The founder of a Queensland food technology company that has invented a process to keep natural milk fresh for 60 days expects consumers will be drinking the product by March.
Naturo CEO Jeff Hastings said the project was in its final stages of development, and $A1 million ($NZ1.07m) in federal government funding announced on Friday would allow it to finalise and "validate the technology".
The federal government hopes the innovation will provide easier access to fresh milk for consumers across the country, and eventually the world.
The Queensland Dairy Farmers organisation said farmers would welcome the innovation if it supported the local industry.
How does it work?
In 2019, Hastings announced his Sunshine Coast-based company had developed technology that could extend the shelf life of fresh milk.
He has not fully detailed what he says is a "world-leading" patented technology, but explained that it uses a multi-step process without relying on heat, like pasteurisation, to keep natural milk fresh for 60 days.
Hastings said the process did not require additives or preservatives, and would retain the milk's original nutritional value.
Following the federal government's funding boost, Hastings said his company could complete the pilot project and the milk would be available to purchase in supermarkets within months.
He then planned to build a larger plant, employing an additional 30 people, and was considering sites in Tasmania.
On Queensland shelves by March
"It's a long journey; it has taken a long time. We are finalising the validation work now after six years," Hastings said.
"This is the work where the regulator gets involved to make sure we are safe for human consumption.
"That process will be completed circa end of February and after that we'll be in the market to our own business partners around Queensland with commercial milk.
"Queenslanders will drink our milk by March."
Hastings said he hoped the technology would be welcomed by consumers as well as the dairy industry, which he wanted to benefit from the innovation.
"Part of our ethos or who we are is about trying to get back to the farm gate," he said.
"We hope to provide a better return for dairy farmers and also allow them to access a well-posed technology, and through that, export markets.
"So I think there's a good story to be to be had for local dairy farms."
Local dairy farmers hopeful of new markets
Matthew Trace, Queensland Dairy Farmers organisation vice-president, said farmers were curious about the 60-day milk.
"What does it taste like? Where does the milk come from? And, importantly for Queensland dairy farmers, do the farmers get a sustainable price out of this as well?"
He said farmers would welcome the new technology if it opened up new markets and better prices for milk.
"If it's Queensland milk going into this product, that would be great, but if it's Victorian milk being trucked up, that wouldn't be great for the local dairy industry."
Trace said the Queensland dairy industry would soon approach the Sunshine Coast company to see what opportunities might exist for local dairy farmers.
"I think it's time for the industry to have a chat and just say, 'Hey, can we help you to help our local dairy farmers?'"
Hastings said the milk was currently being sourced out of Queensland's Mary Valley and processed at its Coolum plant on the Sunshine Coast.
Plans to export to the world
Minister for Technology Karen Andrews said once available, the technology would provide many communities with easier access to fresh milk.
"The product has been developed here and will certainly support our growth in the domestic market, but also in the international market," she said.
"There are many countries that have limited access to fresh milk so we are keen to work with buyers and countries to provide them what appears to be an … excellent product for them."
"The funding will be used to finalise work at Naturo's Queensland pilot plant to create its first batches of milk to then export … to the world," Andrews said, "while also paving the way for a full-scale facility to be built in regional Tasmania."