21 September 2018

The ARC Training Centre for the Food Processing Industry in the 21st Century—led by Centre Director, Professor Fariba Dehghani at The University of Sydney—was established in 2014 to work with a broad range of industrial partners to boost Australia’s competitiveness in the global agri-food sector.

With funding of nearly $3 million over three years from the Australian Government through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, the research program at the centre focussed on the production of high-value nutraceutical compounds, the development of improved food processing methods and technologies, and the reduction of waste products from food processing.

In collaboration with a diverse range of partners from the food and agribusiness sectors, including large multinationals as well as Small-Medium Enterprises, the ARC Training Centre worked to solve challenging and industrially relevant problems using innovative and cutting-edge approaches.

At the same time, the ARC Training Centre prepared a new generation of early career researchers in both academic and entrepreneurial skills, who could undertake high-quality research and advance the field of food processing.

Professor Dehghani says that because of the ARC Training Centre’s targeted entrepreneurship program, four researchers at centre have established their own start-ups.

“Dr Ali Fathi, one of the postdoctoral fellows in our ARC Training Centre, has founded a company, Trimph Technology Pty Ltd, and raised $1.5 million from angel investors to commercialise a patented technology,” says Professor Dehghani.

“Similarly, Dr Iman Manavitehrani was awarded the prestigious NSW-QB3 Roseman Scholarship for work developed at The University of Sydney and he has now established his own start-up, SDIP Innovations.”

A key focus of the ARC Training Centre has been the translation of knowledge from the laboratory to the marketplace, with several projects from the centre resulting in new patented technology. One of these was the development of a novel process for the recovery and purification of active compounds from Black elderberry, which increases both the shelf life and stability of the extract—key considerations for the project’s industrial partner.

The ARC Training Centre has also designed an industry engagement pilot program (the ‘Hackathon Program’) to give its researchers the opportunity to apply their engineering expertise in a time-constrained and business context. The pilot was very successful with the Sanitarium Health Food Company, Marine Biotechnology Australia Pty Ltd, and Gravity Solutions Global, having their particular engineering and business concerns addressed by a group of researchers.

“Not only has this given our researchers a keen awareness of the ‘business’ perspective, it has also been a pathway to further university–industry engagement,” says Professor Dehghani.

“In 2017 alone, researchers from the ARC Training Centre attracted more than $5 million in additional funding from multiple sources to support their cutting-edge research. This resulted in further industry engagement and spurred the establishment of three new centres: the ARC Training Centre for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Industry, funded in 2016, and two other centres supported by The University of Sydney (the Waste Transformation Research Hub and Centre for Excellence in Advanced Food Enginomics).”

“Overall, the ARC Training Centre for the Food Processing Industry in the 21st Century has been a great success in training the next generation of researchers.”

“We have published high-quality research, and worked hard to deliver commercial outcomes that will be making a huge impact on Australian food industries for many years to come.”

 

 

Images (from top): Stock image of algae, students at the laboratories of the ARC Training Centre for the Food Processing Industry and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Credit: ARC Training Centre for the Food Processing Industry and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.