The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is working with grower-owned body Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation) to develop high-value, nutrient-rich snacks from imperfect-looking vegetables.
The project will focus on how phytonutrients from vegetables can be separated or extracted and then used in powders, concentrates or vegetable-dense snacks and supplements.
With up to 40 per cent of produce going to waste due to visual imperfections, according to CSIRO chief scientist Mary Ann Augustin, those wasted vegetables could be put to better use through processing, or fermentation, which has added health benefits.
“Fermentation is a great natural way of delivering the good bacteria through food,” Augustin said. “We are investigating ways vegetables lost in the food supply can be processed and presented in a consumer-friendly manner because it has huge health benefits.”
Another aspect of the project will be looking at ways to make processing pants more accessible to growers, with many unable to justify the costs of freighting those unused vegetables long distances.
“We are also looking into the interest in setting up processing hubs in key growing regions to make it easier for growers to process their underutilised produce and create these high-value, nutrient-dense products,” she added.
Hort Innovation CEO John Lloyd said limiting waste in the field and off cuts caste aside after processing are a priority for the industry.
“On top of this, Australians are not eating enough vegetables,” he said. “This project is addressing both these issues by determining a way we can turn underutilised produce – such as ugly veggies that are not to specification – into high-value, super-high-nutrient ingredients and products.”
The project is funded by Hort Innovation through its vegetable levies and funds from the Australian government, as well as co-investment from the CSIRO.