New SIFT centre opens affordable opportunities for value adding

The opening of a new $75 million Food Innovation Precinct near Mandurah has thrown open the doors for local primary producers to affordably explore value adding opportunities and downstream processing, to increase profits and expand their product offerings.

Located on a sprawling greenfield development on the outskirts of Mandurah, the new Murdoch Food Centre resembles a high-tech University from the outside, but once inside it is highly functional with work rooms, classrooms and meeting rooms surrounded by world-class processing equipment.

The Centre has now opened its first stage, which includes the Sustainable Innovative Food Technology (SIFT) Centre, with an on-site cannery due to open in May 2024.

SIFT Managing Director, Stuart Johnson said the centre was built to support activities on the other side of the farm gate.

“There’s plenty of primary producers with land-based products, as well as seafood that have ideas and aspirations to expand their product offering through value-adding and downstream processing to create premium packaged products, but cost and know how are always the things that stops them.”

“Using the Sustainable Innovative Food Technology Centre, producers need only pay a nominal fee, based on the scale of their needs, to test their concepts and develop trial packages,” Stuart said.

Mr Johnson said it is more than just providing a building with world-class processing equipment.

“We have a variety of equipment that most people wouldn’t expect, including a high-pressure machine that can perfectly shuck 1000 oysters at the press of a button.”

“Access to experience is always one of the big challenges for the primary industry sector. Our primary industries partners are highly experienced in growing and harvesting their products, but their access to post-harvest regulations and processing knowledge is likely to be limited, and that’s where we can step in.”

“We have a team of people that have decades of experience taking new products to market. They are familiar with the statutory requirements, such as health regulations, as well as the most effective ways to package, the best ways to test finished products and the most efficient ways to market. It’s an integrated post-harvest journey.”

“We have a team of experts, including a food processing engineer, quality manager and approximately 20 graduate and post-graduate students, so there is a wealth of knowledge and experience available,” he added.

The facility is designed to support market and batch testing, through to small scale production, but it is big enough to support in-market testing for up to 40 supermarkets.

“Any company testing at this scale will know quickly if they have a market ready product or not.”

Mr Johnson said the opportunities for Western Australia are enormous.

“An average large Supermarket will carry up to 50,000 food products on its shelves, yet only around three percent of these products are from Western Australia, so there’s plenty of room for growth for WA food products.”

“It can be a daunting leap for a farmer or fisher to expand into downstream processing, but it can add enormous value and diversity to their business. This new facility provides a soft-entry into that transition,” Stuart said.

For more information visit the SIFT website.