FSF Building Design

Work to begin on cutting-edge new food research facility

A new food research facility supporting the future of New Zealand’s exports has reached an important milestone, with a contractor appointed and the construction process to start next week.

The $45m Food Science Facility for FoodHQ Partners AgResearch and Massey University will accommodate about 140 staff and students from the two organisations as well as from the Government-funded centre of research excellence, the Riddet Institute.

It will feature laboratories and shared spaces focused around education and research into meat and dairy in a three-storey, 5000 square metre building that will be New Zealand’s largest agri-food innovation centre.

The facility will also be a key component of FoodHQ – a partnership to grow New Zealand’s reputation in food and beverage innovation that includes AgResearch and Massey University among its network of science and innovation partners (more at www.foodhq.com).

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson says local firm McMillan & Lockwood has been confirmed as the lead contractor to build the facility.

“Work to prepare the site for building is due to begin after Waitangi Day next week. At this stage, the plan is to have the building completed by October 2019. The occupants will include AgResearch staff already based in Palmerston North, and others working in the food sciences who will be relocating to the city,” Dr Richardson says.

“This new joint facility concept – similar to what AgResearch is doing with Lincoln University near Christchurch – is going to accelerate innovation by having world-class talent working together under one roof. In the case of food research, it means the opportunity for new generation products that offer exciting new textures and flavours, and improve peoples’ health and nutrition.”

Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says the facility is another exciting development for the university and its Manawatū campus, and integral to Massey’s collaborations with research institutions and other organisations and businesses involved in growing New Zealand’s food exports and reputation for quality and innovation.

“Part of Massey’s strategy is that all our campuses will be innovation ecosystems, magnets for smart enterprises and operated in partnerships founded in respect, trust and mutual benefit,” Professor Thomas says.

“The creation of this facility epitomises those goals we have set for ourselves and our partners.”


Article first appeared here https://www.agresearch.co.nz/news/work-to-begin-on-cutting-edge-new-food-research-facility/

Cooked Meat

Opinion: The future of food by Dr Tom Richardson

The future of food – especially the emergence of “synthetic foods” and what this might mean for New Zealand as a major food producer – has certainly been prominent in media and BBQ conversations this summer.

As a science organisation dedicated to growing the value of New Zealand’s agri-food sector, FoodHQ Partner AgResearch is highly attuned to both the challenges and opportunities posed by these new technologies. From where we sit, the claims of an impending collapse of New Zealand’s traditional food exports in the face of this alternative protein revolution just don’t reflect what we are seeing and experiencing.

There is no question the technology to produce “synthetic foods” (including animal cell culture to produce meats and milk without animal farming, and plant-based substitutes that emulate the taste, smell and texture of animal products) is advancing rapidly. Those advances are dramatically improving the quality of these products whilst at the same time reducing costs. In the last four years, the cost of cell cultured meat patties has dropped from US$325,000 to US$12 and Impossible Foods is now able to produce four million plant-based protein burgers a month, and selling them in restaurants at the same price as a premium meat burger (around US$15).

As we seek to feed a global population heading beyond nine billion by 2050, we need a host of sustainable food production systems. These new technologies, and others not yet in development, will be an important component of our global food system, and more and more of us will meet some portion of our dietary requirements through them. And in fact I think NZ can carve out its own niches in “synthetic foods” – which we will see play out over time.

However, as most are well aware our food exports are not targeting the billions, but rather those niches where our products can attract the premium price that our small producers – a long way from customers – need. This has been our journey as a nation and it continues today and will tomorrow as technology makes it easier and easier for us to describe and demonstrate our unique provenance stories to customers around the world. Our challenge is to be ever more finely attuned to the changing wishes of those consumers, which are amongst the fastest growing groups globally.

The longer term opportunities for New Zealand’s agri-foods, and the experiences they offer, is borne out at AgResearch by the strong demand we are experiencing from both New Zealand and international firms seeking to reposition their supply chains and innovate their products to succeed in these growing markets.

In November, AgResearch signed up to a relationship with South Korea’s largest pharmaceutical company, Yuhan Corporation (who will invest significantly to bring NZ’s deer products to Asian markets). More of these bilateral innovation partnerships that enhance the value of NZ agri-food products are being confirmed, or are in the pipeline for AgResearch and NZ. We’ve also seen new investment such as Japanese food company Itoham approved to grow its stake in ANZCO Foods to 100 per cent.

These investments reflect how favourably New Zealand’s agricultural products are viewed by those firms with close ties to these markets, and the potential seen for much more value creation.

To realise that potential, we need to be highly attuned to what attributes those customers value. We have exciting science underway looking into how meat could be personalised for people’s individual health needs, and how dairy products can be designed to boost brainpower in adults and enhance brain development in infants. These are exciting advances and we are working with the world’s best to develop scientifically validated health benefits for a range of NZ products and ingredients.

However, much of the “added value” achieved by NZ food exports is created by our production systems and the certification, branding and provenance storytelling that we build around those systems. These production systems will underpin the uniquely NZ value proposition in the coming decades too. As production systems diversify to meet changing consumer demand for different food sources, AgResearch is well-equipped to support the agri-food sector to successfully make those shifts.

So we need to be finely attuned to the expectations of consumers and we need to recognise that advances such as social media, micro-sensors and blockchains mean that every production and supply system in the world is heading towards total transparency. If we do it on a NZ farm we should expect that a customer sitting down to a meal in Tokyo, Palo Alto, Paris or Tauranga to know about it, and make a personal value judgement on it.

As a scientist myself, I find this evidence-rich future exciting. As one of our AgResearch board members used to say “Sunlight is a great disinfectant!”. But it also means that our practices have to be totally consistent with our claims. And as an agri-food sector we know there is work to do here as the bar is constantly rising. Again, at AgResearch we are seeing leading businesses investing much more aggressively in areas like animal welfare, novel farm systems and technologies that greatly enhance environmental sustainability.

I think we are fortunate that in many of these areas the overseas consumers’ expectations are no different to what we as New Zealanders want from our production systems, and the surrounding landscapes and rivers. New Zealanders have spoken loud and clear on this issue of the environment – a Colmar Brunton poll released this month (Jan) found pollution of lakes and rivers was one of the top two concerns for Kiwis, ahead of the likes of the state of the health system. People are demanding action on cleaning up waterways and making rivers swimmable again.

So, the good news is that we have alignment locally and globally and there is every motivation to achieve those goals. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Of course, predicting the future is notoriously difficult, and none of us know exactly how the food revolution will unfold over the next decade or two. But we can bank on a more varied source of foods than ever before, much more individual eating preferences (think flexi-vegans), total transparency and traceability of our food production systems, and a greater number of people willing to pay a premium for a special eating experience based on the provenance of the meal.

Since our first refrigerated food exports left Dunedin for Britain in 1882, through Britain’s entry into the European Union and the shift to Asia, our farmers and agri-food business have shown the adaptability that is now more important than ever. We have lived in a disruptive world for our entire existence as a country.

That same cultural DNA within our farmers, agribusiness and scientists leaves me very confident that New Zealand is well positioned to be an even more prosperous provider of safe, high quality foods to the world’s most discerning consumers.


Article first appeared here https://www.agresearch.co.nz/news/opinion-the-future-of-food/

Nicola Schreurs

New beef product could spark new industry

FoodHQ Partner Massey University is investigating whether the dairy industry has the potential to drive a new class of beef product by rearing bobby calves who would ordinarily be sent to slaughter.

The dairy industry currently needs to produce calves to maintain milk production, but while a proportion of the females are retained as herd replacements, a large number are sent for slaughter at around four-days old due to a lack of viable alternatives.

The potential new product is being labelled New Generation Beef, and is produced by rearing calves sourced from the dairy industry up to one year of age.

Project lead, Dr Nicola Schreurs of the School of Agriculture and Environment says the research has the potential to spawn a brand-new beef industry which could one day phase-out the slaughter of bobby calves.

“This new product isn’t veal or bull-beef, and we are not specifically targeting the prime steer classification but, we are developing a new, full red-meat product of its own, that could require less resource and deliver a more sustainable product”, she says.

“There is currently little incentive for the dairy farmer to rear additional calves, but there is a large amount of welfare concerns associated with the transport and slaughter of bobby calves. We think that our New Generation Beef system could help the New Zealand dairy industry achieve a ‘zero-bobbies policy’ by turning a low-value product into a high-value product. However, the concept needs validation if it is to have uptake and our research seeks to hammer out how it could work on the farm and will define what type of carcass and meat product we would be getting, as well as considering the potential markets,” Dr Schreurs says.

The initial part of the project involves a group of calves (Kiwi crossed with Hereford) managed on Massey’s farms. These calves will be slaughtered at eight, 10, 12 and 18 months of age and assessed for the meat product obtained. This data will allow the team to consider the economics required to make the system viable and the required market development for the product.

This research will involve Masters students, Sam Pike and Josh Hunt. The programme will also enrol PhD students over the next two years, to assess the environmental impact of the supply chain and specificities for processing.

“Many of the environment issues with beef production arise as a consequence of a production period of two to three years to achieve market requirements”, Dr Schreurs says. “Older animals have reduced feed-use efficiency, increased greenhouse gas emissions and a larger contribution to nitrogen leaching.

“Argentinian beef cattle are slaughtered at approximately one year of age and we think a similar system could be implemented in New Zealand with positive consequences for the environment.”

Future beef

The project will utilise the expertise of Massey’s Professor Steve Morris, Associate Professor Rebecca Hickson, Professor Paul Kenyon, Professor Hugh Blair and Professor Dorian Garrick, and is supported by the C Alma Baker Trust, and Beef + Lamb NZ Genetics.

Dr Schreurs says, in the future, more field studies will be required, including market research to see how this product would be received by consumers. In the larger research programme, the researchers hope to look at a range of dairy breeds and dairy-beef crossbreeds.

“Our goal is to one day have farmers, meat processors and marketers taking on board the concept of New Generation Beef for application into an integrated supply chain for export traded beef with sustainable returns to the beef sector. We see this innovation as a new beef product coming from a new generation of farmers, for the new generation of consumers,” Dr Schreurs says.


Article first appeared here https://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-massey/news/article.cfm?mnarticle_uuid=E47DFFE1-F15B-4E0D-A2AD-019DA3054904