A Queensland food technology company has patented a process it claims can keep 100 per cent natural milk fresh in the fridge for at least 60 days without additives or preservatives.
Naturo CEO Jeff Hastings has
already developed technology to stop processed avocado turning brown using air pressure treatment.
Now the company has made what Mr Hastings described as the biggest breakthrough in the $413 billion global dairy industry since pasteurisation in 1864.
Naturo is targeting export markets with a process that produces fresh milk which remains safe to drink for two months without ‘cooking it’.
“It provides a far more gentle and minimal processing technique that does not rely on heat to kill the bugs, if you like, in the milk that is at the core of pasteurisation,” Mr Hastings said.
“Pasteurisation is a fairly aggressive process — 72 degrees [Celsius] it is heated to, held there for 15 seconds — and for homogenised milk it’s then further roughly handled, if you like, through a process called homogenisation. We don’t do those things.
“Unlike the avocado technology — where we invented a machine to drive the technology — this process is somewhat different in that we haven’t needed to develop a whole new machine.
“We’ve just developed a process around a series of existing technologies.”
It has taken five years to develop the new process, and it claims to differ markedly from what is already found on supermarket shelves.
“This is very different from long life milk. Long life is a UHT process, basically milk in a cardboard box,” Mr Hastings said.
“Our technology has a long life but is very much fresh milk. That’s the distinctive difference there.”
“It’s got the taste of that old raw milk, that milk from the vat. Flavour to it.”
For the last two years Jeff Hastings has worked with Dairy Food Safety Victoria to have his research validated.
The regulator’s general manager of compliance, enforcement and technical services, Andrew Wilson, said Naturo’s process passed its tests.
“The Food Standards Code requires that all milk is pasteurised or processed using any other process that provides an equivalent or greater lethal affect on pathogenic microorganisms. They’re those bugs that cause food-borne illnesses,” Dr Wilson said.
“We’ve verified that information, that the process that they’ve come up with achieves that outcome. That is, that it’s equivalent to or actually better than pasteurisation.
“This has the potential to provide a very long shelf life fresh milk product that will allow fresh milk to go to markets that may have been previously unachievable with regular pasteurisation.”
Very long life means very wide exports
Jeff Hastings confirmed that his sights were set on export opportunities and shipping milk to parts of the world that have limited or no access to fresh milk.
Naturo has identified opportunities in China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
“China has some challenges getting milk out there. Australian industries currently air freight milk into those regions. That’s relatively expensive, so we’re able to challenge that market with a sea freighted offering,” he said.
“There is also massive potential for the development of a wide range of dairy products and use by industries where unpasteurised milk is desired — such as cheesemaking.”
Mr Hastings said the process could be applied to camel, goat and sheep’s milk.
Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation vice president Matthew Trace said he was excited about the export opportunities.
“By increasing the shelf life of a product it certainly opens up opportunities to different markets,” he said.
“Freight’s quite expensive by air. I know Norco’s exported milk to China, fresh drinking milk, and it’s quite a difficult process with the short shelf life of the product.
“I’d love to see the pilot plant set up in south-east Queensland. Let’s give our farmers a reason to increase production.”
The Queensland Government has already provided $250,000 towards developing Naturo’s milk processing technology.
Mr Hastings said the company was seeking investment for a pilot plant in Australia capable of producing 10 million litres of milk per annum.
The company is considering sites in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
“Part of what we want to want to do in setting up our pilot factory is to ensure our farmers, the suppliers of the milk, get a good return at the farm gate to give them sustainability,” she said.
“They’ve had a pretty rough time for the last number of years so that will be most welcome, I’m sure.”