Catalyst: Aug 14

A new season of Catalyst begins on Tuesday with a 2-part special, Feeding Australia, with chef Paul West (River Cottage Australia) revealing the key breakthroughs in science and what we might be eating in the coming decades.

The ABC celebrates Science Week with the series return of Catalyst.

To many people, organic or wild caught food is the best and healthiest produce to eat. But in 2050, when Australia’s population hits 37 million, we may have to find more sustainable ways to farm our food than nature currently provides.

The Catalyst team search for ideas across Australia.

Chef Paul West arrives at an innovative barramundi farm in the Northern Territory, which employs an elaborate series of artificial wetlands to reduce its impact on the local environment. The fish farmers here also tweak nature to ensure the two million barramundi don’t instinctively attack and kill each other. But is this kind of farm sustainable?

Paul also sees nature tweaked in a vast glasshouse in Victoria. Nearly everything about the environment here is artificial, from the Co2 pumped through large pipes to the controlled air pressure and humidity. The farm is incredibly efficient, creating thousands of new tomatoes every week. But Paul also discovers that there’s a downside to an environment which lacks both wind and insects: the tomatoes have to be artificially pollinated.

Dietician Prof Clare Collins also examines the pros and cons of enhancing nature to increase food production at a modular farm in Brisbane where hundreds of lettuces and other greens are drip fed nutrients in a sealed room under LED lights.

Organic chemist Dr Noby Leong‘s mission is to find an alternative to beef, a staple of the Australian diet that’s also one of the most environmentally expensive forms of protein in the world. It takes at least 25k of grain to create 1k of beef.

Noby introduces his friends to tacos filled with protein-rich insects and tries a new form of plant-based protein that tastes and looks like minced-meat at a gourmet burger cafe.

During the Australia wide tour, Paul also looks at the preservative qualities of the Kakadu plum, and discovers a new way to propagate avocadoes to end the present day avocado shortage. And Clare takes part in an experiment to find ways to reduce her appetite for fat.

8pm Tuesday on ABC.

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