Focusing on tapping into new protein markets and strengthening the supply chain are key to improving food innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia chair, Dr Michele Allan says. Allan was part of a panel discussion at the SparkLabs Cultiv8 Demo Day, held in Sydney yesterday (10 September). Fostering food innovation, reinvesting in agritech, and producing the correct raw materials were key talking points during the keynote panel.
“I think, as Australia, what we’re doing really well is looking at what other protein markets we can play in, whether that’s plant protein or other protein markets. But if we look at the plant protein replacement for meat, we aren’t actually growing the right raw materials to participate in that market.”
“We will miss out on that market if we don’t do the right things, such as vertical markets; if we don’t plant the right legumes, and if we don’t look at other ways of producing. So I think that’s where we can go to innovate.”
Around 600 attendees from the Australian agtech industry, as well as food entrepreneurs, investors and government leaders, were at the event to hear from seven start-ups who have been through the SparkLabs Cultiv8 Accelerator Program.
The keynote panel focused on Australian innovation and the transformation on how food is created, distributed and consumed.
“If we look at the [agriculture] industry as the fourth largest exporter of product out of this country, we do a number of things really well,” said Allan.
“For plant protein, why don’t we grow them in vertical glasshouses? We’d probably get more crops, higher concentrated protein, and probably use less energy by using sunlight to grow them, so there’s a number of opportunities.”
Founder and CEO of Campos Coffee Will Young said to foster improvement in the production industry, whether it is in coffee or other, “we have to support those who do challenge the norms and keep asking how we can do better, as well as trying new things”.
“There is some investment going into new varietals of coffee, but it’s only a small operation,” said Young.
“The risk if we don’t invest in R&D is there’ll be ups and downs. If there’s at any point a bad disease that hits Brazil, our cup of coffee will be pretty expensive after that, maybe even up to twelve dollars a cup. Brazil produces 46-51 per cent of the world production so we could be in a lot of trouble.”
Cost, both within the supply chain and of the end product for consumers, is a major concern stunting further development and reinvestment into agriculture technology and production within Australia.
On the panel, restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo discussed the price paid for meat and produce is not sustainable for farmers, producers or business owners to reinvest in new innovation and contribute to finding solutions to issues such as climate change.
“As long as there’s cheap food available to buy, whether it is through a supermarket or otherwise, the problem continues,” he said.
Allan added: “We don’t pay enough for our food or our meat, a lot of producers don’t get the return to then take up more innovation, they’re on a survival basis. We need to look at the entire supply chain and the real cost of our product to reinvest in innovation.”
Taking the next SIPP
One of the seven start-ups aiming to do their part in innovation and sustainability was SIPP, a Byron Bay-based functional coffee brand.
During his presentation, co-founder Luke Zocchi, shared with attendees that 2.5 billion cups of coffee are had each day globally, with 3 million coffee pods contributing to landfill in Australia.
SIPP is packaged in “home compostable packaging”, sourced by an Australian supplier, that can decompose completely within 26 weeks.
“We are the only coffee company in the world that is using this packaging at the moment,” said Zocchi.
“It is certified by Australian and European standards with home compostable packaging, which means once you’re done with the product, you can dig a hole, put it in the ground and it will dissolve.”
Due to Zocchi’s health and nutrition background, “it was important to me to tick all the boxes from a health point of view” for SIPP’s range. Its products are vegan friendly, dairy-, gluten- and soy-free, and has six organic grains, and a heat resistant prebiotic.
“This creates great gut health,” said Zocchi. “There’s also a complex carbohydrate to give you a sustained energy release, and has a coconut creamer in there to help with energy levels and metabolism.”
During FY2019, SIPP’s revenue growth was 141 per cent, and the brand has expanded its reach into W Hotels in Brisbane as the complimentary drink in every room of the hotel.
SIPP aims to expand into American markets “to keep up with demand for distribution and supply”, as well as look further into Asia, and develop new blends of coffee.