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Hi-Tech Food Library Launched in WA

Image Credits: UQ, Press Release.

Scientists at Murdoch University’s Australian National Phenome Centre (ANPC) are embarking on a project with SMEs across Western Australia to create unique chemical fingerprinting technologies for Western Australian produce. The overall aim of this project is to connect nutritional quality and composition with positive healthcare outcomes through nutritional health claims. The four-year, $1.6M project sees the ANPC partner with a global scientific equipment manufacturer and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

Dr Ruey Leng Loo, who is leading the project from Murdoch University’s Centre for Computational and Systems Medicine, said that the team is going to generate detailed chemical information of food and food products to verify their chemical make-up, nutritional functionality and other key attributes such as authenticity and freshness.

Their approach will enable food quality monitoring and allow fingerprint traceability. This will help Australian producers achieve higher prices for their goods in premium markets and boost the country’s reputation as a supplier of some of the best agricultural products to the world. In time, the project will also cover nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products.

Several local providers are partnering in the program to have their produce analysed, including Mt Lindesay. The team is breeding organic globe artichokes for multiple health benefits at the molecular level, said Dr Mark McHenry, the owner of a mixed-farming enterprise.

The research will take place at the ANPC on Murdoch University’s Perth campus and within the Food Innovation Precinct of the soon-to-be-opened Peel Business Park. The project is part of the Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre, which is delivering a 10-year national research program that uses high-tech solutions to increase the nutritional and commercial values of Australian food products.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Director of the ANPC and Program Lead for the CRC project said the research presents significant benefits for both the food industry and healthcare. He noted that the project uniquely leverages the multilevel analytical firepower of the ANPC to deeply characterise food composition in a way that helps us understand the molecular basis of healthy nutrition and will help enable future preventative medicine strategies at the individual and population level.

Dr Iris Mangelschots, President of Bruker BioSpin’s Applied, Industrial & Clinical division, said the project presented a great scientific partnership. He said that by linking the detailed chemical fingerprints of premium food products – generated using Bruker’s nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) FoodScreener™ system – with biofunctionality, this project can develop scientific evidence to support value-added health claims for Australian food producers while leveraging quantitative nutritional information to support metabolic healthcare decisions. In addition, these biofunctional health claims will be validated at the ANPC by using Bruker’s IVDr Clinical NMR Research Platform.

The high-throughput NMR technology provides a wealth of information that is both targeted (quantification of defined substances) and non-targeted (identifying deviations from reference spectra in an unbiased multi-omics approach), ranging from the detailed chemical composition of the food to the geographical origin and identification of any form of adulteration.

DPIRD Horticulture and Irrigated Agriculture Director Rohan Prince said the visionary project would provide scientific proof of the quality and attributes of WA produce, helping to forge new market opportunities.

The department will link industry with the facility by identifying priority farming systems and agricultural products for ANPC analysis that have the potential to create a competitive advantage and benefits to WA’s primary industries, according to Rohan Prince, DPIRD Horticulture and Irrigated Agriculture Director.

This exciting project is using science to validate WA’s enviable reputation as a reliable supplier of safe, clean, nutritious premium quality products to provide opportunities for product differentiation and value-adding and to capture a share of the competitive global food market.

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