The food and health program is a multidisciplinary team with complementary expertise spanning across the food supply chain from farmgate to plate. The team is actively engaged in research aimed at delivering safe, nutritious, and appealing foods to consumers. The research activities of the program align closely with the Food Systems and Nutrition Patterns transformation target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our world-class researchers drive innovations in health, processing, and sustainability to build a Sustainable Food System that has real-world impacts. We integrate research, teaching and industry collaboration in the program that attracts top PhD, MPhil, and Postdoctoral talents, shaping them into future generation food and health experts.
Our health research program expands into a wide range of themes and areas, primarily aimed at disease prevention through precision nutrition, targeted nutrient fortification and innovative delivery of bioactive ingredients. We have a multidisciplinary approach through collaboration with researchers across the food and pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare organisations. We combine modern chemistry, advanced medicine and nutrition, novel separation technologies and molecular encapsulation to transform bioactive food components into functional foods and therapeutics.
Our research leads to public health policies, through assessments of population-wide nutrition status: identifying gaps in infant nutrition in Australia as well as ASEAN and Pacific nations. We address these gaps through evidence-based dietary approaches to guide policy development and improve the nutritional status of the target population. We advance knowledge in the fundamental understanding of bioavailability of nutrients and phytochemicals contributing to setting dietary guidelines and recommendations; develop cutting-edge technologies to efficiently fortify foods. In the food allergy area, we design and engineer nanoallergens with novel dietary adjuvants for immunotherapy that can effectively alleviate food allergies. We use molecular micro-array techniques and allergenomics to decipher the characteristics of food proteins, and their relationships with food processing and allergic sensitisation.
Our innovations extend into exciting technologies related to health and food safety including novel bioaffinity molecules for in vitro diagnostic tests, colorimetric nanosensors for smart/active food packaging that allow real-time tracking of food quality and safety status, and swallowable devices that enable real-time analysis of the gut microbiome.
Our innovations in food engineering and processing include the development of advanced and sophisticated technologies for producing functional food ingredients and encapsulated powders, and thermal and non-thermal food processing.
We are at the forefront of advanced particle engineering and drying technology development, applying these technologies in the industry to produce powdered products with improved quality and efficiency, at reduced costs and environmental impact. This area of research is complemented by our expertise in micro-rheology in the detection of low yield stress in biological fluids. The technology is used for the analysis of bubble dynamics in complex fluids and to study bubble expansion and shrinkage. We are also developing practical tools for food rheology applications to understand the effects of processing on food structure.
With cutting-edge research in high-pressure, ultrasound, radiofrequency, and plasma technologies, we develop innovative engineering solutions that enhance product quality and safety while reducing energy and water consumption. These engineering and technological innovations enable preservation of heat-sensitive food products at low temperatures with enhanced organoleptic properties. Our interdisciplinary research in food engineering extends further to water detoxification, waste recovery and utilisation.
Our interdisciplinary team integrates molecular biochemistry, advanced material science and nanotechnology to engineer novel multifunctional and biocompatible materials for applications in bioactive delivery, and bio-catalysis. Our biomaterial research drives the creation of new generation functional bioplastics from sustainable resources, such as agricultural and food waste and/or by-products, with antimicrobial antioxidants and other biofunctions for application in active food packaging.
Sustainability is a major theme in our research program, and at UNSW we drive leading-edge research and innovations in agri-food technologies to meet the global needs for food security: safety, and nutrition in the 21st century. We are working on plant-based proteins, with the specific objective of fully integrating them into the Australian food system.
Our world-class food microbiologists are developing an in-depth understanding of the microbial ecology in the production of many foods and beverages including cocoa, coffee, tempeh, wine, and fermented dairy products. Based on this knowledge, we are developing microbial starter cultures that will enable the production of safer and better-quality foods and beverages with improved efficiency and sustainability.
It is well recognised that the current land-based food production systems will not be able to provide sustainable food security to the ever-growing world population, and rigorous scientific investigation is needed to deliver new solutions for sustainable food production. With the goal to strengthen food security and alleviate the burden of agriculture on the environment, we're developing an active research program in cellular agriculture, aimed at producing meat from the lab and, ultimately for wider consumption. Our research also expands into growing and extracting proteins, food fibre and bioactive ingredients from marine algae and microorganisms.