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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 31 May 2016

In March 2016, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne announced $7.2 million for a cutting edge piece of food processing technology that will put Tasmania at the forefront of food innovation.

A Microwave Assited Thermal Sterilisation (MATS) research and development plant will be established within the Defence Food and Nutrition Centre in Scottsdale along with a production facility in Launceston.

"The MATS process is an innovative new food preparation method that uses state-of-the-art rapid sterilisation techniques to create shelf-stable, ready-to-eat meals required by Defence personnel," Minister Payne said.

"Microwave-sterilised meals have the potential to improve the production and quality of readymade foods across both Defence rations and the wider commercial market, both nationally and within the Asia-Pacific region.''

The Centre for Food Innovation, a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, the Defence Science and Technology Group and CSIRO, has been at the forefront of research and feasibility studies that have informed this new investment.

Centre Director Professor Roger Stanley said he expected soldiers to be eating the improved ration foods in two years, after the production facility is established in 2017.

"The MATS process is about sterilizing or pasteurizing food, so you don't have to freeze it and you can simply heat and eat it," Professor Stanley said.

"This is a major project that opens up significant opportunities in food processing in Tasmania.

"The University, through the Centre, will first be assisting Defence in the development of products for defence personnel. In the longer term, we are looking at working on the development of stabilized foods for export."

Professor Stanley said, with the exception of milk powder, food exports from Tasmania were currently either fresh, or frozen, both of which present logistical and cost challenges.

"The future we are looking ahead to, is one where Tasmania can export not just ingredients such as frozen peas, but whole meals, made in here in Tasmania."