News Article

Fighting Food Waste a Hot topic for Gippslanders

   Wednesday 8th May, 2019

Victoria currently holds the rather unenviable title of the highest level of on-farm losses from vegetable production and is runner up to Queensland in losses calculated from fruits, nuts and wine grape production.

Just over 250,000 tonnes of vegetables, and close to 50,000 tonnes of fruit, nuts and wine grapes are classified as food waste per annum, which can be driven by a number of factors, including weather, market conditions, food safety scares, buyer quality standards, labor shortages, surplus to requirements, and no longer ‘fresh’.

Based on FAO food loss estimates & 2015/2016 ABS production figures, the figures for on-farm losses are calculated across a wide range of crops from cabbages, pumpkins, beans and carrots to broccoli, sweet corn and lettuces, along with citrus, stone, berry and pome fruit (nashi fruit, apples and pears) and wine grapes.

Food & Fibre Gippsland Co-Deputy Chair Andrew Bulmer, who is also Managing Director of Bulmer Farms, says the opportunities for Gippsland horticulture producers to reduce these figures, and convert food waste into revenue are significant, but requires strategic planning, collaboration and a long-term commitment.

“We are identifying and facilitating ways to drive a circular food economy, where we can create income streams from a range of food waste “Mr. Bulmer said.

“There is a myriad of options and we are keen to help find the right models and processes for Gippsland – and one’s that represent the best value” he said

Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre CEO, Dr Steve Lapidge recently visited Gippsland to take part in the official launch of Food & Fibre Gippsland at Farm World, and deliver a series of information forums about food waste. Not surprisingly, the forum that attracted the most attention was the one that focused on the horticulture industry.

Interim CEO of Food & Fibre Gippsland Dr Nicola Watts said that being part of the ‘Fight Food Waste CRC’ is building more awareness of the ‘size of the prize’ from reducing waste and transforming food waste streams into products which have value.

“One of the six capability platforms identified to accelerate sustainable growth is the development of future industries. One key opportunity we are pursuing is a high-tech vegetable processing hub to transform waste produce into high value nutraceutical and functional food products” she said.

“Food & Fibre Gippsland is committed to working collaboratively with industry partners and researchers and government to continue to minimize waste and explore ways to turn food waste into revenue generating resources “Dr Watts concluded.

But food waste processes don’t always have to be on a large scale to deliver positive impact or build a new revenue stream.

Food & Fibre Gippsland member, Gippsland Pearls grow gourmet mushrooms and produce escargot caviar from their snail farm at Lakes Entrance, backing onto the Colquhoun State Forest.

Founders Cheryl Jakobi and Sara Bailey have been growing a variety of gourmet mushrooms since establishing the business in May 2018. In their first 12 months of operation, they have been steadily growing a loyal following, with their delicately delicious creations appearing on café and restaurant menus across East Gippsland.

Over the last six months they have been developing a “mushroom dust “, used to add a subtle flavor to a wide range of food, usually sprinkled as the dish is plated up.

Made from aged harvested mushrooms, or ones that haven't grown correctly (that would be “considered “no longer fresh" or not up to quality standards), it completes the cycle of using everything they grow.

“Whilst it’s still very much a work in progress to scale up to larger quantities, our initial feedback has been really positive – it’s such an easy, cost effective way to create a value add product that is making use of mushrooms that would otherwise probably go into our compost or be re-purposed for animal feed “ said Sara.

Sara attended Dr Lapidge’s Fight Food Waste Forum, and as a result is also inspired to investigate the possibility of also using the left over organism after harvesting to create the mushroom dust.

“One of our aims as a business is to operate as sustainably as possible, and through the development of complimentary products like this, we are 100% committed to minimizing our food waste” she said.

Dr Steve Lapidge - CEO of the Fight Food Waste CRC
A little glass tub of Mushroom Dust - a product of aged mushrooms that could have been food waste !