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University joins nationwide food-innovation collaboration

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Thursday, 23 February 2017 2:25pm

Grapes image
Grapes are being “electroporated” using pulsed electric-field processing to release bioactive ingredients and flavour compounds important in wine making.

New foods produced by novel techniques using electric fields and ultra-high pressures are likely spinoffs from a collaboration involving the University of Otago.

The University has joined forces with the New Zealand Food Innovation Network (NZFIN) in FoodSouth Otago, a partnership which will boost a food-science pilot plant on its Dunedin campus working on new food products.

The network will supply equipment for the facility and also employ a technical manager to work with clients on innovative-food projects.

Otago’s Head of Food Science and FoodSouth Otago Manager, Professor Indrawati Oey, says the collaboration will open the door for students and staff to new food projects, improve industry links and provide access to bigger and better processing equipment.

“We will develop prototype processed-food products that the company can further evaluate for health benefits, sensory properties and marketability.”

Prototype foods are being made in the University facility using new methods.

Grapes are being “electroporated” using pulsed electric-field processing to release bioactive ingredients and flavour compounds important in wine making. The same process can make cheaper cuts of meat more tender.

Professor Oey says the joint venture will include a high-pressure homogenizer, which can change the structure of foods by applying huge amounts of pressure, of up to 2,000 standard atmospheres.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says the partnership illustrates the University’s “commitment to contribute to the economic development of New Zealand industry”.

“We do this via teaching and research also, but this initiative will help us assist companies to develop innovation products from concept right to in-market validation.”

The venture will have the wider NZFIN to draw on in Christchurch, Palmerston North, Auckland and Hamilton, Professor Blaikie says.

Enterprise Dunedin Director John Christie says the Grow Dunedin Partnership contributed $20,000 towards the initiative.

“Collaboration with the University of Otago is important in assisting to grow nationally and internationally competitive companies in the food sector.

“Giving local companies access to resources available from the University through the New Zealand Food Innovation Network is an exciting opportunity for a significant sector of our community.”

NZFIN South Island Manager John Morgan says the University has “strong food science and product development capability”.

“We are keen to work with them to extend these skills and help make them available to help the industry grow.”

The network, a government initiative funded by Callaghan Innovation, began in 2011 with funding of $21 million.

For further information, please contact:

Professor Indrawati Oey
Head of Food Science
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 8735

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