Organic Advantage

INDUSTRY NEWS:Australia's first no oxygen mill un-aired in Queensland

Organic industry stakeholders are proving they can think ahead when it comes to incorporating cutting-edge food technology innovations into their systems.

Certified organic miller, Z-Mills, is just one month away from the launch of Australia’s first no-oxygen, zero light and low-heat mill.

And according to Arthur Coert, Managing Director of Alligrator (the Queensland-based company responsible for the mill’s design), the system has the potential to "revolutionise the niche markets of high-quality and organic food processing", creating a flour product better for both human and environmental health.

The mill requires no water to operate and uses up to thirty percent less energy than its high-heat counterparts.

Mr. Coert says its 'cool milling' process - which concentrates on production of a wholemeal wheat product in a low heat environment (roughly 4 degrees celcius) - does not result in high percentage nutrient losses which can occur in popular high heat milling systems, and retains important nutrients present in the original grain kernel, including vitamins, phtyochemcials, enzymes, amino acids, minerals and essential oils.

“Under ‘cool milling’ the food remains alive and the whole material, wholesome – it creates a truly premium health product”, he says.

Thomas Cunliffe, CEO of Z-Mills, says non-loss of grain roughage and fibre in the Alligrator system could substantially increase the nutritional value of processed grain product staples like flour, eliminating the need for further synthetic nutrient fortification.?

He says many of the Alligrator mill’s enhanced efficiencies come from the fact it operates with just one moving piece, producing a fine powder from grains that spend on average, one third of a second in the milling chamber.

“A large blade, similar to a lawnmower blade, spins the grain through the air at around 400 metres per second. Processing occurs as grain impacts with grain – effectively the grain mills itself”, he says.

Mr. Coert says the technique will allow the processing of ‘difficult’ ingredients like brown rice, wheat bran and organic sugar as well as sticky, oily or fibrous materials which are not currently milled in conventional systems, without the problem of rancidity.

“Rancidity occurs when flour is exposed to air – and the Alligrator processing system is contained in one small sealed tower in an oxygen free, or nitrogen, processing environment”.

Mr. Cunliffe says the shelf life of no-oxygen milled product could be as long as two years.
“When a consumer opens a packet of flour processed by Z Mills in an Alligrator mill, it’s the first time that the grain’s been exposed to atmospheric conditions. Until that point there are few, if any enzymes activated”.

He says the process could have significant implications for organic food manufacturers and processors seeking to develop more functional processed food lines.

Find out more on no-oxygen milling! Contact at BFA on (07) 3350 5716 ext. 222 or email for further direction.

AGRIBUSINESS: Ins and outs - the rising costs of food production

How is the pump affecting organic production

Like every agricultural sector, organic production and supply is being significantly hit by rising input costs, with petrol named a major concern for organic stakeholders.

“A fuel rise affects everything we do – we source specialist products externally from companies whose freight costs are starting to rise. The cost of our seedlings (celery, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflowers and tomatoes), as one example, has gone up by around 9 per cent” says Anthony Bauer, large organic horticulturalist and vegetable grower in QLD.

He says the cost of running tractors has escalated to take “quite a chunk of your profit”.
And states that as inputs continue to rise, alternative efficiencies will need to be found.

The business has already established a farm group with other growers in the area to combine produce for transport, increase pellets per trip, and more effectively divide freight costs.

Anthony says they will also consolidate and localise packaging and share technologies in a bid to realise economies of scale, but that they would not be localising their market yet.

The group will also work together to negotiate stable price increases with retailers.

“The cost of delivery to market I’d estimate has gone up about 6 – 7%. With those kinds of figures on rising input costs, we’re going to need to be able to pass the cost on at some point. We haven’t done it yet but we’re working more closely with our buyers to set regular prices that are viable for us”.

Additionally, rising fuel costs and food inflation may also be affecting consumers’ organic purchases.

According to the Australian Retailers Association, many retailers aren’t applying a normal price mark-up to maintain margins because “consumers simply won’t pay more”.

And a report from Rabobank Food and Agribusiness, says in terms of food retail generally, not all recent increases in ingredient costs have been passed on to consumers. "This is due to delays in renegotiating supply contracts, hesitancy to push through price increases too quickly for fear of denting demand, and vigorous price competition between retailers. It has put considerable margin pressure on the Australian food processing sector".

Senior Rabobank analyst Tim Hunt states that rising food inflation – expected to run well into the second half of 2008 - is the result of three factors:

* Rising supply chain costs (including petrol)
* Local product shortages
*A global shortfall of critical food staples.

“The primary cause is a sharp rise in the cost of food ingredients due to three key influences— strong pricing for agricultural commodities in international markets, local product shortages (brought about partly by drought) and the increasing costs of producing many food products from rises in the cost of feed grain, fertiliser and water,” he said, adding processors were also affected.

“Most products undergo some degree of processing, packaging, distribution and marketing and the cost of these activities has also been pushed up on the back of rising prices for energy, fuel, capital, plastic and aluminium”.

On a positive note, the recently released Australian Government Australian Food Statistics figures show a strong and continued demand for healthier food options.

The report states there is “increased interest in tailoring food products to healthy lifestyle solutions; as well as increased demand for “the demonstrable accountability of the environmental impact of food production systems as income standards continue to increase”.

According to the report, ethical compliance from food producers will ensure continued market access, though at a varying level of market premiums and advantage

ENVIRONMENT: Soil carbon claims - why we're keeping cautious

This month's release of an action-orientated draft report on how Australia can tackle climate change has given carbon-storing farmers some direction on how their efforts might be used in the future.

Australia’s chief climate change advisor, Professor Ross Garnaut, has stated it’s essential Australia recognises soil carbon in any long-term emissions trading scheme (ETS) which includes the agricultural sector.

But he has recommended agriculture not be included in a first round ETS, because soil carbon measurement techniques are not yet accurate enough.

“This is one of the reasons we can't go quickly with agriculture - measurement administration is crucial and my view is we shouldn't be moving on agriculture until we've got that right".

What’s slowing carbon’s inclusion

Dr. Brian Murphy, senior soil scientist, says there is a level of uncertainty in soil carbon levels and their measurable relationship back to farm management practises.

He says carbon measurements ultimately need to be in soil carbon density and equated to tonnes of carbon per hectare, but are currently most often measured in carbon percentage (the amount of carbon per 100g of soil) which was not accurate enough for use in an ETS.

He says obstacles to measuring soil density include cost, consistency in method, and the depth of soil measured for carbon.

“To just go into a paddock and say 'this is what the soil carbon is' sounds simple, but it needs a standard protocol. The Kyoto protocol stipulates soil carbon must be measured to a depth of 30cm because that’s where a lot of soil activity happens - at the moment standard soil tests in Australia are conducted at a depth of around 10cm and with every centimetre you go down, the cost of accurate carbon measurement goes up.”

He says conducting tests on individual properties in Australia could also initially be constrained by comparatively high measurement costs.

“In traditional soil tests you push a core in the ground for testing. To measure bulk carbon density, you need to assess the volume of soil against the volume of the core. It’s one step up in terms of assessment and it requires a bit more control, skill and management in measurement, using some new technologies”.

He says once one method of measurement became widely adapted the cost of its application should decrease.

Other problems with soil carbon measurement include linking the length of time carbon is intended to be captured in soil with land management techniques. Dr. Murphy says land management procedures could need to be agreed on in advance for a farmer’s carbon to be measured for offset gain.

“If a farmer converted to pasture based operations to build up carbon levels to say 60 tonnes per hectare and then converted back to cropping practises for a short time, a significant amount of carbon would be lost. One of the ways to get around this might for example be a contractual agreement under which specific land management practises would be stipulated over a number of years”.

He says best practise land management for carbon storage is being well researched, as well as being more frequently utilised on an informal trail-and-error basis by farmers looking to improve soil fertility.

“Perennial pasture, controlled livestock traffic and minimal tillage and disturbance are at the forefront of the issue – all the conservation techniques” he says.

Comparing carbon storage to ‘a tap and leaky bucket’ he says some climates will always be more conducive to its capture.

“The amount of biomass in soil determines how much carbon you’ll store and the climate directly influences the rate and volume at which biomass will grow, and its rate of release as CO2 back into the atmosphere.

“To put it to an analogy – biomass growing is like a tap filling up a bucket and the carbon breaking back down is a leak in the bucket. A climate where it’s quite hot and soil is wet tends to have a higher rate of carbon breakdown”.

He says rather than seeking to ‘patch the leak’, a process affected by many variables, land managers should focus on maximising their rate of biomass production.

In Australia, Dr. Murphy says high altitude zones such as the Snowy Mountains, and elevated coastal regions, tended to store higher levels of carbon.

“If you had to describe ideal carbon storage climate it would probably be temperate with a lot of rain – the north coast of NSW is a good example” he says.

In terms of beneficial crops to grow he says wheat and canola as relatively low carbon nitrogen emitters, with crops like peas releasing higher nitrogen levels from harvest stubble.

And of particular relevance to drought affected farmers, he says there are definite links between high carbon matter in soil and increased water storage capacity.

HEALTH: How to make the most of healthy food claims

This was the question on everyone’s lips when scientists, educators and marketing experts gathered this month at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans to discuss how consumers influence and receive food-health and food-safety messages.

With consumer interest in health and wellness and ‘what’s better for you’ increasing, they say the knowledge of how to communicate the healthy food message has become pivotal – but that ultimately, taste could be what sells.

Nancy Childs, PhD, Professor of Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia suggests new ingredients and health claims will drive consumers to try a product, but good taste will lead to repeat purchases. “Taste is what it’s all about,” she proclaimed. “The more health-related information and claims that manufacturers present, the more taste assurance the consumer needs.”

The gathering also suggested that consumers respond to positive information - they want to hear about health and wellness rather than disease or deficiencies. Consumers will also look toward price value, as well as a product that will fit into their lives and extend their life experience rather than cause them to “jump” into a brand-new way of seeing or tasting foods.

Flavour variety is also a key with Dr Childs citing the success of Gatorade’s many flavour incarnations maintaining consumer attention for decades.

The other issue with product adoption is that, despite information about the health benefits, some are too stubborn to take it all on board. “People consider themselves knowledgeable already,” said Christine Bruhn, PhD, researcher of consumer attitudes to food quality and safety at the University of California, and IFT spokesperson. “They’ve been doing these things just fine for all these years. They think they’re invincible. ‘Other people get ill, not me’.”

The issue of food safety education is a concern and, while many people search for healthy food options, they don’t help themselves by having a lack of food safety knowledge. “Still they don’t know recommended temperatures (for meats), how to store leftovers, and very few use a meat thermometer. We have to train them on the details,” adds Bruhn.

Speaking to consumers directly and personally, especially through the Internet if the audience is younger than 35 years old, was found to be crucial. “Brands can create communities around which people can solve problems,” Dr Childs advised, while noting that many young mothers network over the Web with health information, providing a great opportunity for health food marketers.

Editor’s note: Continued education of consumers on what organic means and its benefits is a key priority of the BFA Group, with the gradual release of a consumer and retailer orientated marketing campaign set to begin late this year. Contact the BFA Media department for more details on 07 3350 5716 ext 233.

Original article source: Ausfood news written by Daniel Palmer available at:

GOOD TASTE: Organic EXPO gets fresh with 2008 awards and events

Organisers of Australia’s biggest celebration of all that is chemical free – the Organic Expo (Sydney 25th – 27th July) is making sure there’s something organic for everyone in the lead up to the event.

A range of fresh activities will cover anyone from age under-three, to conscious cooks, pure connoisseurs, green gardeners or plain, good produce lovers.

Event action has already kicked off with the winners of the organic wine show officially announced. Congratulatiosn to:

Random Valley Organic Wines – Best Wine of Show and Best Red Wine of Show for their 2007 Shiraz
The Yalumba Wine Company - Best White Wine of Show for their 2007 Yalumba Organic SA Viognier
Wildstone Wines - Best Preservative-Free Wine of Show for their 2007 Preservative-Free Merlot

And organic accolades go to last week’s winners of the Organic Expo Awards in the following categories:

• Best organic food product: Kailis Organic Olive Groves – for their Kailis Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Premium Blend)
• Best Organic Non-Food Product: Royal Routine for their Organic Cotton Underwear
• Best New Organic Product (food or non-food, been available for less than 1 year for commercial sale in present form): Blue Hills Honey for their Blue Hills Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey
• Most Innovative Organic Product (food or non-food): African Pacific for their Nui Organic Coconut Flour

- Sean Moran, Chef, Sean’s Panorama
- John Newton, Food Journalist
- Carla Oates, The Beauty Chef
- Tammie Phillips – About Life, Natural Marketplace
- Alexandra Graham, Australian Conservation Foundation
- Catriona Macmillan, Organic Traders & Consumers Network, OFA

Awards will be officially presented at 10:30am Friday 25 July on the show’s official trade-day to help kick start what will be a rewarding weekend for all.

An award for marketing excellence and product stall presentation will also be presented.

Mary Hackett, event organiser says online free pre-registration for trade and media visitors is advised (visit

Last minute interest from stall-holders seeking limited remaining spaces should be directed to Shamus Ph: 02 9380 5563.

Mary says other activities shaping up to be particularly popular include the new “Organic Kids Fun Zone” where youngsters will learn about organic systems and natural food production in an interactive environment.

“Highlights include Farmyard Friends, Eco Art and Creepy Crawley, and BFA nutritionist Shane Heaton will be on hand for a parent’s Q&A”, she says.

And for more mature food lovers, tasting tables, a demonstration stage and a strong celebrity chef and gardener line up is sure to please.

“The Organic Expo is delighted to welcome back renowned chef Kylie Kwong and Gardening Australia presenter & Organic Gardener Magazine Horticultural Editor Jerry Coleby-Williams. We would also like to introduce Darren Simpson, resident chef of the TV program Sunrise and Carla Oats, beauty chef and author of ‘Feeding your Skin’”.

The July 2008 Organic Expo featuring the Green Show will be held on the 25th – 27th July 2008 (Friday 25th is the official trade-day) at Hall 1, Sydney Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour. For more information contact: 02 9380 5563 /, or visit

Your Organic Advantage
Editors: Holly Vyner and Jaime Newborn

Ph: 07 3350 5716 (International +61 7 3350 5716)