The AIFST 50th Anniversary Convention, themed The Future of Food, continued for another day of thought-provoking discussions with leaders from the Australian food industry sharing their insights around the importance and impact of Technology, Science and Innovation on the industry moving into the future.

Here are the top take-outs from day two of the AIFST 50th Anniversary Convention:

Brianna Casey, CEO, Foodbank Australia, presented some very sobering facts about food insecurity in our own backyard. Food insecurity, the situation when an individual doesn’t have the means to put a meal on the table, be it a one-off or regular occurrence, affects one in six Australians, with one-third being children. Factors contributing to food insecurity include unemployment and underemployment, the cost of living, family circumstances and government policies. The irony is, globally we produce enough food to feed everyone, however one-third of all food produced is wasted. Foodbank Australia is making a difference via their operations, programs, and campaigns, to supply food to 2,600 charities for distribution across Australia.

Agriculture has one of the lowest technology adoption rates of any sector, responding to this need, an exciting new initiative was launched this month to address this issue. The new Cooperative Research Centre for Food Agility is an investment in the bridge to accelerate service innovation, providing Australia with a growing competitive advantage through digital transformation. Dr Anne Astin, Chair, Food Agility CRC, outlined the four strategic imperatives, all powered by digital technology, to drive adoption of technology in this sector: produce the right thing; leverage brand Australia; access to finances; and build future workforces.

International speaker, Natasha D’Costa, Frost & Sullivan, Singapore, explored the evolving food consumer and the way consumer food choices and affordability being defined based on emotional connections with food products, the story has never been more important. Aspirational living – a key consumer trigger helping assess nutraceutical messages. Ethnic associations – large traditional medicine sectors moving into the commercial space. Convenience – markets where urbanisation is a key influencer. Ageing focussed – markets where the rate of ageing is accelerated. Traceability – Growing concerns over ethical and safe value chains. A product story is now a crucial factor for success.

An ancient sodium reduction strategy, potassium, was revived by international speaker Michelle Briggs, Kudos Blends, UK. Modern diets high in processed foods tend to be high in sodium and low in potassium resulting in health implications, such as cardiovascular disease, felt around the globe. Studies conducted have shown potential to substitute sodium for potassium without impacting the flavour of the end product. Michelle suggested the whole industry needs to collaborate to implement small changes which have a big impact, and benefit the health of the nation. Michelle outlined the next steps involved manufacturers being bold, being proactive and being responsible.

The institute’s premier keynote address, honouring the first and foundation President, Dr JR Vickery the JR Vickery Address was given by Barry Irvin, Executive Chairman, Bega Cheese who challenged us all to stay alert and stay agile in the food industry. Mr Irvin suggested some mega trends that we should all think about in relation to our businesses: globalisation 2.0, demographic change, individualisation, environmental circumstances, convergence of technologies and the digital era. However, he suggested that what doesn’t change in business is ethics and values in building trust. Bega Cheese are focused on how these trends will influence the consumer, how the consumer will change in the future, who they are, what they will look like and why they will choose to buy from organisations. Mr Irvin suggested that one area he would continue to fight to come back is communication. “Staying alert and agile is about speaking to people. Having a conversation.” To finish, Mr Irvin, urged the food industry audience to be agile and alert and embrace change to bring opportunity for businesses in the dairy industry.













Dr Sukhvinder Pal (SP) Singh, NSW Department of Primary Industries, presented the innovative use of cold plasma in relation to horticultural industries. A unique project being undertaken at the NSW Department of Primary Industries is seeking to investigate the use of cold plasma as a decontamination tool, to combat bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens, particularly in relation to fruit, vegetables and nuts. Cold plasma offers an alternative to chemical sanitisers and can reduce postharvest losses due to spoilage, thus offering opportunities to gain a competitive advantage in export markets.

Pia Winberg, Venus Shell Systems, explored one of the oldest legacies that Australians are only just rediscovering, seaweed. This $10B global crop is sustainable and efficient in production systems and is a potent nutrition source for minerals and trace elements, omega-3, dietary fibre and protein, all of which could address the chronic malnutrition – not how much you eat, but what you eat – seen in the population.

Dr Suresh Gulati, University of Sydney, was part of the team awarded the AIFST Food Innovation Award, for their development of world’s first natural omega-3 yoghurt. Omega-3 fatty acids are valuable throughout our different life stages from foetal growth, to childhood, to old age. Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in early childhood growth, neural development, improved vision, cognitive behaviour, improved cardiovascular health and in reducing type 2 diabetes. A challenge to overcome is the “fishy” smell and after-taste of omega-3 foods. Collaboration between Naturale Aust Pty Ltd and Tasmania’s Westhaven, saw them produce the world’s first omega-3 yoghurt from cow’s milk featuring no sensory, no organoleptic and no oxidation issues and importantly a good shelf life and a good source of omega-3 – an award-winning product.


The last session of the day was the Industry Roundtable where opinion and discussion covered how to finance innovation and growth in the Australian food industry. Felicity Zadro, Founder and Managing Director, Zadro Agency, facilitated the panel with lively discussion between Barry Irvin, Bega Cheese; Martin Cole, CSIRO Agriculture and Food; Peter Schutz, AIFST, Michele Allan, Chair Council of Rural Development Corporations and Craig Heraghty, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Some key discussions revolved around how innovation is an idea that leads to an invoice, it’s not always a product – it can be a supply chain or just doing things different. The panel urged the food industry to be always curious of how other people have innovated, however be willing to stop and think and press pause. With so much technology out there, relevance needs to be chosen over quantity and it’s essential to not let technology consume you. Discussions concluded that money is always out there for new ideas, however it still comes back to surrounding yourself with the right people to do business with and who can implement innovation.

Closing the AIFST 50th Anniversary Convention, Georgie Aley, CEO thanked the members, guests, speakers, volunteers and the many partners, who without, AIFST would not be able to conduct such a successful event. AIFST will continue to support professional development of their members, to innovate in science and technology for the food industry, and look forward to The Future of Food and the next 50 years of the industry.

The AIFST 50th Anniversary Convention, was held 17-18 July, at the International Convention Centre Sydney, Darling Harbour.