Indigenous botanicals: $1.25 million project to study and commercialise Aboriginal plant-based products

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

The research partnership is funded as part of a $1.25 million South Australian Government grant to The Orana Foundation.
The research partnership is funded as part of a $1.25 million South Australian Government grant to The Orana Foundation.
The nutritional profile and bioactive compounds of Aboriginal food plants will be assessed as part of a major new research partnership to support the development of an Australian native food industry.

The University of Adelaide and The Orana Foundation, founded by chef Jock Zonfrillo, aim to foster the research and cultivation of native Australian ingredients for the benefit of remote indigenous communities.

The research partnership is being funded as part of a $1.25 million South Australian Government grant to The Orana Foundation. 

“Jock Zonfrillo and his Orana restaurant in Adelaide have set an innovative path with his use of native ingredients and, through The Orana Foundation, Jock is seeking to preserve and evolve Australian food culture into sustainable industry that makes the most of indigenous traditional knowledge and benefits indigenous communities,”​ said Professor Andy Lowe, director of Food Innovation at the University of Adelaide.

“The University of Adelaide has extensive research capability in food-related areas and we look forward to working with The Orana Foundation to understand more about the food ingredients that exist, their nutritional profile, their potential use in foods, and how they can best be cultivated and produced for commercial use.”

Rich food sources

Zonfrillo said it was vital that the scientific research and analysis also led to benefits for indigenous communities. 

“For the past 15 years, I have personally been privileged to work with remote indigenous communities to learn something of this incredible culture," ​he said."To create the first ever comprehensive database, building on past and current knowledge from a wide range of sources, will, I hope, allow many more people to access and share these rich food sources of Australia.”

There are four research components to the partnership:

• Building a native food database. ​This will be carried out in collaboration with the South Australian Museum and Botanic Gardens of South Australia. It will lead to the formation of a comprehensive database of existing and new knowledge of native plants used by indigenous communities, drawing on anthropological and botanical sources.

 Food quality assessment. ​The Australian Bioactive Compounds Centre (a joint centre between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia) will assess the nutritional profile and potential for bioactive compounds of Aboriginal food plants, looking at their sugar, protein, vitamin, antioxidant and fibre content and glycaemic index in particular.

• Food flavour assessment. ​Ingredients that have a high nutritional profile and great taste and flavour will be assessed as food potential. Chefs from The Orana Foundation will work with the University of Adelaide’s FOODplus Research Centre to determine the optimal preparation and cooking requirements for these native plant species, which will then be assessed for flavour, texture and visual appeal. A new experimental kitchen facility will be established at the university’s Waite campus.

• Plant production assessment. ​Optimal cultivation conditions for high-potential food plants will be assessed for commercial horticulture. Growth trials will be carried out, simulating arid or semi-arid environments in dry undercover facilities.

Related topics: Oceania, Botanicals, Research

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