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Our oceans delivering plant-based food revolution

BRISBANE scientist Dr. Graeme Barnett is nothing if not a visionary in different fields of microbiology.

Almost four decades ago as an emerging virology expert in Newcastle, Dr. Barnett and his wife became aware of the health benefits from consuming oils rich in omega 3s and began daily consumption of fish oil.

Today, omega-3 deficiency is internationally recognised as a contributing cause of many diseases such as depression and the onset of schizophrenia, bone health and muscle strength in the elderly and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis.

Wind the clock forward 36 years and Dr. Barnett, now the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Qponics, an agritech company based in Brisbane, is applying cutting edge technologies to produce high-value nutraceutical and food supplements products and food protein from marine microalgae.

Both omega-3 and palmitoleic omega-7 fatty acids have positive health benefits as they are powerful natural anti-inflammatory agents, and the high concentrations of Omega-3 and palmitoleic acid omega-7 in Qponics’ algal oil may prove to be a significant competitive advantage. The oil also includes vitamin D3, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

“There is growing evidence that individually or collectively these three compounds when present in elevated levels, may protect against adverse outcomes in serious respiratory infections including COVID-19,” Dr Barnett said.

“As your body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids on its own, you must get them from your diet and the Qponics micro-algae farm is leading the charge in Australia’s plant-based protein revolution.”

Qponics’ technologies are now integrated into the R&D-scale pilot algae farm, now upgraded to a small and largely automated commercial-scale facility, funded in part by Qponics’ Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Project program grant.

“The grant allowed the team to upgrade a pilot algae farm operating out of the University of Queensland and to start growing Nannochloropsis — a particular type of marine algae,” Dr. Barnett said.

“We realised the productivity at the farm, due to the climate in this part of the world largely, was extremely good.”

The Chair of the Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre (MB-CRC), Mr John Gunn said Qponics, as a founding Industry Partner in the MB-CRC, was now at the forefront of world changing opportunity.

“Australia has a compelling opportunity over the next decade to become a major player in the $700 billion Global Marine Bioproducts industry,” Mr. Gunn said.

“With global fisheries production in decline, and aquaculture coming under growing pressure on several fronts, this industry is on a mission to transform how we sustainably use the oceans’ bounty.”

 

SNAPSHOT:

Company: Qponics

Location:  3 Clunies Ross Ct, Brisbane Technology Park, Eight Mile Plains, Queensland 4113, Australia

About: Qponics Limited is a Brisbane-based unlisted public Australian company and is an industry partner in the MB-CRC.

The Company’s business philosophy is centred on the concept of sustainable co-production from marine microalgae of (A) high-value nutraceutical, and food ingredient products including oil rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) omega-3, palmitoleic omega-7 fatty acids, and other compounds, and (B) a protein-rich by-product suitable as an alternative protein food ingredient, in a near-urban setting to ensure proximity to labour, markets and distribution channels.

Qponics was the recipient of a $1M CRC-Project grant in 2016 and partnered with Professor Peer Schenk and his research team at the University of Queensland (UQ) to validate scalable state-of-the-art technologies for the cultivation, harvesting and drying of marine microalgae, and extraction of their high-value oils and protein-rich by-products.

The pilot marine microalgae farm operating on the bank of the Brisbane River at Pinjarra Hills demonstrates the cultivation, harvesting, drying and oil extraction processes planned to be integrated into Qponics’ commercial facility planned to be constructed, subject to funding, in the Ballina region of NSW.

Facts about EPA omega-3:

  • Proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, and now co-prescribed with statins in the United States for this purpose
  • Reduces depression and onset of schizophrenia
  • Improves bone health and muscle strength in the elderly
  • Reduces effect of autoimmune diseases – e.g. rheumatoid arthritis

 

Contact: Dr Graeme Barnett, via phone (07) 3188 9086 or email info@qponics.com

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Dr Graeme Barnett Managing Director & CEO
Qponics