Technology to add value to produce

TASMANIA is set to adopt new technology to make and export high-quality ready-meals, to add value to local produce such as beef, salmon, fruit and vegetables.

The University of Tasmania's Centre for Food Innovation, headed by Professor Roger Stanley, is looking to import a new food processing technology known as MATS.

The acronym stands for microwave assisted thermal sterilisation, which has been developed in the US for military use.

The technology is not in use anywhere else in the world.

The process creates high-quality meals that retain their appearance, taste, texture and nutrition, by quickly heating the product to temperatures required for sterilisation, and cooling it quickly in water.

The end product does not need to be refrigerated or frozen, which extends its shelf life and makes it both simpler and cheaper to transport.

The move could be the answer for the state's food growers -  struggling with international price pressures and transport problems - to increase their profit margins.

``It's really about what it's worth to the consumer, and tailoring products to the consumer's needs,'' Professor Stanley said.

The technology could also be adopted for ration packs for Australian troops, overseas aid parcels, mass catering such as in hospitals or aged care facilities, and for the outdoor adventure market.

The CFI is developing a proposal to acquire a pilot machine and put it to the test locally.

``It's not only about the technology, it's about developing the training to assist to get the capability we need,'' Professor  Stanley said.

The CFI is a collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, which is building a  $19 million facility at Scottsdale, and the CSIRO's food science division.

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