Xanthe with Charlie Jones and Brandon Reid at the Future of Food event.

Pictured: Xanthe with Peel Bright Minds Program Coordinator Charlie Jones and fellow volunteer Brandon Reid at the Future Food Systems event. Photo by Paula Pownall.


Blog by Xanthe Turner


I attended Murdoch University’s Future of Food event in Mandurah, along with Charlie Jones (and Brandon) from Peel Bright Minds. The event was held at Mandurah Quay Resort, and included panel discussions, lectures, and culinary demonstrations pertaining to (you guessed it) the future of food.

Before attending, I imagined the Future of Food might involve high-tech cyborgs partaking in the consumption of pill-form vegetables. I was wrong, mostly because I didn’t actually believe that, although the thought did amuse me.

In place of these imaginings I found a vast array of truffle products, which were canned, jammed, and in demand. Truffles look like volcanic rock, but are actually a subterranean fungus. I’m assuming truffles are an acquired taste, and culinary amateurs like myself fail to appreciate the subtle nuances of these fabulous fungi.

Speaking of fabulous fun guys, Mr Adam Wilson (the first panellist of the day) started working with truffles after achieving success with Australian Olive Oil. He researched fungi, experimented with canning truffles to improve their longevity, and is the managing director for Great Southern Truffles. Adam Wilson’s passion for truffles was evident in his speech, which made for an engaging presentation.

'Every person on the planet has more microbes in their stomach than there are people that have (or ever will) exist on this planet... in the space of two weeks will have replaced themselves with entirely new microbes based on the diet of the person they belong to.'

Professor Jeremy Nicholson gave an in-depth talk called 'The Promise and Potential for Personalised Nutrition and Personalised Food'. It was fascinating. He talked about how the human genome is our permanent blueprint, and our gut micro-biomes are the ever-changing plans for a dream home that’s forever in construction. (I’m paraphrasing, of course. He’s much more scientific than I am.)

Professor Nicholson explained that every person on the planet has more microbes in their stomach than there are people that have (or ever will) exist on this planet. These microbes are ever changing, and in the space of two weeks will have replaced themselves with entirely new microbes based on the diet of the person they belong to.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson mentioned that the average life expectancy has only increased by six years since 1900, and how he believes it should have increased more than that by now. He briefly touched upon how there can be long term impacts of giving infants antibiotics, such as making them more susceptible to health problems later down the road, including (but not limited to) asthma and diabetes.

Professor Nicholson talked at length about the Ionising Knife. The Ionising Knife uses electrical current to rapidly heat flesh (or other matter) and collects the resulting vapour in order to analyse its contents. It can tell doctors (in real-time) whether they’re operating on cancerous or non-cancerous parts of the body. The Ionising Knife can also be used to detect impurities in meat, honey, and (most importantly) chocolate. I found the idea of this knife intriguing, and really enjoyed learning about it from the Ion Man himself, Professor Jeremy Nicholson.

Dr. Kirsty Bayliss (Murdoch University) spoke of her methods for preserving food to decrease food wastage. Dr. Bayliss uses electrical currents and cold plasma to kill (and prevent) mould spores, and bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. Her methods can increase the shelf life of an avocado by weeks after only 40 seconds of exposure to a cold plasma flame.

Cold plasma is chemical-free, kills bacteria, destroys mould, preserves food, and is safe to use. The potential use for cold plasma in food production (and medical science) seems very promising.

Professor Roger Dawkins, Professor David Pethick, Mr Cameron Scadding, Miss Erin Sweeney, Dr. Svetlana Rogers, and Mr. David Eyre were the other thought-provoking panellists of the day.

After all the panellists had spoken, we were treated to an extravagant culinary demonstration. We sampled various fancy foods including prawn custard, dumplings, and steak burgers containing truffle.

Every person at Future of Food (with the exception of myself) enjoyed the food immensely. I did try a truffle burger, but I don’t think I’ll be saving up for my own truffle honey, truffle mustard, or truffle salsa anytime soon.

I really enjoyed attending the Future of Food event, and feel like I learned a lot. The highlight for me was Professor Jeremy Nicholson’s talk, but every speaker had interesting ideas, opinions, and stories to share.

Thank you, Murdoch University, for a fantastic afternoon, and to Peel Bright Minds, for inviting me.


Want to learn more? If you’d like to learn more about the bid for a new Cooperative Research Centre for Future Food Systems (that Murdoch University and Peel Development Commission are among the partners in), visit their website: http://www.futurefoodsystems.com.au/  


About the author: Xanthe Turner is an illustrator, publisher, and general bookworm. She loves drawing so much, she has developed callouses on her drawing hand. Xanthe plays guitar and piano (not at the same time) and her life goal is to befriend a sentient robot. You can learn more about Xanthe on her website, Turner Books.