INNOVATION: Dr Gustavo Cerqueira, chief executive officer of Cluster Biotechnology.
INNOVATION: Dr Gustavo Cerqueira, chief executive officer of Cluster Biotechnology. Contributed

Science to pave the way

IT SOUNDS like magic.

An organic coating that can prevent fruit from spoiling for weeks, extending the tight window farmers have to get seasonal produce to market, and increasing the fridge life of fruit and vegies for consumers.

But it's the work of Cluster Biotechnology, a microbiology company based on the Sunshine Coast.

Cluster Biotechnology chief executive officer Dr Gustavo Cerqueira said its APICAL range, which is used as bio-fertilisers and bio-preservatives, could revolutionise the agriculture industry and drastically reduce food waste.

The spray has already caught the attention of overseas investors.

"It can be utilised as a pre-harvest agent,” he said.

"It's a totally organic and an Australian-made product.

"After using this, the fruit will last significantly longer. I am talking up to about 45 days longer.”

As a microbiologist, Dr Cerqueira has worked in vaccine development but only ventured into agriculture innovation in recent years.

"Basically, our company receives money from investors aiming to isolate innovative micro-organisms from the field,” he said.

"We bring the micro-organisms back to the laboratory and we isolate these micro-organisms in a very particular manner, never discovered before, and as a result we obtain micro-organisms that would not normally grow under synthetic conditions (like a laboratory).”

When the Rural Weekly talked to Dr Cerqueira over the phone he was testing a new bioreactor - which could be heard ticking in the background.

"Once micro-organisms are tested, we can find out if we can use them commercially, then the next step is scaling up,” he said.

"The way we scale up is by taking our samples from the laboratory to our production plant, where we have the bioreactor.”

The bioreactor will allow Cluster Biotechnology to produce up to 3500 litres of agricultural input per day, he said.

So far delegates from Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Togo have showed interest in the product.

"Togo, as an example, is considering to purchase three 20-foot containers of agricultural input from us per month,” Dr Cerqueira said.

The particular micro-organism that has been discovered to hold the vital bio-preservative attributes was found in Tasmania, however, as Dr Cerqueira was working through intellectual property agreements, he declined to reveal the exact source it was from; although he told the Rural Weekly it originates from the guts of an animal.

Dr Cerqueira dismissed the suggestion his company was an industry leader in micro-organism science, but said it was certainly a leader in organic agritechnology.

"It's a sector of the economy that is so neglected,” he said.

"This is exciting work for us.

"It's a pleasure for us to be involved in Australian agriculture; it's the cornerstone of the world.”

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