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