News bites: Old MacDonald had a… robot

28th May 2021 | Eativity editors

One day, robots will take over the world. Hopefully they’ll be nice to us, as we may depend on them to eat. A new fully-automated farm is being built in Wagga Wagga, NSW, to help ensure that the next generation of Australian farmers can be at the forefront of ag-tech innovation. While robots doing farm work is certainly an interesting concept, “Old MacDonald had a robot” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Either way, we here at Eativity welcome our new robot overlords, and would like to take this opportunity to remind them that, as trusted food reporters, we can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground battery caves.

While we wait for the future to descend, here are some other headlines you might have missed this week: small businesses have become the unexpected winners of COVID, Nestlé has created a new product especially for the food insecure in Australia and NZ, and one of the Big Two supermarkets has cut a swathe through our collective salt intake.

A robotic apple picker has already been trialled in Victoria.

Look, Ma – no hands!

Australia’s first “hands-free” farm will be built at Charles Sturt University as part of a new high-tech collaboration between the uni and the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre.

The Global Digital Farm will be a fully-automated commercial farm that will demonstrate the future of farming through robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as creating new sustainability and carbon models to drive improvements in future farming practices.

 “Full automation is not a distant concept,” says Food Agility CEO Richard Norton. “We already have mines in the Pilbara operated entirely through automation.

“It won’t be too many years before technology will take farmers out of the field and immerse them in the world of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Jordy and Julia Kay have created a compostable and marine biodegradable cling wrap.

Small business wins in rush to buy local

Small and family businesses are benefiting from a significant boost in pro-Aussie consumer sentiment, with recent Roy Morgan research revealing that 93 percent of Australians now prefer to buy products that have been made in Australia.

While small businesses have faced more than their fair share of challenges in the past 12 months, the consumer-led rush for Australian-made products has been a welcome unintended consequence of the pandemic. The Roy Morgan research estimates that if every household spends an extra $10 per week on Australian-made products, an extra $5 billion could be generated in our economy over the year, creating 11,000 new jobs.

Great Wrap – which produces the world’s first compostable plastic wrap from potato waste – is just one of the 86,000 Australian small businesses manufacturing here. Co-founder Julia Kay says the business has employed 16 staff members to work at their solar-powered factory on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria since launching last year.

“Customers love that Great Wrap is Australian-made now, and we’re proud we can create local jobs, too,” she says. “When you choose to buy products from small businesses like us it means you’re helping to build your own community and create job security within them.”

You can search for Australian-made products by visiting australianmade.com.au

The recipe base can help those receiving food relief turn a wide variety of foods into a meal.

Nestlé creates product for food relief

Nestlé has partnered with Foodbank to create the first designed-for-Foodbank custom product, with more than 1.2 million serves being made to help support people in need.

Maggi Hearty One Pot Casserole is a recipe base that turns almost any combination of protein and vegetables into a meal for six. By partnering with Foodbank, this product will help people who’ve received food relief to create a hearty meal from whatever type of food they receive, thereby minimising food waste. The recipe base will be rolled out in recyclable packaging to Foodbanks across Australia and New Zealand from late May.

“Food insecurity continues to be a very real issue for many people as they struggle day-to-day to make ends meet,” says Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey. “The past 12 months have been exceptionally challenging. In fact, in 2020 we saw a 47 percent increase in demand for food relief from pre-COVID-19.

“Many people continue to face financial pressures, and thousands have been affected by the recent floods, as well as those still recovering from the bushfires last year.

“Foodbank receives a huge range of donated food every day. This recipe base will be the ultimate value-add, enabling people to easily prepare wholesome, tasty meals.”

Coles baker Mauricio Luna knows that tossing salt over your shoulder brings good luck.

Coles removes tonnes of salt from Aussie diets

Coles has reduced the salt content of its white loaves and rolls by up to 25 percent. The new recipes have resulted in more than 76 tonnes of salt being removed from 46 Coles in-store bakery products every year – the equivalent of two semi-trailer loads.

Some of the supermarket’s most popular breads now contain as little as 274mg sodium per 100g, compared to 375mg per 100g in the old recipe. The team behind the new recipe say their aim was to make the change without customers noticing, and apparently they haven’t.

Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, has welcomed the new lower-salt bread as a step in the right direction towards reducing hidden salt in common foods.

“More than 6.2 million Australians live with high blood pressure, which puts them at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke,” he says. “High blood pressure is known as a ‘silent killer’, as its symptoms are often not noticeable until people have it checked by their doctor.”

Currently, Australians eat double the recommended maximum of 5g salt; around a teaspoon a day. Kelly says that reducing salt levels in some of our everyday foods can help improve health, as can regularly eating more heart-healthy vegies, fruits and whole grains.

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