of the process. The crazy part of it is that it draws consumer attention to the choices, including ours. It causes consumers to do their research and we’re the beneficiary. It is part of the process of evolving the category.”

Hrdlicka said the company worked hard in the early stages to ensure there was enough science for consumers to educate themselves. She said there are a number of studies that have been completed by independent research markets that came to similar conclusions that the founders of the company did.

“What is fantastic for us at the end of the day, is the impact it has on the consumers,” she said. “And consumers are telling us they are enjoying a functional benefit and they can enjoy fresh white milk again where they weren’t able to in the past. Or, they were fearful of the impacts of dairy products, and this has given them new confidence to re-enter the new category.”

What is helping the brand, and something not lost on investors, is its foray into the Chinese market. With milk powder a hot commodity, it seems the affluent middle class in the Middle Kingdom can’t get enough. Hrdlicka knows how important the market is, so much so that she spent her first week working for the a2 Milk Company in Sydney, then the second week in China. She goes up there every six weeks or so, not just to be seen, but also to meet with their partners, listening and learning on the ground and making sure the company’s strategy in the area is sound.

“We are doing some really exciting things in China,” she said. “We spent the first half of the financial year really understanding consumers, talking to mothers, talking to parents, talking to grandparents – really trying to understand the decisions they are making and how they we making them – where they like to shop. That gave us a lot of clarity on how to constructively build the brand and how to leverage our multi-channel strategy.”

And what about the US? Retail giant Costco started selling the milk in parts of the US at the end of the 2018, but Hrdlicka isn’t getting carried away just yet.

“We were deeply appreciative of Costco’s support in the US,” she said. “The success story for a2 milk in the US is in its early stages, but the signs are impressive. A2 milk is sold in 12,400 outlets across the country today and Costco is part of that story. It is taking the product to consumers who are interested in different pack sizes and are value driven, but they are a big and important format in the eyes of consumers and play a meaningful role in the repertoire. They are important players in the natural channel and they have helped us build our brand.”

Finally, there is the online presence of A2 milk. Hrdlicka knows that part of the company’s future success lies in the less tangible online marketplace.

“Alibaba is a really important trading partner of ours as is Amazon via its Whole Foods portal,” she said. “I will say, as a matter of course, that we are multi-channel company – ecommerce is a really critical channel for us as a business today and will be going forward. And if you listen to your consumers, it plays a really powerful role for them in their day-to-day lives. You don’t quite have the same choices in leveraging direct deliveries in Australia that you do in China and the US, but it is a changing canvas and digital players are changing the world for consumers at a very fast pace.”

Improving oversight of live animal exports

An independent inspector-general of Live Animal Exports to oversee regulation of the industry is a step closer today with the Bill to establish the position as a statutory appointment passing the Senate.

Agriculture Minister, Bridget McKenzie, said the community deserved greater assurance that animal welfare outcomes for export livestock were being met and monitored.

“Australia’s livestock export industry is an important contributor to our rural and regional communities and to our national economy valued at $1.7 billion and supporting thousands of jobs,” Minister McKenzie said.

“It’s a legitimate trade, however, it won’t be conducted at the expense of animal welfare standards.

READ MORE: Minister moves on sheep exports

“This legislation is concrete proof of this government’s continued commitment to improving the trade—making sure the trade is well regulated and above board.

“Support for the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019 means there’ll be an entrenched independent check on the Department of Agriculture’s application of the regulations and its exercise of power.

“Our livestock export system is already world class and the Inspector-General will only enhance that. I am confident that the Bill will pass the House of Representatives and become law.

“Once it does I will appoint a suitably qualified person to make sure the system is operating as it should—driving positive change in the industry, improving regulator performance and providing greater confidence to the general community about livestock exports.”

ART Dynamic Chain for package and parcel handling applications

Third-party logistics, parcel, e-commerce, distribution and manufacturing companies need to handle packages, boxes, cases, pouches and bags efficiently – with minimal to zero damage. Rexnord’s new ART Dynamic Chain is a suitable alternative to create dynamic behaviour in-line, with zero back-line pressure capabilities.

But what is ART Dynamic Chain? It is a Rexnord designed and developed conveyor chain that provides the ability to create multiple behaviours – zero back-line pressure, rotation, acceleration, deceleration, low-pressure accumulation, metering and sequencing – in a single conveyor design. This is unlike many other options available that require multiple conveyors to perform similar tasks on a production line.

Rexnord only provides the ART Dynamic Chain, which allows OEMs to incorporate their own design and engineering expertise to create their conveying systems. This means that OEMs can custom-build their conveyor to suit, while incorporating a chain system that allows many different types of product to be handled in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The ART Dynamic Chain is activated by applying pressure on the activation cones located on the outer edges of the chain. When an actuator applies pressure from the top, the rollers roll backwards, creating a deceleration, brake or stoppage of the item being conveyed. When an actuator applies pressure from the bottom, the rollers roll faster, creating an acceleration of the item being conveyed.

ART Dynamic Chain can be activated with widely available mechanical devices and controls in conjunction with a conventional control interface. No proprietary training is required, which means OEMs can use accepted and recognised technology to activate the chain.

A single conveyor design with multiple behaviour capabilities can use the same actuation devices to rotate, accelerate, decelerate, meter and sequence at will, depending on application needs. This cuts down on time and allows for a more efficient working conveyor.

But what can the chain device handle? Quite a bit, according to the manufacturer, including boxes, cases, shrink-wrap, polybags, pouches, and many other shapes and sizes that are usually found using conveyors as a mode of transportation.

As mentioned, one of the key attributes of the system is its ability to do the job of several conveyors. A single conveyor design with multiple behaviour capabilities helps eliminate many individual conveyors, which not only reduces cost, but also the footprint of the system becomes much smaller than some other more complex and consequently more expensive systems currently available in the marketplace.

It also has enhanced gentle package and parcel handling with zero pressure capabilities, as well as flexible and full control on zero pressure behaviour when it handles diverse package and parcel mixes.

Applications for this smart package handling solution can be found across many industries including beverage, food and consumer products package handling in packer to palletiser (P2P) sections, as well as parcel handling in third-party logistics, e-commerce and warehousing arenas.

pH system ensures compliance with strict council wastewater regulations

Devil’s Elbow Brewery is fast becoming a highlight on any visitor to Dubbo’s itinerary. Named after a bend in the Macquarie River that runs through Dubbo, the brewery is set in the town’s industrial precinct with over 400 people on site during the working week. Being the only food and beverage option in the area means business has arrived thick and fast to the brewery. Weekends bring the greater Dubbo crowds, as well as tourists looking for a unique spot for lunch or dinner – and the chance to sample some locally crafted beer.

When it came to addressing the strict wastewater requirements of Dubbo Regional Council, the team behind Devil’s Elbow found they needed a pH correction system to suit their specific needs.

Brendon O’Sullivan, CEO and general manager for Devil’s Elbow, visited 4 Pines Brewery in Sydney’s suburb of Brookvale after hearing the success of the wastewater treatment system there.

The team at 4 Pines recommended O’Sullivan get in touch with Aerofloat.

“We visited the site at 4 Pines and found that the Aerofloat pH system there was exactly what we were looking for. I got in touch with the Aerofloat team straight away,” said O’Sullivan. “Aerofloat were easy to talk to and very experienced – they really knew what our requirements were despite us being in such a niche market. They were able to build a system to specifically suit our needs and space.”

O’Sullivan values the voice of the brewing community around Australia.
“The craft beer community is outstanding. We’ve had support and ideas from every brewery we’ve spoken to, from Queensland to New South Wales and down to Victoria. We feel really lucky to have been recommended to work with Aerofloat,” he said.

Aerofloat installed a pH correction system to ensure compliance of outgoing wastewater. The system includes a 2,500L tank complete with a collection pit transfer pump and an inline solids filter, mixing pump, pH monitor, chemical dosing pumps and flow meter.

“The area we had to work with was pretty tight – around 2.5 x 1.5 metres. The system was built to fit the site perfectly,” said Aerofloat’s operation’s manager, Tim McCann.

“This particular system was unique as we designed it to be transportable using a standard sized ute,” said McCann. “This kept transport costs from Sydney to Dubbo at an absolute minimum and allowed us to arrive on-site with the system as soon as Devil’s Elbow were ready for installation.

“The system also includes a remotely viewable data logger, meaning the pH data and discharge flow rates are continually recorded.”

Having the automated system instrumentation allows Devil’s Elbow staff to monitor and predict pH over time. It also means that the system is under constant surveillance, with 24-hour monitoring in place. Devil’s Elbow staff are alerted automatically when any unusual activity arises, allowing them to focus on other tasks.

“Our local council requires us to provide monthly reports on wastewater effluent – the automated system means we can meet our commitment to that,” said O’Sullivan.

The brewery officially opened to the public on July 1, 2019, with four of the proposed 10 beers already available including its signature mid-strength lager Dub Vegas, the Nun Launcher pale ale, the Nosey Bob Red Ale and a German-style Small Arms Lager.

“We needed our pH correction system in place in time for production – Aerofloat ensured that we met that deadline, on budget,” said O’Sullivan. “Aerofloat’s engineers made the pre-installation process easy by giving us clear instructions on what we needed on site.”

Aerofloat was able to apply its own company technology while incorporating parts from other suppliers.

“The turnaround from the Aerofloat team was terrific. Aerofloat built the system in a few days, and the installation took less than a day. It was simply a matter of lifting the skid off with a forklift and connecting the plumbing. A couple of walk-through lessons with the Aerofloat engineers following installation, and we were ready to go,” said O’Sullivan.

The system has been in operation since June this year and is giving excellent results.
“The system has worked a treat. We are really pleased with how easy it is to operate, and how effective it is. Council have already been on site and are really happy with the results,” said O’Sullivan.

Being the largest craft brewery in the Dubbo area, Devil’s Elbow also offers a cafe and coffee roasting, and a full kitchen serving up to 200 pizzas an hour.

“The brewery is a stand-out in the Dubbo area, creating as many as 40 new jobs and increasing tourism in the Dubbo area. Being right on one of the major highways leading into Dubbo means we attract passers-by as well,” said O’Sullivan.

Devil’s Elbow has long been a pipe dream of O’Sullivan and the other three founders, all of whom are long-time friends. O’Sullivan and his team enjoyed working with Aerofloat – as a family-run, Australian-owned company, the Aerofloat team understood how to support the Devil’s Elbow crew in their new venture.

Aerofloat have given expert advice to the team as needed and the pH correction system is working effectively.

“The Aerofloat system has been operating as smooth as silk from the word go,” said O’Sullivan. “We have remote monitoring on there, allowing us to keep track of the system. It’s nice to know that if we encounter any issues, we’re not alone. Aerofloat’s engineers can log in remotely and will be able to get us back on track without needing to be on site.”

Aerofloat offers the food and beverage industry a full range of wastewater treatment expertise, including pH correction systems, full wastewater systems, software programming and electrical support for all its automated wastewater system instrumentation.

Rotary Dryer Roaster for nuts and meat snacks

The latest innovation in roasting technology from Heat and Control, the Rotary Dryer Roaster (RDR), will provide snack and prepared food operators with an end-to-end solution for the dry roasting of nut, seed and dry meat products like beef jerky.

The RDR multizone convection dryer/roaster system uses the technological advances in dry roasting so food processors can continuously process high volumes of foods.

“This latest addition to Heat and Control’s catalogue reinforces our strength in thermal food processing technology and provides snack and meat manufacturers with even more options, as well as confidence, that they can consistently produce high-quality product,” said Jim Strang, CEO for Heat and Control International.

“We have been offering the latest technology and the highest quality equipment since 1950, and the Rotary Dryer Roaster is the latest example of our continued commitment to develop solutions that empower our customers,” said Strang.

RDR for nuts
The RDR advances Heat and Control’s snack line capability, enabling food manufacturers to take advantage of the cost saving benefits a single source supplier can offer with a solution for seasoned and coated nut snacks, including frying, dryer/roasting, seasoning, coating, conveying, weighing, packaging, case packing, inspection, and controls.

The RDR gives operators control to dry or to roast in a continuous, gentle, and sanitary manner with optimal quality and uniform results.

“The RDR provides high volume convective airflow combined with gentle rotary motion that ensures that all product is uniformly treated with heated air. Operators have full control over the roasting or drying process variables, enhancing the finished products’ colour, flavour, and texture,” said Greg Pyne, Heat and Control sales manager, Australia.

“While this is new equipment for the industry, processors see the potential,” explained Pyne. “They recognise the benefits of the continuous process, the consistency and repeatability of the process, and the savings resulting from reduced labour and floor space requirements.”

Unlike static rack ovens, as product is gently tumbled in the RDR, heated air circulates through the product bed to facilitate uniform drying/moisture removal or roasting. The design handles the raw product in a continuous, high-density manner through a unique flighted drum that ensures positive motion.

Features include a drum design that facilitates continuous first-in-first-out product flow and independent fans and burners in multiple convection zones, which provide complete process control that can be tailored to various products. An externally mounted drum drive design provides access for internal clean-in-place piping and nozzles which provides for automated thorough cleaning.

RDR for meat products
Along with nut products, the RDR is also suitable for applications such as the drying of meats and poultry to create jerky and meat chips, as well as drying pet products to create food and treats.

While Australia has yet to see the same levels of growth as other markets for natural/protein based snacks, consumers are looking for different food options, with demand for jerky on the rise. According to intelligence agency Mintel, the UK and US have achieved 50 per cent growth in the jerky market from 2011 through to 2016. Australia is poised to follow suite for similar growth, with a wave of niche, start-up operators entering the market. Australia is also home to the fourth largest paleo-market in the world.

Jerky snacks are rich in protein, and are becoming more readily available in retail outlets and online as a substitute for cooked meats. Different product flavours, such as chili and lime, teriyaki or smoky chorizo, are also attracting consumers into seeking jerky as a protein rich option when its snack time.

Globally, the meat snack market was worth $6.4 billion in 2017, and is estimated to exceed $29.5 billion by 2025, according to PR Newswire. The growing middle class across Asia are seeking more premium meat-based snacks that are sold in accessible locations for time-poor customers. As the Australian beef market has a reputation in Asia for being a high-quality product, there is demand for the export of Australian beef jerky products, providing manufacturers the opportunity to grow their business internationally.

One of the biggest issues in jerky production is lack of efficiency in the drying process, due to the amount of time it can take to dry the product with consistent taste and quality. Food processors can expand their portfolio to capitalise on new opportunities because the RDR gives operators control to dry or to roast product in a continuous, gentle, and sanitary manner with optimal quality and uniform results.

Bosch flow-wrapper designed for hygienic requirements in food industry

Bosch Packaging Technology has developed a new version of its fully automated horizontal flow wrapper Pack 403, which is specifically designed for harsh environment use.

The Pack 403HE comes with all the features of the Pack 403 and is suited for medium to high-speed wrapping. The machine is able to wrap a wide variety of products ranging from biscuits, chocolate, cookies and crackers to frozen foods or meats. “We have designed the new Pack 403HE to meet the growing need of customers with strict hygienic requirements. To avoid contamination with allergens, germs or unwanted ingredients, food manufacturers need machines that are easy to clean,” says Kelly Meer, product manager at Bosch Packaging Technology.

Optimised for deep cleaning
Today, food manufacturers often produce different products on the same machine. “Keeping the products free from unwanted substances such as traces of peanuts or wheat can be a challenge in terms of cleaning. The Pack 403HE provides improved features to facilitate particularly intensive cleaning,” Meer said. It differs from the standard version in terms of product design and material. Customers can apply aggressive cleaning agents including alcohols or acids, and easily wipe them off with water after they have taken effect. Water and cleaning agents will simply run down the drain.

“We call this the foam-and-rinse concept. In contrast to high-pressure cleaning with air or water, customers avoid the risk of spraying substances or germs. The foam-and-rinse method guarantees an easy and reliable washdown. The concept will soon also apply to the Paloma pick-and-place robot,” said Meer.

Improved washdown features
The Pack 403HE also features washdown motors and gearboxes meeting the BISSC standard, sanitary feet, and a continuously-welded stainless steel main frame plate. Stainless steel guarding, robust plastics, removable parts, sloped surfaces, and easy-to-clean gaps between machine components further simplify the cleaning process. The machine’s cable connection to its electrical cabinet has been sealed to prevent the penetration of moisture or unwanted substances. Clear tubes help to detect any contamination. The wrapper is also equipped with a washdown infeed and stainless steel etched and stand-off labels to also support convenient cleaning.

Fast and easy handling
The Pack 403HE produces up to 400 packages per minute, reaching a maximum film speed of 76 meters and includes all of the same features offered in the Pack 403. The automatic film splicer allows for fast film changes without interrupting production. The machine is equipped with servo-driven power feed rollers to optimize film tension and tracking. It also has cantilevered and removable discharge belts that reject faulty packages with compressed air.

Washdown solutions and stainless-steel hose reels for food processing

Spray Nozzle Engineering has been a leader in water saving and efficient ergonomic washdown systems for over 25 years. Their expertise extends to trigger gun and hose nozzle technology and complete hose handling systems.

Knowing that each washdown application is different, based on water flow, pressure, temperature and operator needs, the company can match the exact water saving nozzle to match applications such as commercial kitchens, brewery floors, dairy processing, meat processing and rendering, just to name a few.

If you need a washdown trigger gun or nozzle that is approved as a water saving device, Spray Nozzle Engineering has the only true low-flow trigger nozzle approved with the WELS Smart Water Tick of approval, and recognised by many water authorities in their water saving device rebate schemes.

Spray Nozzel Engineering and Reel Tech can provide a complete washdown package for all applications designed to save water, store and handle hose safely and remove hose trip hazards from your work environment.

Reel Tech is a manufacturer and supplier of standard and custom stainless-steel safer hose handling and storage reel technology. Reel Tech offers high quality steel reels that reduce the chance of employee and equipment damage due to excessive hose whip during rewind, which is a common problem with spring hose reels.

The benefit of installing Reel Tech stainless steel reels is that they are more robust and durable than competitor stainless steel reels. From washdown to processing, Reel Tech supplies all the reels you’ll need. For sanitary or harsh conditions, our stainless-steel reels are the top choice of OEMs around the world. That means you can trust Reel Tech to provide perfect fit and function for years to come.

Numerous industries, including food, beverage, pharmaceutical and dairy, trust our reels because of their resistance to rust and corrosion and the absence of paint, which can chip and contaminate products.

We offer more models and custom designs than any other reel manufacturer in Australia to meet a variety of needs, applications, installations, and functions. Every reel we build is created for the industry it will be used in – never retrofitted to the job. Our Safe-R-Reel™ speed control is a dedicated mechanical system that does not use oil clutches; which could leak contaminants or be subject to heat slippage. Mechanical speed control is an enclosed low maintenance option available on all reel sizes.

Most of our stainless-steel hose reels are used in the food processing industry for: washdown, chemical transfer, potable water, food ingredient transfer and more. We manufacture our stainless-steel reels to industrial-duty design and construction standards using fine grade 304 stainless steel frames, discs and drums, and stainless internals. Because of their exceptional quality, they require only minimal routine maintenance and will not rust, corrode or break down even in the harshest conditions.

Reel Tech partners with Spary Nozzle Engineering to supply complete washdown solutions to the food and beverage industry with applications ranging from: dairy, caustic materials, air, water and chemical food transfer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FFH new manufacturing plant starts production

Fine Food Holdings (FFH), a division of the Gourmet Food Group, has commenced operation from its new custom-designed manufacturing facilities in Dandenong South, Melbourne.

Representing an investment in excess of $10 million, the new premises more than doubles the company’s previous Keysborough capacity, enabling FFH to manufacture a large and diverse range of premium crackers products under one roof.

Gourmet Food: the ‘entertaining’ specialists
Following the exceptional success of MaxFoods and its Ocean Blue seafood brand, an importing food business launched in 2009, the business owners identified an opportunity to diversify from seafood entertaining to the ‘entertaining’ deli cracker market.

From the outset, FFH sought to manufacture not only premium quality deli crackers but ones that led through innovation, creativity and flavour.  Production began in Keysborough in early 2015 with its brand, OB Finest soon becoming popular.

Today, the products of FFH, like that of MaxFoods, are acknowledged as market leaders across several product categories and geographical markets.

Furthermore, FFH recently gained recognition as Top Ranked Supplier 2018 in the Australian Grocery Deli Category of the Advantage Report, a 360-degree survey that sets the supplier performance benchmark across the retail sector.

Set for success
CEO Todd Wilson attributes the company’s success to its strong focus on building retail partnerships and understanding the demands of consumers.

The premium OB Finest range is now firmly established as an Australian favourite in the entertaining deli cracker category. The brand embraces numerous quality products from a selection of Wafer Crackers to various varieties of Specialty Crackers such as Cranberry & Pumpkin Seed and Fig & Almond.

Perfect with favourite cheeses or dips, OB Finest recently added Parmesan Crisps and 3 Seed Crisps to its delicious taste sensations. Other new OB Finest products, ideal for the entertainment platters, will be released in October.

Further creative cracker innovations will be easily facilitated at the bespoke Dandenong South manufacturing plant. The move from nearby Keysborough has been a seamless one as it meant easy relocation of FFH’s current 250-strong workforce, as CEO, Todd Wilson explained.

“As an Australian food manufacturer, we at FFH are proud of our current achievements and excited about our future.  The larger capacity and flexibility of our new premises are the cornerstones of our vision to create a scalable Gourmet Food Group.

“This we will actualise through the development of additional products while pursuing entry into new entertaining categories via acquisition and tapping into new markets,” Todd said.

The Australian and New Zealand markets are well-established and continue to grow.  Already, the company has distribution of it6s products in USA, United Kingdom, Chile and South Korea, with commitments in Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland and Singapore.

“Just as the opening of Dandenong South manufacturing facilities brings assured optimism around future growth and success, the Gourmet Food Group mantle enables a more expansive strategic focus,” Todd commented.

Western Sydney to put lab-grown meat on the menu

Western Sydney could become a national base for the production of meat grown from animal stem cells under an ambitious plan supported by the NSW Government.

NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, said North Parramatta startup VOW has been supported with a $25,000 Minimum Viable Product grant from the NSW Government to develop its cell-cultivated meat technology.

“In a world first, VOW has created the first ever cell-cultured kangaroo meat grown from stem cells taken from a kangaroo,” Mr Ayres said.

“Western Sydney is the perfect base for Australia’s first cultivated-meat startup to take forward a global scale opportunity to generate a new food industry together with high-tech jobs in cell-based agriculture.

“We are on the doorstep of Asia and, with Western Sydney Airport now underway, the potential to develop a world class laboratory to manufacture high quality cultivated meat exports is massive. I look forward to seeing a flourishing industry.”

READ MORE: Monash University researches why people find some foods disgusting

VOW has been co-founded by two entrepreneurs, former Cochlear design lead Tim Noakesmith and George Peppou from startup accelerator Cicada Innovations, to grow meat for consumption from animal cells.

“There is growing demand for meat globally with population growth and with rising middle classes in developing nations consuming more protein.

“Growing meat sustainably from stem cells will have a fraction of the footprint of traditional livestock farming in terms of land use and water use and there is no need for culling animals.

“We’re building a team of scientists, designers and technologists all on a quest to meet the world’s protein demands for the future in a sustainable manner. But we are not in competition with traditional livestock farming.

“There is plenty of room for traditional meat as well as plant-based and cell-cultured meat to provide greater choice for consumers.

“We hope to build a full scale factory in Western Sydney that will eventually mass produce many tonnes of cell-cultivated meat each year for Australia and for export.”

Mr Peppou said VOW was also building the biggest “Noah’s Ark” cell library in the world with cell samples that can be used to develop new food experiences.

“At the moment we have only domesticated for food production less than 1% of what’s in nature so there are many unlocked food secrets to explore in the other 99.6%,” Mr Peppou said.

“Nature has incredible diversity so there is great potential to create new food experiences. Our cell library will discover and catalogue new flavour, texture and nutritional profiles that we can also combine to create amazing new food experiences.

“We have kicked off collaboration discussions with some top tier Australian chefs to design their own high impact dishes using cultivated meats, and will work with food regulators to hopefully have our first premium product available by the end of next year.”

Frozen foods can help reduce waste

Over one billion tons of food is wasted every year. The Food and Agriculture Organization also estimates that in developing countries, up to 40 per cent of total food produced can be lost before it even reaches market. As such, implementing methods of safely storing and transporting food is crucial for being able to continue to feed the planet. Here, Darcy Simonis,  food and beverage group vice president at ABB, explains how frozen food can help reduce food waste.

Food and beverage manufacturers understand that they must reduce food waste to improve profitability and their environmental impact. Freezing is a simple way to preserve food for long periods of time, particularly as food can be frozen either directly at the source or once it has gone through processing. This flexibility to preserve perishable food at the source is crucial across the globe. For example, in developing countries it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of root crops, fruits and vegetables are wasted due to improper transport and storage.

However, this is not to say that producing frozen food is simple. There are many different and complex processes that must work together to deliver frozen food to the consumer market. For example, freezing, storing and maintaining temperature during transportation all require specialist technology to properly maintain the product and ensure that it is kept safe for consumption.

Freezing methods
Freezing is a well-established food preservation method. However, it is a delicate task. If large ice crystal form within the products cells it can easily destroy the cellular membrane of the product, which can not only alter the thawed products taste but can potentially make it unsafe for consumption.

There are three main freezing methods; air blast, contact and immersion freezing. Each of these methods has a number of additional variants to cater for specific food types or cellular structures, which can affect the ability to freeze and subsequently thaw food correctly.

Air blast freezing works by passing products through below-freezing air flows. Since air blast can freeze products on the move, this method benefits rolling production. Contact freezing is when products are placed between two metal plates with internal cooling systems. This method is three times faster than air blast but is only suitable for products with two flat surfaces, such as prepackaged items.

Immersion freezing requires products to be immersed or sprayed with liquid refrigerant. There are a variety of different refrigerant liquids available, however, the most common are liquid nitrogen or a mixture of ethanol and dry ice.

Regardless of the method, freezer components must be tough to cope with the drastic temperature shifts between their insides and outsides. Furthermore, to keep up with hygiene requirements in the food industry, freezers must be regularly and thoroughly cleaned. This can mean that certain parts, such as paint, can corrode which could contaminate the food products.

For this reason, at ABB we provide motors that have been designed from the ground up to only include unpainted components. These motors are made for use in freezer applications where the rapid changes in temperature — from 25 degrees to minus 30 degrees Celsius — and humidity from 0–50 per cent, can lead to flaking and chipping on painted motors.

Cold supply chains
Cold supply chains are the leading modern method for transporting items that must be kept at a constant cold temperature. In a cold supply chain, every part of storage and transportation is temperature controlled to stop products from decaying. Food products can be very sensitive to temperature fluctuations, with sudden changes often leading to premature spoilage.

In fact, research demonstrates that there are several key variable factors in the food spoilage process: pH, water activity, salt content, gas composition, pressure, humidity and temperature. Of these, temperature is the main instigator, as when a product is stored above its individual temperature limit it can encounter rapid bacteria growth, which accelerates decay.

Modern food supply chains are also long, meaning that keeping produce at a constant temperature is vital. However, due to the rigorous standards that implementing a cold supply chain requires, not everyone is able to use them. This is because the window of temperatures at which products must be kept is very narrow, so any deviation and the produce will be deemed unsafe and rejected. As such, the cold system must be able to be monitored and controlled from start to finish.

Therefore, paper controls and monitoring cannot keep up with the precision needed for cold food supply chains, because they can only register an average temperature. Accurately controlling the temperature inside cold storage requires a smart system, because multiple sensors can record and analyze a constant temperature.

For example, imagine a refrigerated container being kept at minus eight degrees Celsius to store frozen fruit. If one of the cooling systems was to malfunction, a paper-based system would only register a slight anomaly in temperature variation. A smart sensor-based system would be able to identify exactly which cooling system was malfunctioning and directly identify the affected packages as well as alert maintenance and monitoring teams.

ABB’s ControlMaster range offers a choice of communications options. Ethernet communications provide the ability for users to be automatically notified of critical process events via email. The systems also allow for remote monitoring through the ControlMaster’s integrated webserver, or by simply using a standard web browser.

Overall, freezing is an extremely flexible method of preventing food waste. It can cater for all types of food and, though intricate, the tools for implementing cold supply chains are prevalent and widely accessible.

As food consumption and the global population continue to grow, food waste must be reduced. One easy method of achieving this is extending the life span of the products on the market. Freezing food is a well-developed technique that can reduce food waste in all parts of the food chain and hopefully, the one billion tons of food wasted every year will be reduced.

iBase launches new IoT gateways with TPM security

Backplane Systems Technology has released iBase’s New AGS100T/AGS102T IoT Gateways with TPM Security.

The AGS100T/AGS102T compact fanless platforms offer maximum reliability and longevity support, featuring wide-range operating temperature ranging from -40°C to 70°C depending of CPU required with dimensions of 160 x 110 x 44mm. Both models are suitable for space-constrained applications in harsh environments that require devices equipped with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology.

Powered by Intel’s Apollo Lake Atom x7/x5 series, Pentium N4200, and Celeron N3350 SoCs, the systems enable seamless and secure data flow to the cloud in IoT-focussed applications with enterprise-grade security, and easy manageability.

AGS100T/AGS102T gateways come with an extra advanced security TPM 2.0 chip to provide a high level of hardware-based security. By using TPM together with Windows 10, these devices carry out cryptographic operations for access control and authentication. TPM enables integrity measurements during system boot and makes TPM-based Key unavailable outside the TPM to prevent phishing attacks and authorization value guesses.

The Rugged AGS100T feature 4GB DDR3L-1866 DO-DIMM, 64GB MLC industrial-grade mSATA SSD, dual-display ports (DVI-I and DisplayPort), 4x USB 3.0, 2x GbE, 2x COM, DC-in Terminal block for 9V~36V Input and over/under/reverse voltage protection. The AGS102T has the same features as the AGS100T but has two extra serial ports for COM3/COM4 and GPIO 4-in & 4-out multi-purpose interface.

Expansion are available with a full-size Mini PCI-E, 2230 M.2 E-Key Socket for WLAN & BT, a 3042 M.2 B-Key Socket for WWAN & SSD, mSATA Socket (Mini PCI-E), and a 2242 M.2 B-Key Socket for mSATA SSD.

Features of the product include:

  • Intel Atom x7-E3950/x5-E3940/x5-E3930 / Pentium N4200 / Celeron N3350 Series processors
  • Rugged and fanless design
  • Over/under/reverse voltage protection
  • Wide-range operating temperature from -40°C to 70°C (12W Max. CPU) and -20°C to 60°C (6W CPU) (E Series CPU)
  • 9V~36V DC wide-range power input
  • Supports DIN-Rail mount and wall mount & TPM 2.0
  • 2x RS232/422/485 (AGS100T) / 4x RS232/422/485 (AGS102T)
  • GPIO 4-In & 4-Out with isolation (AGS102T)

Of seahorses, eczema and organic food

After growing up on a property in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley and being involved in growing food from a very young age, Emma Greenhatch’s career was always going to involve food. How a nominee for Social Leader of the Year at the 2019 Women in Industry Awards came to be working in the Sunshine Coast after nearly a decade working for the Victorian Government in a range of food industry-related roles, is a compelling story.

“My daughter had severe eczema since she was a baby,” explained Greenhatch. “We had a holiday on the Sunshine Coast four Christmases ago and after a week in Mooloolaba, her skin was completely clear for the first time in her life. Despite having just moved from Gippsland to Central Victoria, the prospect of her not having to battle this condition made it an easy decision and off to the Sunshine Coast we headed.”

And it wasn’t as if there was a job waiting for Greenhatch when she arrived in sub-tropical South East Queensland.

“I was completely open to what I would be doing up here,” she said. “Before the Victorian Government, I had been involved in micro businesses, developing export markets for live seahorses believe it or not – so I have an affinity for small businesses and start-ups.”

After spending the first few months exploring the beautiful beaches and hinterland, Greenhatch was engaged by Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) to write their inaugural Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations book. One of the companies she interviewed was Gourmet Garden for their lightly dried herbs and their head of Innovation – Jacqui Wilson-Smith, who is a founder of the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN) and the current chairperson – invited Greenhatch along to a FAN networking event in March 2016.

“I was amazed by the openness in the room that night. There was an energy that’s hard to describe until you attend a FAN event. Collaboration has become such a buzz word but here it was happening right in front of me and it was real. I was so inspired that I joined the FAN board as a director for six months, before moving into an operational role and being appointed general manager,” said Greenhatch.

Established by the industry for the industry, FAN is a not-for-profit food industry cluster that has been operating for 3.5 years. It was founded on the basis of larger food companies “giving back” by sharing their knowledge, experience and resources with small businesses.

FAN’s mission is to empower the food industry to grow together, and today, they have 280 members from across the Greater Sunshine Coast including input suppliers, growers, manufacturers, retailers and service providers. Greenhatch said that this is purposeful because if the industry is growing, then the whole value chain is growing. This has a positive ripple effect throughout the wider economy. On clusters, Greenhatch says that they can address opportunities and develop solutions to problems that individual businesses may not be able to solve on their own. They foster a culture of co-opetition, where businesses simultaneously compete and collaborate in non-threatening areas.
Europe has a long history of businesses clustering, in Australia it is relatively new.

Greenhatch is excited about the prospect of FAN creating a sustainable cluster model that can be used as a benchmark for new clusters starting out.

“For the first two years, we focussed on building a culture of collaboration by bringing members together as much as possible to learn and share. As relationships and trust developed among members, they started working together and coming up with ideas for FAN programs and services. An example of this is 10 of our members share a national relationship manager who helps them to increase their sales and distribution.”

There have been hundreds of member collaborations – everything from developing new products and utilising each other’s waste, to sharing freight and supporting each other at trade shows.

This time last year FAN was very much in start-up phase, with the majority of FAN’s revenue coming from FAN’s members, sponsors and partners. It was fortunate to receive matched industry funding under FIAL’s Cluster Programme, which has transformed the business. It has gone from a team of two to six and expanded its member services.

One of these was Meet the Makers, FAN’s own mini tradeshow that was held in March this year. More than 400 people attended this event to sample products from 65 FAN members and hear their stories.

Although FAN is not-for-profit, Greenhatch sees it as an entity similar to an SME. And it’s not just because of the size of the cluster, but also the similar dynamics that both it and small businesses share.

“We are a small business like 85 per cent of our members. It is a rewarding job going on the journey together because we really understand the challenges of running and growing a small business,” she said.

FAN has had a strong community of supporters from the outset including local councils, corporates and research organisations.

“We are led by our industry members but those relationships with different levels of government and other industry stakeholders is vital,” said Greenhatch. Not only do they contribute funding that helps FAN to grow, they offer many programs and services that are relevant to our members. And because we work so closely with our members, we can provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities that our food and agribusiness industry is facing and play an important advocacy role.”

Greenhatch says that critical to FAN’s success has been retaining an industry-led focus, consistently engaging with members and being very agile to quickly respond to an opportunity or member need. “We have a whiteboard wall in our office that’s covered in ideas from our members and we always have members popping in to our office at the Big Pineapple to share their news and ask for help.”

When asked what she loves most about her role, Greenhatch was quick to respond. “The people. The food industry is so diverse and full of incredible businesses and individuals with stories that most people never get to hear. We do and it’s such a privilege to be in a position to share these. We also have a unique opportunity to influence how the industry grows. We have recently formed a partnership with EPIC Assist to support more people with disabilities to work in the food and agribusiness industry.

“I believe that clusters like FAN are key to ensuring that we have a healthy, competitive and sustainable food industry into the future. In the words of Helen Keller: ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.’”
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