Innovation stations: 2021 agrifood award
A new way to flavour-bomb meat-free products and smarter farming systems that can thrive through drought were among the innovations recognised at the annual awards of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), which recognises outstanding senior and emerging innovators in research and development (R&D).
ATSE’s prestigious annual ICM Agrifood Award is bestowed on two applied scientists who have made significant contributions to the agricultural sector. The 2021 winners are…
Dr Anna El-Tahchy
Dr El-Tahchy is the Chief Technical Officer at Nourish Ingredients, a spin-off company from the CSIRO’s Agriculture and Food business unit. She is working at the helm of efforts to improve the flavour and sustainability of plant-based meat substitute food products.
Dr El-Tahchy has been leading a team of scientists at Nourish Ingredients to create animal-free fats that make plant-based meat alternatives taste better while also being healthier and more sustainable than palm and coconut oils, which are traditionally used in meat alternatives. The key to the technology is a special fermentation process.
“The texture is exactly what we need to supplement these proteins without having to overload the products with them,” she explains. “So, there’ll be fewer carbohydrates and better taste, and it’s actually mimicking animal fats.”
Dr Lindsay Bell
Dr Bell is the Farming Systems Scientist at CSIRO, undertaking world-leading research to help dryland crop and livestock farmers manage climate variability. His research focuses on redesigning cropping systems and reintegrating crops and livestock to more efficiently use highly variable rainfall to increase profitability and reduce losses during droughts.
Dr Bell has been instrumental in developing dual-purpose canola that works both as a crop and a feedstock, as well as designing protocols to help farmers graze their crops at a time that reduces the risk of grain yield losses.
“Growing up on a farm in western Queensland, I have first-hand experience with many of the challenges facing agriculture,” he says. “This has driven me to try to identify practices, technology and markets that help farmers become more viable in the short and long term.”
Advance Australia’s strengths
ATSE President Professor Hugh Bradlow says that the Agrifood Award recognises the vital role of R&D in advancing Australia’s strength as an agricultural powerhouse.
“These two individuals are substantially improving the food sector in Australia,” he says. “The work being conducted by Dr El-Tahchy has the potential to change the way people view plant-based alternatives, whether they be vegans, vegetarians or lovers of meat.
“And Dr Bell is helping farmers work smarter to deal with Australia’s variable climate conditions and the increasing severity of droughts.”
To view the full list of the 2021 ATSE Awards winners, head to atse.org.au