Water recycling in food production

Monday, 05 November, 2012

Increasing the use of water recycling in food production and manufacturing is among new research being undertaken by the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence.

Led by CSIRO Animal, Food and Health Sciences, the project will collaborate with industry to demonstrate higher-value water recycling opportunities that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to the agrifood industry and community.

The research will examine opportunities for water recycling across the agrifood chain with particular focus on food manufacturing, dairy and meat industries.

Project Director Jay Sellahewa said the project will focus on current industry challenges, including regulatory and policy pressures, and the value proposition (an analysis of all factors to determine if water recycling stacks up as the best option). It will also develop strategies to increase acceptance by consumers and enhance the sustainability positioning with customers.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce the reliance of fresh water throughout the agrifood supply chain,” Sellahewa said.

“This could be achieved by increasing the amount of water used for irrigation of crops by treating effluents from food processing plants and by increasing the amount of water recycled within food manufacturing plants.

“Outcomes of this work will include the development of fit-for-purpose water recycling guidelines for industry, a tool to enable industry to make decisions on recycling water based on the value proposition and available technologies, and communicating positive messages in consuming foods associated with recycled water to help increase consumer confidence.”

Centre CEO Dr Mark O’Donohue said the project was a good example of the multidisciplinary work being done by the centre.

“This project is using rigorous science-based research in partnership with some of the biggest and most credible industry organisations in Australia, such as Meat and Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia and the Australian Food and Grocery Council,” Dr O’Donohue said.

“As a centre focused on water security, the applications of this research for food security are very exciting.”

More than $2.3 million has been committed to this project, which has linkages with the centre’s other work in examining public attitudes to and perceptions of water recycling.

The linkages between projects were examined at a recent workshop where project leaders had the opportunity to engage and discuss common themes of their individual projects. The workshop’s focus was to ensure the centre’s research outcomes have the greatest impact on a national scale - enhancing efficiency, expansion and adoption of water recycling in Australia.

Other new research being undertaken by the centre includes the use of nanotechnology to recover phosphorous, which could in turn be used in fertiliser products, and a study into the importance of micropollutants in water, including an analysis of whether the right chemicals are currently being monitored and regulated.

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