Image of the Food Manufacturing Pilot Plant at Werribee in Victoria, Australia.

The CSIRO Food Manufacturing Pilot Plant provides access to some of the world's most innovative technologies and scientific expertise.

Food Manufacturing Pilot Plant

CSIRO's Food Manufacturing Pilot Plant is a unique national facility with access to significant expertise and innovative technologies for the food industry.

  • 18 August 2010 | Updated 29 October 2013

In this article

  1. Introduction
  2. Technology and equipment
  3. Market impact


Page 1 of 3

The Pilot Plant offers a broad range of services and facilities to clients, assisting them in the development of novel food manufacturing processes.

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From farm to fork: safer food lasting longer


Glen Paul: G'day, and welcome to CSIROvod, I'm Glen Paul. Today I'm in Werribee in Victoria, at CSIRO's Food and Nutritional Sciences, where I'm going to meet a team of scientists working with some cutting edge technology to help the food industry better produce safer, healthier, and more sustainable food for Australian consumers.

Being a food research area, before I could go any further I had to be fitted out with safety and hygiene gear.  From there I met up with research scientist, Luz Sanguansri, and Factory Manager, Rod Smith. Liz is working on better ways to add nutritional Omega 3, which is found in abundance in fish oil, into a product using a technique called microencapsulation.

Luz Sanguansri: Fish oil has gained lots of popularity because of its benefit in heart health, and because fish oil is so unstable we have to protect them, and that’s what we are doing here at CSIRO, is to develop a microencapsulation technology called MicroMAX®, which protects fish oil so that they will not oxidise, and you cannot taste the fishy flavour, and cannot smell the fishy odour when it’s added to food.

You take the fish oil and encapsulate it by adding it into the reactive protein and carbohydrates, they will end up like this (demonstrating), by producing a good emulsion, using one of the equipment just like this (demonstrating), or any homogeniser.  And because it is not convenient to transport a liquid ingredient product all around the world, we convert them into powder, which will end up looking like this (demonstrating), and it is this format that gets added into a whole range of food products, and examples of those are these (demonstrating), from infant formula, to bread, juice, yoghurt, and even fish products.

Glen Paul: Traditional food processing, such as heat, can compromise fresh flavour, colour, and texture, which is why CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences is exploring other methods such as pulse electric field technology, as Doctor Roman Buckow explains.

Dr Roman Buckow: Let me show you how it works. I'll open our treatment chamber. Um, of course when we work with these high electric voltages we need to overcome some safety features because it's very dangerous, and we do have several included in our machine, and one includes having a key to open the system. So this is our treatment chamber that includes two treatment zones, one on the left side, and one here in the middle (demonstrating). Um, we also see these high energy voltage cables that deliver the energy to the system. Here we usually have voltages and electric current flowing that is much higher than you have in the high voltage powerlines, and these extreme high voltages do kill a lot of bugs, and can also disintegrate other biological material.

Glen Paul: But if zapping things with high voltage isn't enough, how about using sound waves to get the job done? That's what Doctor Pablo Juliano does with ultrasonics processing.

Dr Pablo Juliano: OK. So in this case where we are trying to lose... we are trying to split an emulsion, here basically what you have is an emulsion that has this type of colorant (demonstrating), and basically wear your headphones because we need to protect our ears from the ultrasound, but nothing is going to happen to those watching in the camera (laughs).

And you're going to see anyways the effect, that some of those particles are being pushed from the transducer to the top. Uh, you're seeing that these components are getting together, and they're rising to the top, and you're seeing that there's a change in colour (demonstrating), so basically there's a white colour at the bottom, basically we are pushing this red colour to the top, and these are the components that we are trying to extract out of this liquid with the... by the waves are pushing them up, by applying pressure on them.

Glen Paul: The technology being developed at CSIRO is also about sustainability and getting the most from the AgriFood industry. Research scientist, Kirthi Desilva, explained one of the ingredient saving separation techniques now in use.

Kirthi Desilva: Yes Glen, so this machine really does all the separation of the components that we are interested in from any fluid stream, so it could be dairy, it could be meat, or it could be horticulture fluid streams, but if there are some valuable components in there we can separate them. So we've got this column (demonstrating), we've got columns in this carousel, and within the columns we have what we call absorbents, so these absorbents absorb the component that we are interested in.

So what happens is we've sent fluid through the column (demonstrating), it goes in from the top, comes out from the bottom, and goes out of the system, so we keep loading these absorbents until they are saturated with the molecule that we are interested in. Once that is done we wash the column and then we remove the components that we are interested in, and that is the product that we have. And as I said, it's applicable to any industry, and we have implemented this in the dairy industry, and we have some products, there are three plants operating in the dairy industry.

And for an example, these are examples of products that have been made in the dairy industry through Murray Goulburn Co-operative. (Demonstrating) For an example there's what's called a whey protein isolate product, this goes as a bulk ingredient, as well as they are selling it as a kind of consumer pack, and it goes into sports nutrition. Again, that’s a highly functional ingredient. Then we have another ingredient from the milk protein, which is a very bioactive protein, and this is highly valuable, and it really... its value is greater than that of cheese. (Demonstrating).

So really some of these components are extremely valuable, that in the past that went down the drain, and today we are actually separating them and adding value to those streams.

So this same technology can be applied to other industries, like the meat industry, like the horticulture industry, to extract all these valuable components and add value to wastage(?), which will address all the issues of sustainability and efficiency of the industry.

Glen Paul: The research at CSIRO's Food and Nutritional Sciences is amazing to say the least, and when I caught up with Rod again for a look at the high pressure processing module, that truly was the icing on the cake.

Rod Smith: OK, these foods are ideally suited for high pressure processing. (Demonstrating). We're going to use high pressure, and we're talking 6000 bar pressure, to preserve these food products, rather than apply heat to them.  Uh, you can use heat to inactivate microorganisms, as we all know, through pasteurisation, through UHT processes, through sterilisation, but today we're going to use high pressure to do the same job.

The advantage of high pressure is that we do not put any heat into them, so we do not deteriorate the flavour characteristics of the product, so they remain true to their original type, so there's no cooked flavours into these products. So ideally suited for fruit juices, ready to eat meats where you can end up with problems with listeria in them, very effectively inactivated by high pressure processing. The process is done in pack, so you pack it up, run it through the high pressure process, and then it’s not touched from that time until it reaches the consumer.

OK, we'll start with the cycle now, so the way the product is processed is in one of these baskets here (demonstrating), so we start loading some of the samples into the basket here and run them through the high pressure process. And the other thing we’ll put in there, just for a bit of interest, is a polystyrene cup, so this is a normal polystyrene cup (demonstrating). So once they're in the basket we take them up to the high pressure plant here, and we'll run them through a cycle.So we're just loading the basket into the top of the high pressure cylinder here (demonstrating), and we just lower that down into here (demonstrating), and we're ready to go with the cycle now. So we'll go down and we'll start the system up now, and we'll pressurise this up to about 6000 bar pressure. The system is all automatically controlled, because with that very high pressure you have to have a lot of controls in place to make sure that there's nothing go wrong. So now the frame is closing (demonstrating), it goes into the closed position, you'll see the plug drop into the top of the cylinder now (demonstrating), and then a slide plate goes across there to prevent that plug coming out under the pressure.

The vessel is now filling with water, so you'll hear the high pressure... the water pump activating, and then will go onto a high pressure cycle, and you'll see the pressure on this gauge here (demonstrating) start to increase fairly rapidly. So we're now back to ambient pressure now – so with one bar pressure in the system – and the vessel will open up now and I'll take the sample out. So as you can see everything effectively looks the same as when it went in there, it will be a lot more stable in terms of microbiological stability, but as you can see the polystyrene cup has been compressed (demonstrating), all the air in the cup has been compressed right down, so that you have a much smaller cup there, and it's actually changed the physical structure of the styrene in there as well, so it's no longer expanded polystyrene, it's compressed polystyrene there.

Glen Paul: Well that's just part of the story of the work being done here at CSIRO's Food and Nutritional Sciences, where they continue to work with the food industry to help develop safer, healthier, and more sustainable food for Australia's future.

If you'd like to find out more about the work being done here just check at our website, it's

Process development

Our scientists and engineers have the capabilities to investigate a range of food manufacturing processes in the areas of grains, beverages, fruit and vegetables, eggs, dairy, pasta, meat and bioactive foods.

Food manufacturers are invited to use our expertise and resources in evaluating process methods before investing in capital equipment.

Food manufacturers are invited to use our expertise and resources in evaluating process methods before investing in capital equipment.

Our service offer includes:

  • five self-contained 500 square metre registered food factory modules, providing secure and confidential operations
  • approximately 100 staff on site, including qualified scientists, engineers and food technologists
  • support infrastructure including a fully equipped library, where our staff have access to extensive electronic databases
  • equipment fabrication and maintenance workshop
  • laboratory facilities for chemical, biochemical and physical analyses
  • storage areas for extended storage of samples and products
  • computerised sensory evaluation facilities.

The breadth and depth of our capabilities and expertise ensures that we can assist clients to generate more efficient and effective food manufacturing processes.

Benefits include:

  • reduced risk in the commercialisation of new products and technologies
  • opportunities to improve manufacturing techniques, utilising existing capital equipment
  • value added new products for the market
  • near production-scale testing of new process methods.

Technology transfer

We have an outstanding history of working with food manufacturers in the development of innovate food technologies, production processes and leading-edge products.

Our extensive technical and business relationships ensure that we can support you in facilitating the many links and networks required in the commercialisation stage. CSIRO's team of Business Development staff have broad experience in the effective transfer of technology into unique products for the market.

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