What will the Future Food and Feed look like in Australia?
Updated: Jul 20
Australian food and feed trends 2021
Looking at the current food trends can give us a glimpse of the future to come.
The impact of COVID-19 on Australian Food system
What is innovative food?
What are the drivers for development of innovative food and feed?
Algae (micro & macro)
Cell culture or Cellular agriculture
Plant-based food as alternative protein
The impact of COVID-19 on the Australian Food system
The pandemic has affected food systems, food production, food processing, consumers behaviour and supply chain. Due to substantially higher food production levels compared to consumption, Australia does not have food security problems and is one of the most food-secure nations in the world. Despite the pandemic related hindrances, the innovative food sector is growing and showing no signs of slowing down. Consumers are increasingly shifting away from conventional meat amid headlines of virus-ridden abattoirs. The biggest threat to Australia's primary production systems remains the drought prone climate. As we look to the horizon, reshaping and improving food production systems is essential. Focusing on both human health and the environment, we have to fundamentally rethink the way we produce and process nutritious food with low environmental impact.
What is innovative food?
New food sources such as edible insects, micro-algae, seaweed, cultured meat, and plant-based foods are great complementary nutrient sources to conventional proteins like beef, chicken, eggs and milk. The development of new production farms and alternative cultivation is one approach to address the expected growing demand and environmental changes. Another approach is to develop food products designed to imitate the taste, texture, smell and colour of conventional animal-based products while using plant-based ingredients. These two approaches occupy different areas within the food system. The former is focusing on the production level, while the latter in the post production processing.
What are the drivers for the development of innovative food and feed?
An ever increasing public awareness of foodborne related illnesses, factory farming, the meat industry's ecological footprint, and the growing population generated the need for sustainable alternatives. Humans are currently consuming more meat than our planet can afford to produce. Global challenges such as climate change and depletion of energy resources are key drivers that push us to develop food alternatives. CSIRO estimated the Australian alternative protein market by 2030 to reach $6.6 billion (AUD) both for domestic and international export. The future food systems will have to use fewer resources, while producing more nutrients. This major challenge propels exploration into various food sources for humans and animals and a new approach for waste management as a valuable resource.
Insects are an excellent source of nutrients and have been part of the human diet worldwide for millennia. Though insects have been part of the normal diets of many cultures in various regions through the centuries, intensive cultivation in a modern insect farm is considered an emerging industry. The nutritional value of insects as food and livestock feed is high, and the efficiency of organic waste recycling service they provide is valuable. Additionally, the lower environmental footprint they leave make insect farms a promising investment opportunity with environmental benefits. The global market for edible insects is expected to reach approximately USD 8 billion by 2030. Insects can be produced sustainably on various raw materials (e.g. agricultural by-products, industrial organic waste, etc.); therefore can improve organic waste management and upcycle some of the wasted or lost food. The utilization of state of the art infrastructure to accommodate insect farm requirements depends on intensive capital investment and proprietary knowledge of insect mass rearing techniques.
Australian companies that utilize BSF for recycling purposes and as an alternative animal feed are Goterra, Future Green Solution and Solution Blue based in Canberra, WA and NSW respectively. FlyFarm headquarter is in Hong-Kong with a BSF rearing facility in Brisbane. Prescient Nutrition (trading as grubs up) operates from New Zealand and BuggyBix is a pet food brand using BSF and mealworms for dog food. Only two types of insects have been successfully commercialised for human consumption: crickets and mealworms. Australia’s first insect farm as food (human consumption) is Circle Harvest (formerly Edible Bug Shop) which cultivates Crickets, Mealworms, SilkWorms and Ants. Schubugs from SA, Grubsup WA, Rebel Food Tasmania and Eat Crawlers Auckland target the Insect market for human consumption.
Genufeed and EntomoVentures are service providers for the booming insect farms market. Genufeed - an Israeli startup, founded 2018, has developed an enrichment process that turns whole BSF larvae into complete aquafeed without need of large capital investments in extrusion equipment. The unique process encapsulates BSF larvae that provide nutrients are essential for the optimal growth and health of fish such as certain fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. EntomoVentures, based in Singapore and aim to increase productivity of insect farms and precisely predict output for their scale-up while reducing costs and human-errors by using sensors, ERP systems, & A.I. software. They are keen to create an ecosystem with cutting-edge solutions for industrialization of the farm-grown insects business.
Micro-algae and Macro-algae (seaweed)
Algae is an underexploited segment in the aquaculture sector yet can simultaneously solve multiple challenges. Algae cultivation is drought-proof and can provide nutrients with a very low impact on the environment. The algae are collected and cultivated from the open ocean, in ponds and raceways. About 70% of Earth is covered with water. Of all the water on Earth, 97% is salt water, and only 3% is fresh water. Exploring and developing marine production systems is a wise strategy to overcome droughts because it uses saltwater or brackish water. Common horticulture and animal production use freshwater sources and scarce arable land, while algae cultivation using no arable land, no fertilizers input, no insecticide or antibiotics. In July 2021, the Australian Marine Bioproduct Corporation Research Center announced a $270M project for the next ten years dedicated to developing marine products. Qponics is one of the leading industry partners of this project, after securing $6 million for the purpose of R&D. Based in Brisbane, Qponic has developed an automated, modular, and therefore scalable process for the drought-proof farming of marine microalgae to produce high-value oil rich in EPA omega-3 and omega-7 fatty acids. Has Algae, founded in 2019, aims to alleviate common nutritional deficiencies associated with plant-based diets, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Has Algae is a startup based in Brisbane, Sydney and Hong Kong, aiming to disrupt the plant protein and omega-3 industry for agriculture by turning ordinary foods into superfoods with the nutritional power of microalgae. Venus shell Systems (founded in 2015) based in Shoalhaven, NSW, developed commercial Land-based ponds cultivation of Ulva spp. They utilise seaweed ingredients for nutrition, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Venus is a global forefront of producing unique, traceable, premium quality marine biomass. Venus has pioneered a proprietary controlled cultivation and production process for a range of reliable, high-grade seaweed products. Their proprietary process enables consistent production tailored to customers requirements. Pacific Biotechnologies, which is based in Melbourne, Victoria, has developed a commercial production of Ulva in raceway ponds for wastewater treatment. Sea Forest from Tasmania and Future Feed based in QLD, both use red seaweed Asparagopsis as a livestock supplement which can increase livestock productivity and reduce their methane emissions simultaneously.
Cell culture or Cellular agriculture
Cellular agriculture is the emerging field of producing animal products from cell culture. It has the potential of changing the traditional ways of animal breeding , growing and slaughtering in the future. The shift from using soil and land to feed animals to cell culture inside labs focuses on protein-containing products such as milk, eggs, meat and fish. An optimistic estimation regarding cell-cultured meat is that it can reduce greenhouse emissions up to 92%. From a McKinsey & Co report, the estimate is that cell cultured meat could balloon to a US$25 billion global industry by the end of 2030. Though cultured meat technology is progressing quickly, there are many challenges for regulatory approval, consumer acceptance, commercial scale-up, and price parity. How would religious sectors perceive in vitro meat? Is it Kosher? Is it Halal?
Heuros, Founded In 2018, is a cell-based startup that has developed a growth medium that is free from any animal ingredients or genetic modifications or engineering, which has yet to become common in many cultured meat companies. Its technology can be applied to grow various cultured meat and poultry muscles. The company plans to supply its proprietary medium to cultured meat producers as well as develop its own line of in-house products. Vow, a Sydney based startup founded in 2019, is crafting a new food category and is the first startup to create cultured exotic meats, like Kangaroo, Alpaca and Buffalo. In Jan 2021 Vow secured US6M and plans to expand its R&D and cell culture “library”. Magic Valley, founded by Paul Bevan in 2020, based in Melbourne, has developed some delicious cultured lamb products.
Plant-based processed food
Australia and New Zealand are no exception to the global plant-based trend in recent years. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the alternative protein industry in Australia showed no signs of slowing down throughout 2021. On the contrary, consumers are increasingly shifting away from conventional meat amid headlines of virus-ridden abattoirs. Thanks to the emergence of few local companies who develop plant-based products to satisfy the growing demands for alternative proteins, consumer's options are growing. Some of the Australian-based companies using plant protein from soy, wheat, pea, rice, and fungi in different proportions are presented below. Fable Food (fungi and soy), Veef owned by Fënn Foods, Harvest Gourmet is Nestlé Australian brand, Future farm & Co owns the brand Next. Coco & Lucas Kitchen and Plant Asia are using mainly wheat as a protein source. Made with Plants, Farm Foods Australia, Eaty No Meaty (branded as Soulfresh), The Alternative Meat Co, Unreal Co, v2 food, and Herb and Sons (Coles's brand). The Craft meat company located in New Zealand is using soy, wheat and hemp seed. Sprout organics developed a plant-based baby formulation. Nourish Ingredients producing fungi oil that taste like butter. There are two major livestock feed manufacturers in Australia: Ridley and Nutreco. Skretting is Nutreco's division which specializes in aquafeed.
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