Fresh and fantastic young food is given a UQ

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Image: $160,000 in grants will boost an eclectic mix of food research projects. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.
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Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Better beer, exotic mushrooms and probiotic lettuces are just a few of the diverse innovations in food research supported by an exciting University of Queensland grant program.

The University of Queensland’s Agri-Food Innovation Alliance (AFIA) Kickstarter grant program has announced grants totaling $160,000 to seven agri-food companies to support the next generation of Australian food creations.

UQ AFIA Director Professor Melissa Fitzgerald said the Alliance was excited by the creativity and breadth of the applicants’ food research ideas.

“Through this inventive program, faster-growing, value-added pomegranates, healthier probiotic lettuce and rare gourmet mushrooms are now being developed on a commercial scale,” said Professor Fitzgerald.

“And we’re not just talking about new food creations — we have grantees focusing on the antimicrobial properties of native Australian plants, engaging unemployed youth in agriculture, or working on new plant-based packaging options.”

The goal of AFIA’s Kickstarter grant program is to contribute to the post-COVID recovery by nurturing local premium food and agriculture businesses, building skills and securing jobs in all communities.

“At its core, the initiative enables UQ researchers and educators to work as equal partners with small to medium-sized agri-food companies,” said Professor Fitzgerald.

“These projects will bring together experts from very different backgrounds, all with a common goal to improve and innovate the field of food and agriculture.

“By facilitating long-term relationships between academia and industry, we also reduce the barriers companies face when trying to access academic expertise to improve their products and processes.

“There were so many excellent submissions and we weren’t able to select them all, but we are confident that these projects will have real commercial and societal impact.”

One of these projects is being led by beer science expert Professor Benjamin Schulz, whose previous research has looked at the complex chemical and molecular composition of beer.

Professor Schulz and his research team at UQ will work closely with Working Title Brewing Co. to study the molecular ecology and evolution of brewer’s yeast in commercial breweries.

“We bring UQ’s expertise in yeast biochemistry, enzymology, genomics and systems biology to produce exceptionally good beer,” said Professor Schultz.

“And we work with the best in the business – Working Title Brew Co. – who bring extensive commercial brewing experience to enable us to achieve full flavor and quality.

“Together we will study the molecular ecology and evolution of brewing yeast in commercial breweries to understand the underlying mechanisms driving the evolutionary switching of carbon source utilization in yeast to be able to consistently produce better beer.

“It’s a really exciting time – this research will open the door to many more opportunities to leverage UQ’s diverse research expertise in similar integrated research, potentially leading to improved production of other foods and beverages.”

To learn more about the Agri-Food Innovation Alliance or about the next Kickstarter funding round, sign up for the AFIA newsletter.

The University of Queensland recognizes the Australian Government Department for Education, Skills and Employment’s $2.5 million contribution through the Strategic University Reform Fund (SURF) to support the activities of the UQ Agri-Food Innovation Alliance.


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