Agriculture

New biosecurity apparatus to protect Australia’s clean, green image


A disruptive fumigation technology developed by a team from Western Australia is expected to have a significant impact on the growth of Australia’s food and agricultural sector.

Universal Biosecurity Limited (UBL) has developed a technology that allows the safe delivery of ethyl formate – a food grade insecticide that until now has been too volatile to use effectively with existing fumigation tools due to its low flammability.

Professor Simon McKirdy is one of the team behind the Fume8 technology and said UBL is planning to raise A$5 million and list on the ASX via an initial public offering before the end of the year. UBL is supported by Cottesloe corporate advisory firm View Street Partners.

“With globalisation, Australia, like most other countries, is importing an increasing number of products from many global sources,” Prof. McKirdy said.

“The speed at which products can be moved by air or sea is also increasing, as is the volume of passengers traveling.  All of these represent significant pathways by which pests could reach Australia – leading to a biosecurity invasion.

“The Fume8 technology has the potential to be a disruptive technology for both imports and exports of produce. The technology can further assist the protection of Australian and state borders by providing government and industry with a biosecurity measure with many advantages over those currently used.

“The technology can also provide a new alternative for exported produce that assists in promoting Australia’s clean and green image.”

Prof. McKirdy’s comments come following the release earlier this year of the CSIRO Futures’ latest Food & Agribusiness Roadmap, which outlined Australia’s “unique and untouched” environment acts as a “differentiator amongst foreign markets where local pollution and environmental degradation are clearly evident.”

“Analysis of Australia’s competitive landscape has indicated that of the 25 sectors assessed, Australia had the greatest advantage in agribusiness, which was also one of the largest global opportunities identified.”

UBL raised A$600,000 in seed funds in May 2016, allowing it to develop Fume8 with a view to delivering a product that can be commercialised on a global basis.

The Western Australian agricultural industry was hit hard earlier this year by an outbreak of tomato potato psyllid, which resulted in strict interstate trade restrictions.

“The risks to Australia from a major biosecurity outbreak are the triple bottom line,” said Prof. McKirdy.

“Economic – loss of markets, loss of production, increased costs of production. Environmental – loss of biodiversity and ecosystems. Social – impacts on our way or life and amenities.”

“If the Fume8 technology had already been available to market during the tomato potato psyllid outbreak, it is anticipated the delay in exporting various produce to the eastern states would have been significantly shorter, lessening the devastating impact on WA farmers.”

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