Seaweed researcher named AgriFutures Australia Researcher of the Year

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Diver with Australian seaweed

Adrian Spencer, a Victorian-based seaweed researcher has recently been announced as the AgriFutures Australia Researcher of the Year.

Adrian Spencer sees a lot in seaweed. His recent research revealed that Australia has over 12,000 native species of seaweed and algae, and they contain bioactive health ingredients such as Omega-3 and collagen. Both are in demand globally but with minimal local production, the potential of opening new markets within Australia is extremely attractive.

“We have an incredible natural native supply of algae, and the Australian environment is ideal for algae growth.

“Algae was seen as a biofuel alternative for many years, but this research we’re doing shows there’s a great pivot available here and the past research work and infrastructure that was invested into biofuel possibilities can absolutely be used in the health and nutraceutical field,” explained Mr Spencer.

AgriFutures Australia’s General Manager, Business Development, Michael Beer said Mr Spencer’s research has helped the emerging seaweed industry diversify their markets and has made a valuable contribution to the advancement of Australian agriculture.

“The Australian nutraceutical industry relies on $1 billion worth of imported ingredients annually, for use in vitamins, minerals and supplements manufacture. Research as part of this AgriFutures Emerging Industries-funded project has shown that Australia has a wealth of native species that have highly sought-after nutraceutical benefits, such as omega-3 oils and inhibitors for collagen degradation.

“The opportunity exists for companies to source Australian ingredients as replacements for those imports, and to identify emerging local and export markets that can be supplied with innovative local products with proven health benefits,” said Mr Beer.

The inaugural AgriFutures Australia Research Awards were developed to acknowledge and reward researchers who produce an extremely high quality of work and make a valuable contribution towards the advancement of Australian agriculture.

AgriFutures Australia’s General Manager, Research, John Smith said the organisation is fortunate to be able to work with a number of talented and dedicated researchers on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s been a tough few years for researchers with COVID-19 causing many delays, many not able to conduct field studies, travel or even enter labs. It’s wonderful to be able to highlight the impressive work of Adrian and our three runner-ups,” said Mr Smith.

The three runner-ups for the inaugural AgriFutures Australia Research Awards were:

  • Trudy Sharp, Valentine NSW, Animal welfare and sustainability of the Australian kangaroo
  • harvesting industry
  • Dr Lida Omaleki, Chapel Hill QLD, Clouds and Pasteurella multocida
  • Associate Professor Shubiao Wu, Armidale NSW, Assessment of sexing options to perform nutritional research in meat chickens

As Researcher of the Year, Mr Spencer will receive two tickets to attend evokeAG. Adelaide 2023 and associated travel costs, and a capacity building grant.

Adrian will use the Researcher of the Year Award grant to attend the European Algae Industry Summit.

“While there are many forums internationally, this is the most comprehensive and focused of its type in terms of industry research collaboration.

“The Australian industry is held back currently by a knowledge gap around the latest research and industry advancements, in terms of growing, harvesting, refining and biomanufacturing.

“We are reliant on what is already happening around the world, particularly in Europe so by attending this summit, I will be able to connect and learn from the latest breakthroughs and advancements directly from the researchers/proprietors of this information.

“This will fill gaps in my knowledge that is not accessible locally – and I’m incredibly excited to bring that knowledge back and share it with local emerging industry,” he said.

Adrian Spencer
Adrian Spencer, AgriFutures Australia Researcher of the Year

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