Monday, March 4, 2024

Fine Food Australia announces speaker line-up

This year’s Fine Food Australia, taking place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (5-8 September), will feature a line-up of some of Australia’s “most learned” thought leaders.

Promoted as one of the most anticipated presentations, ‘There’s a robot in my kitchen’ by Rod Fowler, Director of Food Industry Foresight, will cover foodservice automation. Mr Fowler has also devised the line-up for the business-inspired Talking Trends section.

“Given we’re being challenged in the hospitality industry with a labour shortage, automation in robot waiters and robotic kitchen equipment is one way we can work smarter,” says Mr Fowler.

“For generations, robots and computers have scared people thinking they will lose their jobs. However, the reality is they can offload menial tasks so humans can do the more important or complex jobs.”

Mr Fowler says foodservice in Australia has been slow to take on new innovation concepts due to the industry structure.

“The majority of foodservice outlets in Australia are independently owned and are small businesses, whereas in the US, most are part of a chain so there’s more resources to explore technology,” he says.

“It may be seen as a gimmick by some, but over there, lots of robots are doing the jobs of servers, baristas, bartenders, pizza or salad chefs; flipping burgers – all sorts of things. This is forecast to be a $150 billion industry by 2025. There is an outlay to rent or buy a robot waiter, but it can work out cheaper than hiring extra staff.”

Two robot exhibitors will also be on the floor – Bear Robotics and JNS Robotics.

Bear Robotics’ John Ha will also be presenting the topic ‘Robotics in foodservice’, discussing the company’s Servi robot models, launching at the event.

Mr Fowler says the concept of remaining agile is a focus this year across Talking Trends.

“It was tough during Covid, but those who survived found ways to do new business and adapt,” he says. “We need to constantly look to how we can improve and where savings can be made.”

Core business hurdles and opportunities facing the industry in a ‘post’ Covid world, will also be a central theme in the Talking Shop presentations.

Meanwhile, The Source Kitchen, convened by business Straight to the Source, is hosting presentations about the “hottest” ingredients and techniques.

“We’ll have like-minded entrepreneurs shaking up the food industry, giving insights into how to reboot your business,” says organiser Tawnya Bahr.

Other key speaker sessions include:

Talking Trends

  • Where is the post-pandemic hospitality industry heading: Sissel Rosengren of Food Industry Foresight on how past and present market conditions has affected foodservice.
  • Should you have alternative proteins on your menu: Adam Warren of v2food on plant-based meat and opportunities.
  • How single-use packaging bans will affect the foodservice industry: Gary Smith of BioPak and Tom Naughtin of Waste Ninja on bans and how composting can work within foodservice.

The Source Kitchen

  • The world is your Akoya (oyster): Chef Matt Stone and farmer Glenn Dibbin on the first place in the world (Western Australia) to be showcasing this “incredible” shellfish as a culinary delicacy.
  • Outside the box – ag and sustainability: Lance Mcleod of Moojepin Foods and plant breeder Adrian Parsons on the future of agriculture and cultivating Geraldton waxflower for consumption.
  • Boom! Get your wild game on with mushrooms: Master pastry chef Christopher on sustainable wild game and cultivated Aussie mushrooms.

Talking Shop

  • Latte art theory and plant-based milk texturing: Hany Ezzat, Milklab Master Barista, on his best tips and tricks for texturing and stretching plant-based milks.
  • Next-level sustainability in animal foods: Shelley McMillan of Mintel on regenerative agriculture, carbon reduction and zero waste practices.
  • The influence and role of technology: Host Ken Burgin and panel on adapting the right solutions to best benefit business operations.

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