Tag Archives: Western Australia

quinoa processing

Quinoa processing removes bitter defence

Featured image above: Golden grain after quinoa processing. Credit: Essence Photography.

The challenge posed by removing a chemical compound from their ‘superfood’ crop to create a market for Western Australian quinoa led three innovative farmers to build Australia’s largest quinoa processing plant in the state’s south-west.

Highbury farmer Ashley Wiese, Dumbleyung farmer Megan Gooding and Narrogin agronomist Garren Knell began trialling quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) in 2009 to diversify into a more profitable cereal.

C. quinoa originated in the Andean mountains and has been cultivated for thousands of years.

The grain’s popularity surged between 2006 and 2013 after being touted for its nutritional value, with prices tripling and the United Nations General Assembly declaring 2013 International Year of Quinoa.

However, Wiese says it’s an extremely difficult crop to grow.

“Quinoa is very set in its way—you have to give it what it wants or it will give you nothing,” he says.

quinoa processing
Three Farmers Ashley Wiese, Megan Gooding and Garren Knell. Credit: Essence Photography

While Narrogin’s winter is similar to an Andean summer in temperature and rainfall, quinoa won’t set seed under hot conditions.

On the upside, quinoa is drought and frost resistant and has developed a chemical defence mechanism called saponin.

Saponin is a bitter coating that acts as a natural insect and bird repellent.

It’s a soap-like substance and specific washing and drying processes are required to make the grain edible.

Narrogin’s low-lying altitude means the golden quinoa variety has high saponin levels, to protect the grain against more birds and insects than found at elevated altitudes.

quinoa processing
Quinoa crop prior to processing

The trio chose to build mainland Australia’s first quinoa processing plant—Tasmania has a smaller facility—instead of shipping their crop offshore.

The $1.5 million facility in Highbury, 15km south of Narrogin, began operations in January.

Wiese says it’s been a steep learning curve but rewarding.

“There’s been a lot of trial and error in developing our own machines to remove the saponin without damaging the grain.”

Their system involves softening the saponin through scarification, removing about 70% in a dry dust form, then washing, rinsing and drying the seed.

They currently process 400 tonnes of quinoa a year but have the capacity to expand tenfold.

Their grower network of 16 farmers between Kununurra and Esperance has ramped up plantings from 200 hectares three years ago to 1700 hectares this year to meet growing demand.

Three Farmers’ first quinoa hit supermarket shelves in April.

Since then, Coles has replaced imported quinoa with the WA product, which Wiese says is very encouraging for the future of the emerging Australian crop.

– Lisa Morrison

This article was first published by ScienceNetwork WA on 27 July 2016. Read the original article here.

innovation in western australia

Innovation in Western Australia

Science is fundamental for our future social and economic wellbeing.

In Western Australia we’re focusing on areas where we have natural advantages, and an appropriate base of research and industrial capacity. Western Australia’s Science Statement, released by Premier Barnett in April 2015, represents a capability audit of relevant research and engagement expertise in our universities, research institutes, State Government agencies and other organisations. Mining and energy, together with agriculture, are traditional powerhouses, but the science priorities also reflect the globally significant and growing capabilities in medicine and health, biodiversity and marine science, and radio astronomy. It’s a great place to begin exciting new collaborations.

The Science Statement has also helped to align efforts across research organisations and industry. For instance, in 2015 an industry-led “Marine Science Blueprint 2050” was released, followed by the Premier commissioning a roundtable of key leaders from industry, Government, academia and community to develop a long-term collaborative research strategy. These meetings highlighted critical areas of common interest such as decommissioning, marine noise, community engagement and sharing databases.


“Opportunities abound for science and industry to work together to translate research into practical, or commercial, outcomes.”


Science, innovation and collaboration are integral to many successful businesses in Western Australia. In the medical field, a range of technological innovations have broadened the economy and created new jobs. Some of these success stories include Phylogica, Admedus, Orthocell, iCeutica, Dimerix, Epichem and Proteomics International. Another example in this space is the Phase I clinical trial facility, Linear Clinical Research, which was established with support from the State Government – 75% of the trials conducted to date come from big pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the USA.

Opportunities abound for science and industry to work together to translate research into practical, or commercial, outcomes. For example, the field of big data analytics is rapidly permeating many sectors. Perth’s Pawsey Centre, the largest public research supercomputer in the southern hemisphere, processes torrents of data delivered by many sources, including radioastronomy as the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, is being developed in outback WA. In addition, local company DownUnder GeoSolutions has a supercomputer five times the size of Pawsey for massive geophysical analyses. In such a rich data environment, exciting new initiatives like the CISCO’s Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, in partnership with Woodside, is helping to drive innovation and growth.

Leading players in the resources and energy sector are also taking innovative approaches to enhance efficiency and productivity. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton use remote-controlled driverless trucks, and autonomous trains, to move iron ore in the Pilbara. Woodside has an automated offshore facility, while Shell is developing its Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas facility soon to be deployed off the northwest coast. Excitingly, 3 emerging companies (Carnegie, Bombora and Protean) are making waves by harnessing the power of the ocean to generate energy.

This high-tech, innovative environment is complemented by a rapidly burgeoning start-up ecosystem. In this vibrant sector, Unearthed runs events, competitions and accelerators to create opportunities for entrepreneurs in the resources space. Spacecubed provides fabulous co-working space for young entrepreneurs, including the recently launched FLUX for innovators in the resource sector. The online graphic design business Canva, established by two youthful Western Australians epitomises what entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude can achieve. In this amazingly interconnected world, the sky’s the limit.

Professor Peter Klinken

Chief Scientist of Western Australia

Read next: Professor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University and Dr Andy Marks, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Strategy and Policy) of Western Sydney University on Making innovation work.

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Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on innovating Australia in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Mining money-saver

Mining money-saver

, which took out Curtin University’s science and engineering category last September, finds optimal waste rock dumping and haulage solutions using trade secret algorithms developed by a small team led by Professor Erkan Topal.

With material haulage costs typically accounting for up to half of a West Australian open cut mine’s operational costs during the recent boom years, Topal says the costs of building waste dumps are often neglected by mining operations.

“Yet it presents great potential to reduce costs and to generate environmentally friendly waste dumps if we schedule the waste rock dump using a smarter scheduler,” he says.

“It is definitely a good tool to use at the mining downturn, as cost cutting becomes a focus point, and good planning and scheduling will become a key to achieve this target.”

The conventional waste rock dumping practice of using the shortest route possible in the early years of mining is not likely to stack up economically over the longer term.

TopDump tackles this issue but also manages how reactive and non-acid forming rocks are layered in the dumps to minimise acid rock drainage – an industry-wide challenge when rain and oxidisation generate environmentally damaging sulphuric acid from waste rock.

The software was trialled in the modelling of a WA gold mining project with a mine life of 10 years including four open pits that encompassed more than 4 km in total length.

“The results have demonstrated significant improvement on cost saving with an environmentally friendly waste dump design,” Topal says, with the project since becoming a mining operation.

“The TopDump model is ideal for greenfield deposit, but can be used for any open pit mining operations.”

Another trial found that a TopDump-generated plan gave an existing mine the opportunity to save at least 20% in waste-related haulage costs compared to the mine’s existing dump scheduling plan.

Negotiations with prospective industry customers remain underway, and how TopDump is implemented and marketed is subject to change at this early stage of commercialisation.

“It can be an add-in tool for any mining design software suite but we are also considering the licensing option in a cloud system,” Topal says.

“Currently, we have a software interface that any mining professional can use without detailed optimisation knowledge.”

– Blair Price

This article was first published by Science Network Western Australia on 20 March 2016. Read the original article here

Watch Curtin University’s video about TopDump: