Aussie start-up convinces Michelin star chefs with their plant-based meat alternative

The rich flavours of a bolognese sauce. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of slow-cooked meat. There are some dishes that are irresistibly delicious and comforting. So much so that they are making it difficult for many people to adopt a more plant-based diet. Even if they are otherwise convinced that it’s a better choice. 

It’s a conundrum that is all too familiar to Sunshine Coast entrepreneur Michal Fox. After becoming vegetarian four and a half years ago for ethical, health and environmental reasons, he sometimes still found himself craving his favourite dishes that were difficult to recreate without meat. 

And the former CEO of now closed shoe retailer Shoes of Prey kept hearing similar stories in his network. People wanted to reduce their meat consumption, but were struggling with the practicalities. 

The brains behind Fable's plant-based meat creations: Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR).
Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR) are the team behind Fable’s plant-based meat creations.

 “I’m a terrible activist, but have some entrepreneurial experience” says Michael. So, after a six months sabbatical during which he kept diving deeper in the complex issues of industrial animal agriculture, he decided to use his skills to help people reduce their meat consumption and launched Fable Food Co.

The plant-based meat company is promising to make it easier for people to create meat-free versions of their favorite recipes without having to compromise on flavour or texture. 

A plant-based meat that harnesses the natural goodness of mushrooms

“When I started to explore the plant-based meat category, two things became really important to me. Firstly, I didn’t want to create another burger or minced beef alternative. There were already quite a few very good products in the market,” explains the self-taught food entrepreneur. “And secondly, I wanted to use only natural ingredients that required minimal processing.” 

Entrepreneurs
Jane Goodall's masterclass teaches valuable lessons in conservation

Jane Goodall’s masterclass: 3 lessons on driving change

Since starting this blog a little less than a year ago, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to some incredibly inspiring people that live a life with impact and have learned a lot from them. But I am also keen to understand if there are general rules that I (and others) can apply to drive meaningful change.

One recent experience that has pushed my thinking in this direction, was taking Dr. Jane Goodall’s masterclass on conservation.

A scientist turned activist

Jane Goodall is probably most well-known for her work with chimpanzees, starting in the 1960s. While observing chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, she discovered – amongst other things – that the animals were picking leaves of sticks and used those modified sticks to fish termites from a nest.

Goodall’s discovery was ground-breaking since scientists up until then thought that only humans were capable of toolmaking. Her insights re-shaped the definition of man and our perception of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

In the 1970s Goodall realised that to protect chimpanzees and their habitat from increasing deforestation and destruction, she needed to get out of the forest and spread her message. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute and since then has been working as a tireless advocate for the environment, social justice, poverty alleviation and peace.

Activists Conservationist

Returnr wants to make single-use packaging a thing of the past

The lunchtime trip to the local cafe or takeaway shop is a ritual for many professionals of all collar colors. A nice diversion in the middle of the day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes and the lunch is actually eaten at the desk or on the road.

But our daily habits come at a price – both literally (Australians spend $8.3 billion per year on buying lunch) and metaphorically in terms of the impact our routines have on the environment. The majority of take-out plastic containers are in use for less than 30 minutes before they end up in landfill where they’ll continue to live forever

The good news is that reducing single-use packaging might soon be a lot easier – thanks to initiatives like Melbourne-foobased co-op startup Returnr

A closed-loop reusable container network

“The idea behind Returnr is to completely get rid of single-use packaging,” says Founder and CEO, Jamie Forsyth, about the company’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

To achieve this Jamie is building a closed-loop network of cafes, restaurants, take-away stores, businesses and individuals that uncouples packaging and containers from the idea of ownership.

Jamie Forsyth is looking to reduce single-use packaging
Jamie Forsyth is the Founder & CEO of Returnr. Image credit: Returnr

“One of the problems with owning a reusable container is that it’s so easy to forget at home or it hasn’t yet been cleaned to be able to use them again,” says Jamie. “This friction completely disappears if ownership is taken out of the equation.”

Entrepreneurs
Australian bushfire crisis Kangaroo Island

Australian bushfire crisis: how you can help long-term

The past months have been incredibly tough. Australia is fighting an unprecedented bushfire crisis which has burned across an area of at least 10.7 million hectares. Over 1,700 homes have been destroyed and 23 people lost their lives.

Over 1 billion animals are estimated to have died in a country where over 1,800 native plant and animal species had already been at risk of extinction. Conservationists fear that we may have lost some of them forever. Meanwhile, the bushfires are still burning across vast areas with no real end in sight.

Each day seems to bring more bad news. And while there are countless stories of incredible generosity and community, it’s still hard not to feel overwhelmed and helpless at times. Donating to causes that provide immediate support and relief is fantastic and vital, but I have spoken to many people who still felt they were not doing enough.

Managing the emergency right now still must be the priority. Yet the reality is that we will have to deal with the fallout from the current fires for many years to come – long after the haunting images will have disappeared from our newsfeed. This blog posts provides some ideas on how you can help long-term.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I will keep adding to it over time. If you have any other ideas on how to get involved, please add them in the comments below or drop me a line for it to be added to the main article.

Donate your skills to those affected by the Australian bushfire crisis

You might not have the money to support the relief efforts financially, but you might have the time and skills to help where it’s needed the most. What’s more, lending an active hand to bushfire victims will feel a lot more productive than continuously refreshing your social media feed.

Conservationist
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is jeopardising our reefs – government action on climate change can save them

Coral reefs are an important part of a healthy global ecosystem. They function as nurseries for many fish and provide important coastal protection for low-lying islands.

An estimated 400 million people in developing countries depend on coral reefs for protection and income. According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, tourism at the Great Barrier Reef alone is a $6.4 billion a year industry, providing 64,000 jobs.

But the future of our coral reefs is at risk. Back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by a warming climate are jeopardising their survival.

Marine biologist Professor Terry Hughes has dedicated his career to studying coral reefs. I recently had the chance to talk to him about his research on the linkages between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people and the role of governance.

The poster child of climate change

“In the context of climate change, coral reefs are often called the canary in the coalmine,” says Terry. “ I am not sure if this analogy is accurate or that coral reefs are more vulnerable than other ecosystems.”

Professor Terry Hughes
Professor Terry Hughes

“In Australia, we are currently dealing with burning rainforests, so one could argue that many other ecosystems are equally at risk. But coral reefs are very photogenic and iconic, so with their increasing degradation, they have become the poster child for the impact of climate change on biodiversity.”

The other issue with the canary metaphor is that it suggests that we’re still in the early stages of understanding and responding to the impact of climate change on the natural environment.

Scientists Thinkers
Australian farm

From tree changers to regenerative farming trailblazers

Murray Prior and his wife Michelle had been thinking about a tree change for a long time before they finally took the leap and bought a farm. “Inner City Sydney seemed like a very intense place to raise children. And as our two kids got older, it was time to make a decision,” says Murray who purchased a 220 acres property near Gundaroo in the Southern Tablelands of NSW just over 18 months ago.

The mixed-grazing plot ticked a lot of boxes. It had access to a river and the relatively short distance to Sydney made it possible for Murray to continue to work as International Marketing Director at a law firm four days per week before returning to his family and farm life over the weekend. 

Murray Prior regenerative farmer in the Southern tablelands of NSW
From tree changers to regenerative farmers: The Prior Family. Image credit: Murray Prior .

But the change in surroundings brought about much more than just a lifestyle change for the Priors. Murray and Michelle are now right in the middle of turning their property into a model for regenerative farming practices. 

Of mentors and newly minted farmers

It’s a transformation that was set in motion by a colleague’s book recommendation. Call of the Reed Warbler is an urgent call to move to less intensive agricultural practices. The author of the book is 5th generation Australian farmer, Charles Massy. His book is a powerful mix of personal memoir and scientific evidence. 

“Reading Charlie’s book changed our lives,” remembers Murray. “His story changed our perspective on the enormity of what we had just done. We started to think about our responsibility as custodians of the land we now owned.”

Entrepreneurs

The transformative power of environmental art: Creating beauty from plastic waste

When environmental artist John Dahlsen first started experimenting with what would soon become his creative medium of choice, it had some of his friends slightly worried. The huge piles of plastic rubbish – all neatly sorted by colour – that had taken over much of the available space in the artist’s house certainly raised eyebrows. “Some of my friends asked me if I was OK”, the Byron Bay based environmental artist remembers laughingly.

Byron Bay based environmental artist John Dahlsen.
John Dahlsen is an environmental artist based in Byron Bay. Image credit: John Dahlsen.

But what may have initially looked like an odd quirk, turned out to be a tremendous source of inspiration. In fact, it would change the course of his career.

The artworks that John created from plastic rubbish washing ashore on local beaches catapulted him into the Australian art scene and helped him win international acclaim.

In 2000, John received the prestigious Wynne Prize for his Thong Totems sculpture and was selected as a finalist in 2003 and again in 2004. His work featured in exhibitions in Florence, Milan, New York, Beijing – and countless places in between.

Absolut and Nespresso commissioned work from him to raise awareness about plastic pollution and recycling long before the David Attenborough effect brought the issue into the mainstream.

The accidental environmental artist

All of this was set in motion by happenstance. In 1997, John discovered the potential of plastic rubbish as a means for creative expression while scouring remote beaches in Victoria for driftwood to make furniture. “I noticed all this plastic washing up, so I started picking it up with the intention to take it to the local tip for recycling,” recounts John.

Creatives

Connecting communities to fight food waste

Food waste is a common problem in all industrial societies. According to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste in 2016-17. Of this, 34% was created in our homes. At the same time, more than 4 million Australians have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months.

Queensland impact start-up Spare Harvest is looking to bridge this divide. The app-based community facilitates the swapping, sharing, selling and sourcing of produce, pantry items, gardening equipment, and much more… “We have left the categories and ways in which people interact very open to make it easy for anyone to participate,” explains company founder Helen Andrew.

Over a period of three and a half years – and with very little technical knowledge –  Helen bootstrapped an online marketplace with 3,000 members and around 300 listings.

An idea to fight food waste – grown in the backyard

And it all started with a problem in Helen’s own backyard. When she traded life in the City and her corporate career in favour of a plot of land on the Sunshine Coast and raising her children, she knew one thing for certain: she wanted to be able to grow her own food and provide her kids with an experience similar to her own childhood in suburban Brisbane.

Helen Andrew is fighting food waste
Spare Harvest founder Helen Andrew. Image credit: Spare Harvest

The Sunshine Coast property looked like it would allow her to fulfill that dream. It had many established fruit trees with the potential to add more varieties over time.

Entrepreneurs

Protecting the Australian stingless native bee

Ann and Jeff Ross became beekeepers by accident. A few years ago, a hive of European honeybees had made themselves at home in one of the walls of Jeff and Ann’s car mechanic shop on the Sunshine Coast. Instead of just getting the hive removed, the couple decided to relocate them to their backyard. And with that they became hobby beekeepers overnight.

Hive Haven co-founder Ann Ross invented the bee box for Australian stingless native bees.
Hive Haven co-founder Ann Ross with version 9 of their bee box. Image credit: Hive Haven

Little did they know at the time that their new hobby would soon turn into a business. Ann and Jeff are the founders of Hive Haven, an Australian agricultural start-up that is one part boutique honey producer and one part award-winning manufacturer of insulated hives designed for the needs of the Australian stingless native bee.  

From hobby beekeeper to industry innovator

“I was doing a business degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast when we got that first hive”, remembers Ann. “While I was studying, Jeff’s interest in bees grew and he started growing his apiary .”

Entrepreneurs

This Aussie inventor is making wave energy affordable

In the search for a more sustainable energy mix, solar, wind and nuclear power are clearly dominating the discussion. But there’s another source of renewable energy that has great potential: ocean waves.

“Unfortunately, no wave energy technology has managed to be cost effective until now”, says Oceanographer Tom Denniss. “But we believe that will soon change.”

Wave Swell Energy Founder Tom Denniss
Wave Swell Energy Founder Tom Denniss. Image credit: WSE

Tom and his team at Australian energy technology company Wave Swell Energy (WSE) are about to prove that wave energy has the potential to become a serious player in sustainable power generation. WSE is about to construct and launch a 200 kW wave energy project on King Island, with Hydro Tasmania integrating the electricity from the unit into the local hybrid grid, alongside its existing wind, solar, and diesel generation.

Producing energy through waves at a competitive price

Proving that wave energy can be captured in a cost-competitive way has long been a challenge for the sector. WSE is aiming to demonstrate this capability via the King Island project – and as a result of that to become the first wave energy technology to enter the commercial phase.

Entrepreneurs Thinkers