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Sweet success for researchers in fight against food waste

As the country heats up, Aussie fruit growers are bracing for one of their busiest and most wasteful seasons.

Facing a chronic shortage of summer workers due to Covid-19 restrictions, farmers will likely throw millions of tonnes of unpicked crops in the bin – with some even destroying established trees.

But researchers from the University of Southern Queensland are harnessing the power of purple fruit in the nation-wide war on waste.

They are working with Brisbane-company Nutrafruit to maximise the use of the Queen Garnet plum, and stop any from ending up in the bin.

The Queensland-born fruit was created by the Department of Primary Industries in Stanthorpe ten years ago.

Containing a special group of antioxidants called ‘anthocyanin’, the fruit sells for around $9 a kilogram in current market. 

However, it is the Queen’s nectar and freeze-dried powder that has royally spiked the interest of food scientist Dr Polly Burey from the University of Southern Queensland.

“Our researchers will work closely with Nutrafruit to find out more about the Queen Garnet plum supply chain and how to maximise the entirety of the crop,” Dr Burey said.

“Last year, 20 per cent of the fruit was classed as lower-grade and sent for processing; however, some still ended up in landfill.

“Nectar and powder products have a much longer shelf life than fresh plums, so we can prevent any going to waste. 

“We will train staff in how to track nutrient content of the Queen Garnet plum through the entire supply chain, resulting in optimal use of the fruit during processing and bottling, and a more fruitful annual profit.”

Each year, around 7.3 million tonnes of food ends up in Aussie bins costing the economy $20 billion.

It is hoped the University’s involvement in Nutrafruit’s plum waste project will aid Australia’s goal to halve its food waste by 2030.

This project is co-funded by Nutrafruit and the SME Solutions Centre within the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre.

Woman sitting on park bench smiling.
The royal treatment: University of Southern Queensland food scientist Dr Polly Burey is working with Brisbane-company Nutrafruit to prevent wasted Queen Garnet plums.