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Research for sustainable, less food waste city in Queensland underway  

Research into Australia’s first sustainable food city south of Brisbane is underway to help create a digitally-enabled community compost system and small-scale food production businesses.

QUT is helping undertake the research as part of a Food Agility CRC project, with the university collaborating with Lendlease to develop prototype systems for sustainable local food production at Yarrabilba, south of Brisbane.

QUT food and agricultural sociologist Dr Carol Richards said with the circular economy being a new approach to dealing with the growing problem of food waste, this waste will gain more value than it had in the past.

“In this case, we are using food waste to grow more food and create a valuable resource for the community. Working with residents to co-design their own sustainable food city is a key aspect of this project,” she said.

Food Agility CEO Dr Mike Briers hoped Yarrabilba would become a national model for digitally integrated, sustainable urban agriculture and the circular food economy.

“The world is grappling with a major food challenge – how to make enough healthy food to feed a growing population – with less available land while minimising waste and environmental impact.

“Yarrabilba will be a test ground for how we can embed cutting-edge digital technologies into the design of our cities to create local food systems fuelled by food waste,” Briers said.

The first stage will involve developing a prototype digital composting system that uses sensors to track when people add their kitchen food waste to the compost.

The community will be able to track their progress on a digital dashboard and earn credits to swap for local goods and services.

The second stage involves establishing a digitally-enabled produce garden and a local food market.

Yarrabilba development director, Michelle Wooldridge, said the research will be incorporated into Lendlease’s development plans at Yarrabilba, which will see the community grow to 45,000 people by 2041.

“We’re looking at environmental sustainability and community health in a whole new way and building in the necessary infrastructure from the beginning. We also think this will generate economic opportunities, whether that’s through urban farming, creating value out of waste or food-based tourism,” Wooldridge said.