This week Down Under

Adelaide restaurant joins researchers to study native foods

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Jock Zonfrillo. © Orana Foundation
Jock Zonfrillo. © Orana Foundation
An Australian university and a foundation started by a chef with an interest in native ingredients have joined forces in a project to develop the native food industry for the benefit of remote indigenous communities.

Adelaide University joined with the Orana Foundation, which was founded by celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo. Their plan is to “preserve and evolve Australian food culture into a sustainable industry that makes the most of indigenous traditional knowledge and benefits Indigenous communities​,” according to Andy Lowe, the university’s director of food innovation. 

The research is being funded as part of of a A$1.25m (US$950,000) grant from the South Australian government to the foundation.

We look forward to understanding 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,​” Prof Lowe added.

The foundation, named after Zonfrillo’s internationally awarded Adelaide restaurant, was inspired by “the first Australians’ unique relationship with the land, and sophisticated knowledge of traditional food culture​,” the chef said. 

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​.” 

Scottish-born Zonfrillo says he has personally worked with remote indigenous communities to learn about their culture over the last 15 years. Through the project, he now hopes to build Australia’s first native food database to collate knowledge of native plants and ingredients.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bioactive Compounds Centre will assess the nutritional profile and potential for bioactive compounds from aboriginal food plants, and in particular look at their sugar, protein, vitamin, anti-oxidant and fibre content, and glycemic values.  

Ingredients with high nutritional profiles and enjoyable flavours will be assessed for their food potential. Orana chefs will work with the Adelaide University’s FoodPlus Research Centre to determine optimal preparation and cooking requirements for native plant species. These will then be assessed for flavour, texture and visual appeal. 

At the same time, researchers will assess the optimal cultivation conditions for high-potential food plants in commercial horticulture. Growth trials will be carried out to simulate arid and semi-arid environments in dry undercover facilities. 

More from Down Under…

Australian dairymen get contract code in wake of farmgate crisis

Australia’s dairy industry now has its first code of practice for drafting contracts to cover most of he milk produced in the country.


It sets out to address issues with dairy contracts for both farmers and processors. It will apply to standard form contracts between farmers and processors, either individually or as part of a co-operative.

Penned by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, it includes a provision that processors will not retrospectively cut the amounts they pay farmers—a significant development after last year’s farmgate crisis, which saw Australia’s biggest processor slash milk prices to below the cost of production.

Both Murray Goulburn, whose move sparked the crisis, and Fonterra, which followed suit by slashing its own prices after MG, have signed the code of practice, alongside various state farm organisations and private dairy processing companies.

Another of the code’s provisions sets out to ensure that all farmers receive their full entitlement over the term of a contract or supply arrangement. And if a farmer produces more milk than defined by his contract, the farmer must be allowed to supply the surplus to other processors.

The code will address a range of contractual issues which farmer organisations have been trying to address and rectify for a significant amount of time​,” said Terry Richardson, who is standing in as chair of the ADIC. 

Both farmers and processors sat down to work together cooperatively and in good faith to establish [it]​.”

It is also expected to bring greater transparency through “earlier and clearer pricing signals for farmers,” Grant Crothers, Richardson’s deputy, added. 

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