Tasmania’s taste for fermentation has received a significant boost, with FermenTasmania winning an $840,000 grant to encourage greater connectivity in Tasmania’s agricultural sector.
One of four Food Innovation Australia Limited cluster program winners, FermenTasmania has plans to grow the fermentation industry beyond food and drinks.
FermenTasmania executive director Dr Tom Lewis said the concept of fermentation as a transformative process where bacteria, yeast and fungi turned sugars into food acids, carbon dioxide and alcohol was already well understood when it came to consumption.
We already enjoy the fruits of fermentation through products like wine, cheese, yoghurt, kimchi and kombucha, but it could also be a catalyst for further agricultural purposes.
“Food and drinks are obvious fermented products, but the [FermenTasmania] board sees broader possibilities with bioenergy and bioproducts,” Dr Lewis said.
“If we do well in this we can make Tasmania a global go-to region for fermented products,” he said.
Taking these plans down to a practical level, the $840,000 grant will be used to employ cluster managers and administration support to roll out the idea of fermentation industry associated businesses around the state.
Part of the funding will also be used to spread the word about the work FermenTasmania does and the courses it will be running.
These courses will run at a number of levels to capture a wider market, from “enthusiastic amateurs” who want to know how to make their own fermented product as home, through to commercial producers who want to start a business using fermentation as an integral tool in their product offering.
There will also be courses on running, marketing and growing small businesses.
“We’re doing a few small courses now, but it hasn’t been many because of HR issues. We’ll be able to ramp up,” Dr Lewis said.
If we do well in this we can make Tasmania a global go-to region for fermented products.- Dr Tom Lewis
FermenTasmania will also be holding its first fermentation industry conference around April 2019 and will focus on building its “sand pit” where producers can test their ideas while tapping into expertise and networks.
“We’re starting to get very serious about our sand pit; our own pilot scaled production facility. We’re going to start looking at that,” Dr Lewis said.
Support from Food Innovation Australia to build a Tasmanian cluster has given FermenTasmania the extra boost it needed to encourage fermentation, launch new programs and boost employment in the state.
“It means the idea of FermenTasmania has been given international validity, because of the people on the selection panel,” Dr Lewis said.
“At the end of the three years the sand pit will have been built to allow product development and we will have increased our research capacity.
“We’ve just had four days in Queensland talking about industry clusters and there’s so much enthusiasm at this time,” he said.
Food Innovation Australia launched the cluster grant program at Stillwater Gallery in Launceston in October, with FermenTasmania expressing a keen interest in applying at the time.
This initiative offered matched funding support for new and existing clusters, Food Innovation Australia chairman Peter Schutz said.
“We’re delighted to go on this journey, guide and support the winners to solve common challenges, innovate, and grow the competitive advantage of their regions,” Mr Schutz said.
Remaining grant winners were East Gippsland Food Cluster, Victoria; Food and Agribusiness Network, Queensland; and Central Coast Industry Connect, NSW.
Find out more by contacting Dr Tom Lewis on firstname.lastname@example.org