Hand holding native food

The Orana Foundation, founded and chaired by chef Jock Zonfrillo, and the University of Adelaide have teamed up to support the development of Australia’s native food industry.

The Orana Foundation, which was established by Scotland-born Zonfrillo, aims to preserve Indigenous knowledge and practice. The organisation’s strategy is based on a three part framework: the formation of a native wild foods database; the establishment of the Australian Food Culture Enterprise; and the creation of an innovation and enterprise hub.

Through these pillars The Orana Foundation hopes to

  • assist remote Indigenous communities by stimulating enterprise
  • support the development and expansion of native wild food supply and demand
  • alleviate Indigenous social and economic disadvantage through professional skills training and employment opportunities
  • preserve and promote the unique cultural heritage of traditional Indigenous food culture

“The Orana Foundation was inspired by the first Australians’ unique relationship with the land, and sophisticated knowledge of traditional food culture,” said Zonfrillo.

“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.

“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.”

The research partnership — funded as part of a $1.25 million South Australian Government grant to The Orana Foudantion — will deliver a key component of the foundation’s mission to foster the research and cultivation of native Australian ingredients for the benefit of remote Indigenous communities.

“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,” said professor Andy Lowe, director, Food Innovation at the University of Adelaide.

The partnership is made up of four components:

  • Building a native food database in collaboration with South Australian Museum and Botanic Gardens of South Australia. A comprehensive database of existing and new knowledge of native plants used by Indigenous communities will be collated, drawing on anthropological and botanical sources, as well as culturally significant practices shared with Jock Zonfrillo while 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.

Zonfrillo’s Orana restaurant, which is known for showcasing native food, was recently named as one of Australia’s top 100 restaurants.

Image: Oliver Strewe via Tourism Australia


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