Several potential areas of investigation were initially identified by The Orana Foundation in 2017 being Geraldton Wax, cherabin (freshwater prawns) and molluscs. Each were thoroughly investigated however in the creation of on-the-ground enterprises The Orana Foundation has been careful to require proper business plans, budget breakdowns, agreements, and community permissions. This has meant some original projects have not been executed, other new ones have progressed.
It should be noted that creating an Indigenous enterprise from the initial idea, through the development process, and then selling a product out the other side to a commercial entity is not the remit of The Orana Foundation. Our focus is defined as the creation of ingredient specific development projects which will lead to commercial enterprises directly engaging with Indigenous communities.
We act as a supporter to assist these Indigenous enterprises rather than run or own the business ourselves. We help them either identify the opportunity, get them project ready, or provide consulting services based on experience or exposure to similar projects across the Foundation. Larger allocations of funds and time are required if we are to get these businesses and communities from inception of the idea through to selling products.
Investment was made across the last three year into extensive trips and consultations through The Orana Foundation by Jock Zonfrillo and associated partners to identify potential projects, community leaders, and seek buy-in and action from the community. The projects that presented the greatest opportunity included:
We investigated native honey projects in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Native honey was a potential project for the Foundation as it was seen as ‘liquid gold’ by communities, both when they ate it, as well as commercially. It was also a product that women and children traditionally harvested and therefore we envisaged that it would create female Indigenous employment, as well as get the children back on Country to experience their culture, food, and land.
It was seen as a low hanging fruit opportunity for the Foundation to implement into communities as it could span across the whole northern part of Australia, there was a low entry point of implementation, and the market demand for the product was not being satisfied and therefore made it an immediately viable business model.
Community leaders in both communities have identified potential sites for the hives which the Foundation took photos of and worked with a bee expert as an initial step on whether a native honey program would work within the environments proposed. Construction of bee hives for these projects were costed up. Both environments were endorsed by the bee expert however the two community groups are still working on gaining approval from communities for the project to commence.
Magpie geese was a potential project for the Foundation as it’s seen as a premium protein and embedded in Traditional Knowledge across large parts of Australia. For farmers, they are considered a pest however for Indigenous people they are celebrated and seen as a delicacy. Currently farmers are given a culling license to poison thousands of magpie geese per year. This Australian native protein is in abundance in the warmer climates of Australia, and by seeking a license for hunting and commercial usage it would assist in the landcare of the region as well as create an Indigenous enterprise.
In realising this waste of premium protein, The Orana Foundation investigated sourcing a license for food supply of Magpie Geese in the Northern Territory. The community groups are still working on gaining approval from their community for the project to commence
Green ants was a potential project for the Foundation as we had witnessed it’s steep rise in popularity through utilising them in Restaurant Orana, as well as other internationally recognised products coming out of South Australia.
It was also an intercropping opportunity where green ants nests could be harvested while primarily being out harvesting another product. It is also because of this that the entry cost was zero however the sale price was premium. And green ants being in abundance and at pest-level it made it a prime opportunity for Indigenous enterprise.
We commenced work with a community in the Northern Territory to harvest and transport wild green ants. The community groups are still working on gaining approval from their community for the project to commence.
Pandanus and Native Apples
Pandanus and native apples were potential projects for the Foundation as they represented low barriers to entry and were appealing to hospitality. Both fruits can be wild harvested in huge volumes, they are also durable fruits meaning they last for longer after being harvested and minimal damage is made to them as they are transported. Their flavour, taste and aroma profiles also fit the current gastronomic trends. They are also both chameleon products meaning that they adapt to a vast range of uses across sweet and savoury applications.
We commenced work with a community in the Northern Territory on basic harvesting of pandanus and native apples to then make into value added products such as ferments, vinegars etc. The community group are still working on gaining approval from their community for the project to go ahead.