Professor Sally Gras is helping to ensure the Australian dairy industry is well-placed to compete internationally and meet increased export demand for clean, green, high-value products of optimum quality and shelf life.
She is the director of the Australian Research Council Dairy Innovation Hub, a national research collaboration with the University of Queensland and Dairy Innovation Australia Limited that represents dairy manufacturers Murray Goulburn, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, Lion and Bega.
Professor Gras also leads one of three University of Melbourne projects as part of the Dairy Innovation Hub research. Her microstructure project puts products under the microscope to understand how structure affects functions such as texture and taste, and improve upon it. This could be the stretch of mozzarella, the spread of cream cheese or the shelf life of yoghurt.
Her research, based at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Chemical Engineering, offers benefits along the supply chain, she says. For farmers it could mean higher returns and greater export markets. For manufacturers, new processes and products could help them compete with larger multinationals. For consumers there will be more consistent products with greater nutrition and taste.
As part of the university’s Bio21 Institute, her Gras Group laboratory is also developing the tools used in the microscopic analysis. “We aim to provide technical and scientific solutions to enable companies and farmers make the most of their milk,” she says.
The university’s other projects for the Dairy Innovation Hub are led by Professor Sandra Kentish and Assoc Prof Greg Martin also from the Department of Chemical Engineering, with Professor Muthupandian Ashokkumar from the University’s School of Chemistry.
“Sandra is looking at waste streams to recover by-product, reduce environmental impacts and recycle water, whereas Greg is understanding how we can optimise milk going into products to reduce variation,” Professor Gras says.
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