Australia wastes 7.3 million tonnes of food a year, with Australian households responsible for dumping more than half of that: about 4.1 million tonnes or around 9kg of food from every home, every week.

But for the first time, we know exactly what we waste, how it is wasted, and where it goes.

Researchers from the University of South Australia have traced the cycle of food waste in a three-year study looking at the economic, environmental and psychological modelling of food waste.

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Monalisa Padhee

Babies conceived through in vitro fertilisation may have an increased risk of heart disease in adult life, an Adelaide scientist has found.

Monalisa Padhee, of The University of South Australia, found sheep fetuses conceived through IVF had bigger hearts than those born naturally, raising questions about the long-term health effects of the popular technology.

“An enlarged heart is one of the strongest predictors of heart disease in later life,” says Monalisa, who undertook the study as part of her PhD. “Bigger hearts are sometimes considered a good thing as athletes have them, but the enlargement of the heart through IVF is non-exercise based and therefore not good.”

According to Monalisa, the earliest period of embryonic development is critical in determining the heart health in later life and any subtle changes may have adverse effects on normal heart development.

“We are trying to understand what genes and proteins are altered as a result of IVF procedures and this information may provide the links between IVF and increased risk of heart disease,” she says. “This data shows that further investigation is warranted so that the parents of children conceived through IVF can just enjoy the miracle of being parents to a happy and healthy baby.”

SA State Finalist: Monalisa Padhee, University of South Australia


Krishna Venkidusamy

Bacteria prove fuel for thought as an Adelaide researcher reveals their ability to clean up petroleum waste and produce electricity.

Krishna Venkidusamy, of The University of South Australia, has developed microbial fuel cells that use bacteria to break down diesel and produce power, opening up the possibility of a green solution to Australia’s petroleum pollution problem.

“The technology employs the world’s tiniest inhabitants, bacteria, which can eat the petroleum waste and produce electrons. During this process, we can generate an electrical current,” says Krishna, who is doing the research as part of her PhD.

“The process is suitable for almost any type of organic waste material, from contaminated soil to the by-products of many industries,” she says.

A pilot study is set to demonstrate the economical removal of these pollutants from the environment while generating electricity. “More research will find the best candidate microbes, reduce costs for materials, and increase the technology for commercial scales,” Krishna says.

The approach also has potential in areas with limited access to electricity or where polluted sites are difficult to treat.

“The use of these microbial systems to clean up polluted sites has been known for decades, but only recent technological advances have made it possible to harness the electricity during the clean-up process,” Krishna says. “On a commercial scale, this technology will help produce a cleaner and safer environment and provide green energy at the same time.”

Nationwide there are over 100,000 sites contaminated with petroleum products such as petrol and diesel. Petroleum hydrocarbons, their primary constituents, pose risks to human health when inhaled, ingested or exposed to skin.

SA State Finalist: Krishna Venkidusamy, CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment