Oat enthusiasts from around the globe have convened on Perth for the 11th International Oat Conference, with a four-day agenda including field tours, information sessions and oat-product taste testing now under way. The Australian oat industry is taking centre stage as speakers and delegates converge from countries as far afield as Sweden, Chile, China, the USA, Austria, Canada and many others. The four-day affair kicked off with field tours on October 10, before the three-day conference at Crown Perth from the 11th to 13th, which also includes a conference dinner on October 11 and several workshops for attendees. It is being co-ordinated by the Grain Industry Association of WA and the International Oat Organising Committee, with the conference also going by the abbreviated name OAT2022. Normally held every four years, the conference has been delayed by two years due to WA’s hard border while COVID-19 was sweeping the globe. Guests at the conference seized the chance to sample some of the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre’s innovative oat products, with an oat rice dish proving the favourite so far. Developed by research scientists from AEGIC, the oat “rice” is prepared and eaten like traditional white rice, with the health benefits of oats. The special Oat2022 vegetarian nasi goreng dish was prepared in the Crown Towers Perth kitchens using AEGIC’s processed oats. The oat rice product is part of a suite of innovative foods developed at AEGIC, which also includes 100 per cent wholegrain oat noodles, bubble tea pearls, semolina products such as couscous and halwa, and sauces. The oat noodle and oat rice products are currently undergoing a commercialisation process to bring them to market. AEGIC Barley and Oat Quality program manager Jack King said Australian oats had a bright future, with international demand for food grade oats increasing. “The compelling health narrative around oats means there are significant opportunities in Asia and around the world for high quality and nutritious products made from Australian oats,” he said. “Introducing novel products like oat noodles and oat rice helps Asian consumers by making it easier to adopt healthy oats into their regular diet. “Stimulating demand in what is a premium market segment will create new value for Australian growers.” The conference will be held 18 months after news broke that the Australian centre for oat breeding would be shifted from South Australia to Perth to be led by InterGrain at Bibra Lake. WA produces more than half of Australia’s oats but for nearly 20 years the national oat breeding program was based in South Australia. The conference theme is health, with some of the topics to be explored including health trends in oats, oat quality, products and innovation, oat genomics and bioinformatics, oat breeding and genetics, global oat markets, and oat agronomy and global farming systems. Australia is the world’s second-biggest oat exporter, representing 10-15 per cent of the trade behind the “behemoth” oat exporter Canada at 75 per cent. Oat exports from Australia have increased during the past five years, with robust growth last year driven by significant demand from several key markets.