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Event date and time

Tuesday 7 - Thursday 9 Mar 2023
Starts: 5.00pm, 7 March 2023. Concludes 5.00pm, 9 March 2023


Discovery Theatre, CSIRO Black Mountain
Clunies Ross St, Black Mountain ACT

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• Jointly organised by CSIRO and ACIAR.

• Brings science and industry experts to explore cutting-edge opportunities in re-designing plant biomass for food, feed and fuel.

• Join us online or in person.

About the Cutting-Edge Science Symposium

Large quantities of agricultural biomass are being produced globally which can be transformed into high-value products by utilizing various genetic and biochemical techniques. In the recent past, there has been growing interest in more effective biomass utilization such as engineering and synthesising the required product directly in the plant biomass (Molecular Farming). In addition to promoting a circular bio-economy, effective biomass utilisation mitigates the challenges posed by climate change.


  • Face-to-face registration


  • Online registration from Australia and the rest of the world


  • Online registration from developing countries


  • Face-to-face registration for students


  • Online registration for students


Dates and Times

Event date: Mar 2023

07 March - 09 March 2023

Discovery Theatre, CSIRO Black Mountain

Starts: 5.00pm, 7 March 2023. Concludes 5.00pm, 9 March 2023

Clunies Ross St, Black Mountain ACT
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Srinivas Belide

More information

Themes of the Symposium:

1. Biomass engineering for increased productivity

Breeding and metabolic engineering efforts of next-generation oil crops have largely focused on seed or fruit tissues. Until recently, vegetative tissues that make up most of the above-ground biomass have been largely ignored as a potential production platform but rather viewed as photosynthetic tissue, necessary to fuel seed development. CSIRO and other international labs have recently engineered plant leaves to accumulate dramatically high levels of oil (Leaf Oil). This breakthrough technology has opened a new frontier in plant metabolic engineering where valuable components such as oil are harvested in high yields from biomass. Whilst >30% oil (dry weight) has been recorded in leaves of tobacco as a model system, considerable scientific hurdles still remain to reproduce in dedicated high biomass crops.

This symposium aims to address the challenges that exist when fine-tuning the composition of plant biomass by metabolic engineering. Leading speakers will cover the latest developments in the area of plant metabolic engineering. The symposium will also explore synergistic opportunities of biomass-related traits including tailoring carbon partitioning, improving photosynthesis and increasing biomass yields. Further, this symposium will facilitate the exchange of recent technical developments in engineering biomass, and discuss sustainable new market opportunities in a changing climate.

2. Biomass engineering for improved composition for feeds, forages and foods.

Global consumption of meat and dairy is projected to grow up to 70% by 2050 (FAO). The increase in demand is driven by population growth, consumer affluence and burgeoning urbanisation in developing countries and also by high nutrient density and bioavailability in livestock products. At the same time, livestock production systems are currently facing scrutiny due to sustainability and environmental concerns. A direct consequence of the increased consumption of livestock products in a changing climate is the accelerating global demand for high-quality and resilient forage crops.

Feed as one of the major costs associated with most animal production systems can account for up to 70% of the total production cost. Furthermore, feed quality has a direct impact on the growth rate and health status of the animal as well as on meat and dairy product quality. Optimal feeding, therefore, is the key to a profitable and sustainable livestock farming industry. The universal need for more nutritious, climate resilient and economic forage options for livestock farmers is gaining attention. This symposium aims to bring together leading researchers and stakeholders within Australia and overseas who have an interest in the area of vegetative biomass with increased oil and the development of high-quality feed crops. Another objective of the proposed symposium is to identify and jointly explore international collaborative opportunities by bridging the gap between crop and livestock researchers, as well as relevant end users.

3. Value-addition and total utilisation of plant biomass

Insufficient protein for human consumption is an emerging problem. This is expected to worsen due to global population increase, climate change, and the environmental impact of livestock. Estimates predict a need for 46% more protein by 2050 to meet this demand. Proteins from green leaves offer an alternative to seed-based proteins with potentially significant yield advantages due to the high leaf biomass. There are several green leaf plants such as lucerne and duckweed that are already grown to meet the protein nutrition of animals. In order to utilize green leaf proteins more extensively within the food system, further research is required to optimise its composition, flavour and sensory expectations. Further efficient extraction from the biomass, processing and stabilization of the proteins needs further research.

4. Bioprocessing of plant biomass and utilisation

Plant biomass is a renewable feedstock for the production of biofuels, chemicals, materials and polymers. Pre-treatment of plant biomass is essential to remove and/or reduce the inhibitors such as lignin, extractives, inorganic contents, etc. Most pre-treatment procedures to enhance bioactivity are not only expensive but also inefficient. Metabolic engineering approaches using recombinant DNA or gene editing technologies are considered promising alternatives to pre-treatment methods.

The symposium will target researchers from private and public sectors as well as specialists from agribusinesses and rural development worldwide. The opportunity for plant biomass to play a unique role as a solution and tool in responding to the global challenges presented by climate change will drive the discussions and transfer of knowledge throughout the symposium.

About Canberra, Australia:

Canberra, the capital of Australia, nestled within a beautiful Australian bush environment, was chosen "the best place to live in the world" by a survey of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2014. It is a well-planned city, close to the famous beaches of the southern NSW coast, mountains with winter snowfields, award-winning wineries, wildlife and a large multicultural diversity within the city itself. Canberra Airport is a 50-minute flight away from Sydney and is connected by regular direct flights to many large cities. Autumn time in Canberra (March-May) is mild, with an average temperature close to 20oC. Enjoy our bush capital together with plenty of kangaroos and other unique wildlife in wild!

Organising committee:

  1. Srinivas Belide, Synthetic Traits, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO (Lead)
  2. Thomas Vanhercke, Synthetic Traits, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO (Co-Lead)
  3. Craig Wood, Group Leader, Synthetic Traits, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO
  4. Xue-Rong Zhou, Synthetic Traits, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO
  5. Jason Geijskes, Group Leader – Future Crop Breeding, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO
  6. Crispin Howitt, Future Crop Breeding, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO
  7. Di Mayberry, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO
  8. Donna Glassop, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO
  9. Gonzalo Martinez Fernandez, Agriculture and Food, CSIRO

Confirmed speakers:

  1. Simon Roycroft, Manager Future Fuels, Refuelling Solutions, NSW, Australia
  2. Chris Jones, Program Leader, Forage and Fodder development, ILRI, Kenya.
  3. Allan Green, Principal of AGRENEW, Australia.
  4. Cameron Begley, Managing Director, Spiegare Pty Ltd, Australia.
  5. Rafael Augusto da Costa Parrella, EMBRAPA, BRAZIL.
  6. Maria Ermakova, Australian National University, Australia.
  7. Thomas Vanhercke, CSIRO, Australia.
  8. Dianne Mayberry, CSIRO, Australia.
  9. Serkan Ates, Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA.
  10. Ian O’Hara, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.
  11. Fabiano Ximenes, Forest Science, NSW Dept. of Primary Industries, Australia
  12. Gil Garnier, Director and Professor, Bioresource Processing Research Institute of Australia (BioPRIA), PALS ARC Industry Transformation Research Hub, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Monash University, Australia.
  13. Conner Balfany, The Leaf Protein, Co, USA
  14. Professor Ian Godwin, Centre Director - Crop Science, Centre for Crop Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Australia
  15. Stacy D Singer, Research Scientist, Forage biotechnologist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  16. Kiran Mysore, Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute for Agricultural Biosciences, Oklahoma State University, USA.
  17. Aduli EO Malau-Aduli, University of Newcastle, New South Wales, NSW, Australia.
  18. Robert Henry, Professor of Innovation in Agriculture, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, S635 Hartley Teakle Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD 4072
  19. Philip Bell, Director of research at Microbiogen, Macquarie Centre, NSW, 2113, Australia
  20. Tanda Sahat Panjaitan, Research Scientist, The National Research and Innovation Agency, Indonesia.
  21. John Tulloch, Sr Scientist, Licella, North Sydney NSW, Australia


Day-1: 7 March 2023, 5.00pm to 7.30pm AEDT

  • Official symposium opening
  • Two plenary talks (45 min each)
  • Mixer (Drinks and Nibbles)

Day-2: 8 March 2023, 9.00am to 5.30pm AEDT

  • Registrations
  • Presentations and panel discussion

Day-3: 9 March 2023, 9.00am to 5.00pm AEDT

  • Registrations
  • Presentations and panel discussion