That research came through the Advanced Macroalgae Biotechnology Joint Laboratory, established at Flinders in 2013 as a partnership between the CMBD and China’s Gather Great Ocean Group – one of the world’s largest seaweed processors.
Another of Professor Zhang’s concepts is a calcium supplement, to be developed in a collaboration with the CSIRO. “One in six children in Australia are lactose-intolerant and cannot get sufficient calcium from dairy products,” he says.
It’s important to consume the required nutrients, but it’s difficult to get children to eat things they don’t like, he adds. “We needed to make it tasty and edible, rather than via capsules or tablets, because they hate them.”
The Flinders team combined extracts from brown seaweed and minerals from lobster shells – a seafood-processing waste product – to create Calci-boom, a supplement that can be made into a lunchbox product, such as a jelly or drink. After success in the CSIRO’s ON Accelerate program, Calci-boom is now under commercial development.
And that’s just the tip of the marine biotechnology iceberg.
Driven by the global market demand for clean, green and effective marine bioproducts, Flinders is now leading a bid to form the first industry-led, national R&D platform for this emerging industry sector, called the Marine Bioproducts and Biotechnology Cooperative Research Centre (MBB-CRC).
The MBB-CRC already has 37 industry and eight university partners on board. Professor Zhang says a CRC is essential to realising Australia’s immense marine wealth and boosting its competitiveness internationally.
“The CRC will be a platform to link partners across the value and supply chain, give Australia international influence and connections, and support the growth of our marine biotechnology and bioproducts industry to contribute to what we’re dreaming of: an Australian blue economy worth $100 billion by 2025.”
Bring on the new Australian gold rush.