The inaugural Global Table event that concluded in Melbourne on Friday established Australia as one of the leaders of Asia-Pacific’s next agricultural revolution.

Over 3,000 attendees from 29 countries travelled to Melbourne for the ground-breaking event that examined the entire food system to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population in a more sustainable way.

Sixty-one per cent of the world’s population resides in Asia, making the region a critical part of the puzzle.

“We could save water, land, energy… if food production was more efficient and better controlled,” said John F. Kerry, 68th US Secretary of State, in the opening keynote.

The event, officially Australia’s largest in food innovation and agribusiness, attracted more than 200 speakers to share their expertise on reducing food waste, fighting carbon emissions, developing more sustainable food packaging, new applications for hemp and more.

“Climate change is a huge challenge for our sector, but it’s not insurmountable,” said Jaclyn Symes, Victorian Minister for Agriculture, in opening the event.

International speakers included keynotes Secretary Kerry, Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro (Mars Incorporated) and Shama Sukul Lee (Sunfed), as well as Gerardo Mazzeo (Nestlé), Danielle Nierenberg (Food Tank) and Victor Friedberg (Food Shot Global).

Seeds&Chips – The Global Food Innovation Summit also made its Australian début at Global Table, bringing its dynamic mix of speakers, young voices and interactive programming to Melbourne.  

By the end of the four-day event, multinationals such as Deloitte and Mondelez International had awarded three startups places in their prestigious accelerator programs after a series of pitch competitions.

Alg Seaweed, created by Melbourne dietitian Sarah Leung, makes snacks out of seaweed, using varieties that, when harvested, improve ocean health.

TerViva, another winner, helps farmers utilise degraded land to grow pongamia trees, a high-yielding crop producing large amounts of protein and vegetable oil, while ProGel has created world-first technology that ensures probiotics can survive the trip to the intestine through the highly acidic environment of the stomach.

Mondelez International also announced a research institute for Australia and New Zealand specialising in sustainable snack foods.

Its SnackFutures Hub already operates in the US and Europe, but the confectionery and snack giant wants to tap into the healthy and innovative approach of many local businesses.

During the event, Australian think tank Food Frontier launched a world-first Deloitte Access Economics report that put a dollar amount on what the alternative protein industry could be worth to the Australian economy.

Thanks to growing consumer interest in meat alternatives, the industry could generate up to $3 billion for the economy and create up to 6,000 jobs over the next decade.

Elsewhere, more than 100 Australian food businesses made connections with up to 150 international buyers from 15 countries, representing valuable export opportunities in the future.

On Friday, Global Table hosted delegates at several hotbeds of innovation and research, such as Monash Food Innovation Centre, Four Pillars Gin and CSIRO.

Radek Sali, Chairman of Food + Wine Victoria, which created Global Table, said the event had put Melbourne at the centre of thought leadership and innovation for the policymakers, change-makers and disruptors of food and agriculture around the world.

“This international event has provided a unique opportunity for local farmers, producers and innovators to make the right connections that will empower them to take that next step,” he said.

“[Global Table is] a great initiative for our agricultural sector, particularly for those seeking to export and those employing innovative practices,” said Victorian Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula.

The event returns to Melbourne in September 2020.