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Aurecon appoints CSIRO leader to Manufacturing practice

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 Dr Ingrid Appelqvist takes up her position at a time when agri-food companies will have to invest in new manufacturing capability or risk losing market opportunities in Asia. Dr Ingrid Appelqvist takes up her position at a time when agri-food companies will have to invest in new manufacturing capability or risk losing market opportunities in Asia.

Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon is pleased to announce it has appointed Dr Ingrid Appelqvist as its new Client Director for Manufacturing.

The appointment of Dr Appelqvist, effective September 17, comes as Aurecon grows its manufacturing work in response to Australia’s and New Zealand’s growing importance as a food supplier to Asia. The Australian Trade Commission says that by 2050, 60 per cent of the global demand for food will come from Asia.1

Dr Appelqvist is a distinguished food scientist with a strong track record as a leader. She joins Aurecon from CSIRO, where she led the Food Structure group at the Agriculture and Food Business Unit – a position that saw her working on healthier foods that retain palatability and nutrition-uptake in the body. Her expertise in food design includes advanced food manufacturing processes and technologies, an expertise she will facilitate for Aurecon’s agri-food clients.

Dr Alex Wonhas, Managing Director – Energy, Resources and Manufacturing at Aurecon, said the hiring of Dr Appelqvist will bring advanced technical capability and strategic thought-leadership to Aurecon’s manufacturing business at a time when Australia’s and New Zealand’s agri-business industries are gearing up for growth.

“There is growing demand for high-quality and innovative food products from Asian markets. The ANZ agri-food-dairy industry has an opportunity to capture the most lucrative segments of these value-chains,” said Dr Wonhas. “Dr Appelqvist will help our clients implement leading-edge technologies and processes to give them an advantage in these growth markets.”

Dr Wonhas said advanced manufacturing techniques – underpinned by new innovative process technologies, sensors, automation and machine learning – could enable higher quality and higher margin products. Aurecon’s food manufacturing practice takes a supply-chain view of the industry and focuses on quality of the product, food safety and facility technology.

Dr Ingrid Appelqvist is a Sydney-based scientist who worked for Unilever in the Netherlands and UK before joining the CSIRO.

“The food and manufacturing industries are responding to new markets that demand safety, product differentiation, high quality and provenance,” said Dr Appelqvist. “Manufacturing can do all this with technology – we’re in a digital age and manufacturing needs to catch-up."

Dr Ingrid Appelqvist – enabling Australasia’s food opportunity

Aurecon’s new Client Director for Manufacturing, Dr Ingrid Appelqvist, takes up her position at a time when agri-food companies will have to invest in new manufacturing capability or risk losing market opportunities in Asia.

The Australian government forecasts a steep rise in food consumption in China between 2009 and 2050: beef consumption by 236 per cent, dairy consumption 74 per cent, sheep and goat meat consumption by 72 per cent and sugar consumption by 330 per cent (in 2009 US dollars)2. The opportunity is pertinent to the Australian agri-food industry because China’s increase in food demand includes a shift to higher-value Western-style diets, including beef, dairy, lamb, goat, fruit and vegetables.

Since 2006 Dr Appelqvist has been a CSIRO specialist in food design and advanced manufacturing. She was the Group Leader for Food Structure in CSIRO’s Agriculture and Food Business Unit and has expertise in reformulating food to make it healthier while retaining its functionality, palatability, the breakdown of food in the body and nutrient uptake. Much of Dr Appelqvist’s work is concerned with food manufacturing processes and technologies, to help increase food quality and safety.

Dr Appelqvist sees not only a vast Asian market for Australian and New Zealand food exporters, but one with specific demands.

“Consumers in China demand clean, safe, high-quality foods,” she says. “They also want novelty products and they’re demanding provenance verification for the food they buy.”

The Australasian agri-food industry has the reputation for fresh, quality produce, she says, but the industry will have to invest in technologies and processes to ensure that new food product demand from Asia can be met. She says food processing in Australia and New Zealand has to be modernised, potentially with robotics, modular factory components and processes that preserve product quality and nutrition and enhances food safety in exported food.

Another possible innovation is pop-up factories, or mobile processing, where the freshness, taste and texture of a product are preserved by processing close to the farm where produce is harvested, which can be stabilised and can quickly be exported to Asia.

“As consumers in Asia become pickier and they have greater disposable income, they demand the freshness and taste they associate with Australia and New Zealand. Processing and manufacturing will have to become more nimble and adaptable to cater to this demand.”

Dr Appelqvist says the Australasian food industry is due for a wave of change which will occur over several categories:

  • Food science – where food has its nutrition enhanced and digestion time lengthened
  • Processes – where robotics and automation allow for ‘dark factories’ containing no workers
  • Digital technologies – where bio-sensors in the food supply chain mean Chinese or European consumers can scan a label and see which farm the product came from
  • Nimble manufacturing – using pop-up processing and modular production lines, to allow market-testing with differentiated products
  • Hi-tech equipment – so manufacturers can, for instance, separate fat globules by size to either make yoghurt or cheese

All of this is happening against a background of rising food regulation both in Australasia and Asia.

“Australian and New Zealand food producers and manufacturers don’t have to meet one growing demand,” says Dr Appelqvist. “There are many demands and many markets. To succeed they will have to invest in technology and processes. I’m happy to be able to assist them through my new role at Aurecon.”