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AUSTRALIA – QAAFI scientists take the plunge for premium coffee

QAAFI scientists are teaming up with their Queensland Government colleagues and local growers to fast-track development of premium export coffee.

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Professor Robert Henry, from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), is chief investigator on a new Australian Research Council linkage project to better understand what makes good coffee.

Professor Henry aims to improve food and energy security by applying biochemical and molecular tools to the development of improved crop varieties.

The $400,000 ARC-funded research program seeks to unpick the chemical and genetic components of premium coffee – as a precursor to boosting Australian coffee exports.

Conducted over four years, the study will also bring together Byron-Bay based coffee growers/processors ‘Green Cauldron’ and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

According to Professor Henry, the ARC-funded project will allow selection of

superior coffee varieties and appropriate processing in the production of high-quality coffee to satisfy consumer preferences.

“It’s a project which is expected to boost the local coffee industry with a growing reputation for quality,” he said.

“In addition, it’s hoped that global application of the technology may bring further economic benefits to Australia.”

QAAFI Flavour Scientist, Dr Heather Smyth will be working with Professor Henry on the research.

Her expertise is in understanding the compositional basis of the sensory experience and consumer acceptability of foods.

“This project will be the first of its kind to try to understand the genetic and molecular basis of consumer-preferred sensory characteristics in coffee,” Dr Smyth said.

“There is a rapidly growing consumer demand for single-origin coffee and coffee with specific flavour types.

“Our consumer-driven approach will involve first understanding which consumers like different flavours of coffees from around the world.

“We will then determine which components make up the desirable ‘chocolaty’, ‘vanilla’ or ‘fruity’ flavours in coffee, and ultimately determine the genes and processes that are involved in the liberation of those flavours.

“With the results of this research, coffee producers in Australia will be better placed to produce high quality Australian coffee flavours to meet and exceed consumer expectations.”

QAAFI background Established in October 2010, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) is an institute of The University of Queensland (UQ), which was formed through an alliance between UQ and the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). Originally QAAFI drew together some 100 research teams specialising in plant, animal and food sciences from twelve UQ and DAFF sites across Queensland.

QAAFI’s long-term goal is to improve the competiveness and sustainability of tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors through high-impact science. Through science and innovation, the institute pursues research and collaborations that will lead to sustainable agriculture and food.

Our objective is to be a world leading research institute in plant science, animal science, and nutrition and food sciences, delivering outcomes in discovery, learning, and engagemen