UQ announces $2.5m Agri-Food Innovation Alliance

Brandon Long
By Brandon Long
Updated November 18 2021 - 5:01am, first published 3:00am
FUTURE FOOD: Federal Member for Groom Garth Hamilton, UQ deputy vice chancellor (research and innovation) and vice president (research and innovation) Professor Bronwyn Harch, AATLIS CEO Grant Statton, and UQ food science and technology chair and deputy associate dean (research) Professor Melissa Fitzgerald. Photo: Brandon Long

A new university-led food alliance could help Australian producers tap into new and more distant markets.

On Thursday, The University of Queensland revealed its Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, which is part of a two year pilot program designed to connect UQ's research in agri-food science with agri-food businesses of all sizes.

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With globalisation, technology and climate change transforming the sector at a rapid rate, the university hopes the $2.5 million federally-funded initiative will help producers innovate and adapt.

Speaking at UQ's Building Better Bioeconomies Breakfast on Thursday, UQ food science and technology chair and deputy associate dean (research) Professor Melissa Fitzgerald said the collaborative project would create strong links between universities and businesses.

"[The] Alliance will work hand-in-hand with local agri-food businesses, transforming ideas into sustainable production methods, delicious new commercially viable foods and cybersecure supply chains," Prof Fitzgerald said.

She said they were focused on four particular areas: advanced primary production, advanced food and beverage manufacture, smart supply chains, and education and training.

NEW FLAVOURS: UQ food science and technology chair and deputy associate dean (research) Professor Melissa Fitzgerald. Photo: Brandon Long

UQ said kick-starter grants were also "ready to go", ranging from new animal feed supplements, new food product development from camel milk, new processing methods for gelatine, sustainable packaging, and developing a digital twin for Australian agri-food supply chains.

Asked how the Alliance planned to minimise red tape, UQ business development director (agri-food and bioeconomy) Jane Trindall said its first industry event in February would discuss potential barriers with business.

"One of the things we're going to do in that event is have a workshop in understanding what the barriers are to collaboration and then trying to work out how we can lower those barriers, what we can do at the industry and at the UQ end to lower those barriers, and really facilitate collaboration with small businesses," Ms Trindall said.

PANEL DISCUSSION: UQ food science and technology chair and deputy associate dean (research) Professor Melissa Fitzgerald, UQ deputy vice chancellor (research and innovation) and vice president (research and innovation) Professor Bronwyn Harch, Federal Member for Groom Garth Hamilton, AATLIS CEO Grant Statton, and UQ business development director Jane Trindall. Photo: Brandon Long

Federal Member for Groom Garth Hamilton said the Alliance was "fantastic" and helped communities face future challenges.

"Collaboration allows us to get the best impact we can out of the research that we're doing - to make sure it has the greatest value-add," Mr Hamilton said.

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Brandon Long

Brandon Long

Queensland Country Life journalist

Brandon Long is a Queensland Country Life journalist based in Toowoomba.

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