CSIRO’s grand plan to weed out Aussie food fakes, future-proof agricultural sector

A plan to future-proof Australia’s food and agriculture industry will include water banking, digital food fingerprints, and creating new high-protein foods.

Sep 09, 2021, updated Sep 09, 2021
Image: Elaine Casap/Unsplash

Image: Elaine Casap/Unsplash

The $150 million CSIRO-led initiative is aiming to reap $20 billion in growth for the sector by 2030.

Jointly funded by the federal government and industry stakeholders, the money will address drought issues, food exports, and the future of protein.

These three “missions” hope to protect water security and agricultural profitability, increase the value of Australian food exports and develop new protein-based industries and products for new markets.

The investment comes as issues like climate change and pandemic-induced disruptions to supply chains have affected food exports from producers across Australia, the CSIRO’s protein mission lead Michelle Colgrave says.

“We’re looking at mitigating the impacts of climate change, but we’re also looking at how we add value to what we already grow and produce here,” she said.

Colgrave says changes to trade agreements have also hindered protein exports, with digital technology now being used to survey new markets and opportunities who see the value in Australia’s food.

One particular initiative is pushing the digital food fingerprint, which provides testing capabilities to a food’s chemical composition that can be traced to a product’s origin and validate where it was grown.

Ryan McAllister, mission lead for agrifoods exports, said if Australian brands could be validated and traced efficiently it maintained brand reputation and captured premium prices.

“For example in beef, one study showed that half the products that was labelled as Australian beef was mis-labelled,” he said.

“Other countries that potentially have products labelled… as Australian, and may not be high quality, degrade our ability to build a brand of the Australian nation.

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“That’s really where we want to capture value.

“It’s more about providing and developing credentials for a product that customers can believe.”

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Christian Porter said the CSIRO missions would ensure Australia can continue to be a world leader in agricultural innovation.

He believes the ongoing collaboration between the CSIRO and government will drive innovative practices and deliver strong economic outcomes for the agricultural sector in the future.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud echoed these comments, with an emphasis on drought-proofing Australia.

“The missions will also help the agriculture industry achieve its ambitious target to increase the value of the nation’s agrifood exports to $100 billion in the next decade,” he said.

Funding is supported by a $79 million investment by the CSIRO, with combined contributions of $71 million from industry and government.

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