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Green algae under water

Future food engineering

Transforming the delivery of nutrition
We’re developing innovative food processing technologies to maximise food safety, quality and nutritional integrity, and repurposing high-value waste.

Our research is taking on the challenge of producing superior foods from new and sustainable future ingredients.

This theme is driven by a strong consumer demand for fresh, minimally processed foods from both plant-based ingredients and from novel protein sources.

Our goals are to:

  • discover minimising nutrient losses during processing.
  • design sustainable manufacturing processes that minimise food waste and maintain nutritional quality, and
  • engineer food microstructure to improve palatability and control the rate of in-body nutrient absorption.
  • develop technologies and solutions that promote the food circular economy.

Our experts: Associate Professor John Kavanagh, Dr Dale McClure

Microalgae are a large class of microorganisms which are widely found in fresh and saltwater. They have the potential to produce a wide range of bioactive compounds which can be applied in the food industry. Examples of this include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and carotenoid pigments.

A key advantage of using microalgae to produce these compounds is that they are photosynthetic, meaning they use sunlight and carbon dioxide as their major inputs. This makes any potential process highly sustainable, which is increasingly important given the pressing need for green production technologies.

We aim to develop new processes using microalgae to produce the compounds we need. We have successfully developed pilot-scale processes for the production of vitamin K1 as well as lutein and we are currently exploring translational pathways for industrial uptake.

Our experts: Professor Timothy Langrish, Dr Dale McClure

Many compounds with health benefits, as well as pharmaceuticals and probiotics can be degraded as they pass through the Gastrointestinal tract (GI). Ideally it would be possible to deliver such products to the desired location with a minimum of degradation or other issues.

We aim to develop novel encapsulation technologies to ensure that the products can be delivered to the right location and that the amount of degradation during their transit through the GI tract is minimised.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor David Fletcher, Professor Tim Langrish, Associate Professor John Kavanagh, Dr Dale McClure, Dr Sina Naficy, Dr Farshad Oveissi

There is a need for improved laboratory models of digestion as these can provide valuable data on how foods break down, as well as validation data for computational models. Another key advantage of this approach is that it reduces the need for experiments involving animals or people.

We aim to develop the next generation of laboratory-based stomach models which can be used to understand the behaviour of the stomach. Such models can also be used as a tool to understand the interaction between food structure and its breakdown which may be highly useful in development of novel food products.

Our experts: Professor Richard Banati, Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor Timothy Langrish, Associate Professor Aaron Schindeler, Dr Peter Valtchev  

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for infants in the first six months of life, as infants are immuno-incompetent at birth and rely on the immune functionality of the breastmilk and the mothers immune system to provide the necessary protection until their immune system has developed sufficiently.

When mothers are unable to breastfeed, a reliable, high quality alternative source must be found. Current processing techniques in milk banks only allow for small batch processing with a short-shelf life of donor milk, and thermal pasteurisation reduces the immune functionality. Consequently, this donor milk is very difficult to access.

We aim to improve the processing of donor milk to extend shelf-life, and quality of donor milk in order to make it a widely available resource to mothers.