Building a native food industry in Australia

The University of Adelaide and The Orana Foundation, founded by chef Jock Zonfrillo, have announced a major new research partnership to support the development of an Australian native food industry.

The partnership will deliver a key pillar of The Orana Foundation’s aims to foster the research and cultivation of native Australian ingredients for the benefit of remote Indigenous communities.

“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,” says Professor Andy Lowe, Director, 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.”

Jock Zonfrillo, founder and Chair of The Orana Foundation says: “The Orana Foundation was inspired by the first Australians’ unique relationship with the land, and sophisticated knowledge of traditional food culture.

“It is critically important for the success of this project that as a result of this scientific research and analysis, Indigenous communities are able to gain significant benefits from sharing their knowledge, through direct involvement in future cultivation, harvesting and supply of native ingredients.”

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

“I’m so excited to see this project come to life,” says Jock Zonfrillo. “It’s been a long-term dream of mine to expand the work of Orana restaurant into a Foundation that brings recognition to Australian native wild ingredients, and the traditional food culture practice of the first Australian communities.

“For the past 15 years I have personally been privileged to work with remote Indigenous communities to learn something of this incredible culture. 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 (in collaboration with South Australian Museum and Botanic Gardens of South Australia). The collation of a new comprehensive database of existing and new knowledge of native plants used by Indigenous communities, drawing on anthropological and botanical sources, with culturally significant practice shared with Jock Zonfrillo in working with remote Indigenous communities.
  • Conduct a food qualities 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, in particular looking at their sugar, protein, vitamin, anti-oxidant and fibre content and glycaemic index.
  • Food flavours 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.

Media Contact:
Professor Andy Lowe,
Director, Food Innovation, University of Adelaide.
Phone: +61 8 8313 1149,
Mobile: +61 (0)434 607 705,

Bridgette Hunt,
The Orana Foundation

Robyn Mills,
Media Officer, University of Adelaide.
Phone: +61 (0)8 8313 6341,
Mobile: +61 (0)410 689 084,

CRICOS Provider Number 00123M

Original Article: The University of Adelaide

Orana Foundation awarded grant to develop native foods industry

Tomorrow’s 2016-17 Mid-Year Budget Review will include $1.25 million for the Orana Foundation to expand their work in the research, cultivation and production of indigenous Australian foods.

The funding, to be provided this financial year, will help create new jobs in food science and research and will promote South Australia as a centre for food innovation, combining indigenous traditional knowledge with food science and contemporary culinary practice.

The grant will enable the Orana Foundation to work with indigenous communities to:

  • Build an online native food database to capture and preserve knowledge gathered from Indigenous communities, early settlers, anthropologists and botanists;
  • Establish an Australian Food Culture Enterprise to identify, test and analyse a wider range of ingredients suitable for food preparation and health products;
  • Launch an enterprise hub to directly support product cultivation projects, skills and leadership training, market development and product placement and supply.

Benefits to the indigenous community will include the preservation of traditional knowledge of the land and native ingredients, reconnecting young Indigenous people through education and training and the creation of sustainable commercial enterprise within remote Indigenous communities.


The Orana Foundation was launched by Adelaide chef Jock Zonfrillo after years working with remote indigenous communities to discover first hand their food culture and breadth of native ingredients, which are almost wholly unknown outside those communities.

The Foundation aims are:

  • To assist remote Indigenous communities by stimulating Indigenous enterprise through supporting communities to research, document, commercialise and promote native wild foods;
  • To support the development and expansion of native wild food supply and demand for the benefit and welfare of remote Indigenous communities;
  • To alleviate Indigenous social and economic disadvantage, particularly in remote communities, through professional skills training and employment opportunities in growing, cultivating and harvesting native wild foods;
  • To preserve and promote the unique cultural heritage of traditional Indigenous food culture as a bridge to greater cultural recognition and understanding among all Australians.

Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill

It is incredible that as a society we are so unfamiliar with native foods that sustained indigenous communities for millennia.

To lose the knowledge held within these communities would be a tragedy, but understanding and promoting this food culture also represents a significant opportunity for indigenous peoples and the food sector in South Australia.

By supporting the Orana Foundation we can help preserve this knowledge and commercialise native foods by developing product lines and markets both in Australia and overseas for those products.

Quotes attributable to Orana Foundation Founder and Director Jock Zonfrillo

The Orana Foundation is the culmination of some fifteen years of direct engagement with remote indigenous communities and their elders, where so much of this knowledge resides.

This knowledge is fast disappearing as elders pass on and through the absence of intergenerational transfer, and without formal collection and preservation it will be lost forever.

Australia is extraordinarily rich in native foods with high health and nutritional properties, but has been slow to promote and develop this potential.

Only a handful of ingredients have been the subject market and product development, and even those products are produced in quantities that are insufficient to meet the current demand from the Australian restaurant industry.

This grant will give the Orana Foundation the resources it needs to undertake the research required to preserve this knowledge and develop products and markets for native Australian produce.