Turning waste into a source of income
A project to turn surplus tomatoes and peppers into high-value powders and extracts is also reducing food waste by up to 70%. This report from the CRC Fight against food waste. This article first appeared in the August 2021 issue of Food and Drink Business.
In the Whitsundays region of Queensland, the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association represents farmers who produce up to 40 percent of the annual crop of tomatoes and peppers in Australia.
Each year Australia produces nearly half a million tonnes of tomatoes and 76,000 tonnes of peppers. It is estimated that between 30 and 40% of production is lost or wasted. For producers in the Bowen Gumlu region, around 173,000 tonnes of surplus produce is wasted.
In 2020, the producers’ association partnered with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Center (CRC) and the Whitsunday Regional Council to undertake a three-part project. to find solutions.
Its goal is to add value to produce $ 300 million, including the 150,000 tonnes of tomatoes and 23,000 tonnes of capsicum waste generated in the Bowen and Gumlu area.
Reduce waste, gain value
Tackling Food Waste CRC CEO Dr Steven Lapidge says there are often high levels of waste in horticulture that must be addressed if growers are to get the most out of what they produce, while minimizing food waste.
The waste is caused by disease and damage; strict standards for the shape and appearance of products; packaging and marketing process; and consumer behavior. A lack of coordination between actors in the food supply chain is also a factor.
Valuable nutrients and resources thrown away as food waste, especially fruit and vegetable waste, can be recovered and reused. These new products can be used in processed foods, nutraceuticals and complementary health care.
This collaborative project is a prime example of what is possible when industry and government at all levels work together
provide solutions to producers.
The use of rejected crop streams not only improves the profitability of the industry by saving on waste disposal costs, but also by creating valuable secondary streams and co-products.
In the first stage, the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association conducted trials of processing raw materials to create high value added nutrient-rich and bioactive powders and liquid extracts for use in food industries, health and animal nutrition.
Successful trials produced freeze-dried and heat-dried powders with significant nutrient and bioactive content (lycopene and -carotene), and probiotic tomato juice.
“This collaborative project is a great example of what is possible when industry and government at all levels work together to deliver solutions to producers,” says Lapidge.
The second stage started in June 2021 and continues the development of the extraction and conversion technologies developed during the first stage. Using appropriate technologies to turn surplus or waste into higher value products could help reduce waste in this sector by at least 70 percent. This would help reduce wasted crops, save resources used in production and reduce the associated carbon footprint.
The main tomato and pepper varieties will also be screened for any significant variation in the nutritional and bioactive content of the finished products. In addition, DAF will develop a probiotic tomato drink, including tasting sessions and sensory evaluation.
Ben Baldwin, CFO of the Agribusiness and Data Science group, said: “It is exciting to collaborate on the development of products that not only innovate in the market, but also reduce waste and deliver tangible financial savings to producers as well as consumer health benefits.
“If they are successful, they will bring value to the entire supply chain. “
A third phase of this project is also planned, subject to the results of the second phase, which will consider further scaling up and commercialization of the technologies.
The project explores innovative extraction technologies to create new bioactive and functional foods with high added value. If successful, these technologies can be used to add value to other major horticultural products in the region, such as melons and cucumbers.