Innovation in Food Supply Chain

Researchers at the University of Sydney want to improve the way people receive their food. The University is designing sensors and decision-making tools to understand food production and consumption with the aim to minimise food waste, improve health and innovate the supply chain.

Supply chains are the physical and information systems and processes used to deliver a product or service from one location or entity to another. A food supply chain refers to the processes that describe how food from a small-sized enterprise, such as a farm, ends up with a consumer. The processes include production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

There are two main areas of research the University is focussing on:

Colorimetric Food Sensors

Colorimetric gas sensors that detect the early release of gases from food spoilage are of great importance in food safety and food conservation. Yet, such sensors are not broadly implemented as they are incompatible with food packaging and non-functional at the low temperatures at which food is stored.

To achieve a suitable colorimetric food sensor, it is essential to optimise the extent of colour change, design the fabrication process to be suitable for large scale manufacturing, and fabricate sensors that are active at sub-zero temperature. Such sensors will be an invaluable tool for the detection of food spoilage and will benefit packaging industry, consumers, and producers.

Smart Biodegradable Packaging

On average 7.5 million tons of food is wasted in Australia every year, with householders throwing away in excess of $8 billion worth of food annually. It has been estimated that two-thirds of the food waste can be avoidable if there were food sensors capable of evaluating the quality of food along the supply chain.

Such exacerbated wastages along with the exponentially increasing world population (9.8 billion by 2050) require the food industry not only to produce enough food, but also to minimise the food loss, implement rigorous food safety regulations, and address the environmental side effects of their operations.

These newly evolved challenges in the food industry can be addressed by biodegradable smart packaging where the package is not a simple passive barrier anymore but can monitor the quality of food over time, provide traceability and network connectivity, and is biodegradable with minimal environmental footprints.

The Centre for Advanced Food Enginomics at the University of Sydney addresses global issues arising from growing and ageing populations and increasing chronic disease, while helping the Australian food industry to deliver a safe, sustainable, secure, and competitive food supply.

There is also an increased demand for high-quality food, the need to minimise food waste and to ensure that the local food industry remains competitive in the global marketplace. The Centre for Advanced Food Enginomics (CAFE) aims to meet these challenges by providing innovative solutions in food products, processes and supply chains to promote human wellbeing globally.