Towards an Indigenous-led bushfood industry

22 February 2021

A $1.5 million collaboration between Indigenous Traditional Owners and Custodians and The University of Queensland will boost the burgeoning bushfood industry, and create long-lasting Indigenous businesses.

Launched at UQ’s Gatton campus, the Australian Research Council-funded (ARC) five-year project, ‘A Deadly Solution: Towards an Indigenous-led bushfood industry’, will see researchers work with Indigenous communities to commercialise native bushfoods and ornamental plants.

A delicious old man saltbush salad, with roasted sweet potato and ansie spicy tomato sauce (Credit: Three Little Birds).

The project features ethnobotanist and Mbabaram Elder, Gerry Turpin and a team of academics, community members and business owners led by UQ Adjunct Professor Dale Chapman, an Indigenous chef, and CEO of My Dilly Bag.

“There are plenty of great bushfoods out there that most people have never heard of, seen or tasted,” Adjunct Professor Chapman said.

“So we’re thrilled to be working hand-in-hand with Indigenous communities to get them into the marketplace, marrying Traditional Knowledge with Western science.

“Together we’ll be developing exciting – and delicious – native Australian bushfoods, while creating sustainable, intergenerational Indigenous businesses.

A selection of Indigenous wild Fruits, including quandong, desert limes, finger limes and lemon aspens.

“Crucially, this funding allows us to build the infrastructure and develop the science needed to grow high yielding plants and effectively store a harvest.

“Along the way, we’ll be working with Mbabaram Aboriginal Corporation, Batavia Traditional Owners and Stepping Black Indigenous Corporation, organisations which include Traditional Owners and Custodians from Batavia Downs, Mbabaram, Eidsvold and Cherbourg.”

Collaborating food scientist Professor Melissa Fitzgerald said there were a number of candidates for potential supermarket-friendly bushfoods.

“A great example is the native peanut tree Sterculia quadrifida, which grows in far north Queensland,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“It produces a beautiful fruit that tastes a lot like peanuts and contains very good oils, but the tree is so tall that it’s hard to harvest.

“This project will allow us to experiment with growing the tree on trellises and other frameworks, bringing the fruit within reach.

“And when a product like this arrives in your local shop you’ll be able to check its provenance and cultural integrity, thanks to our project’s focus on block chain technology.

“The block chain can trace a bushfood from the original growers to the jar sold in a city – a completely transparent and tamper proof system.”

UQ’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) Professor Bronwyn Fredericks said the collaboration is a prime example of UQ’s effective research collaboration with Indigenous communities.

“We’re proud to be putting the power in the hands of Traditional Owners and Custodians to develop and own bushfood businesses, and supporting the Indigenous business sector to grow in ways determined by Indigenous peoples,” Professor Fredericks said.

“UQ will be working closely with our partners, and will help strengthen culture and knowledge among the younger people of participating communities, supporting Traditional Knowledge.

“And all the while we’ll be incorporating contractual arrangements that ensure long-term intellectual property protection of their Traditional Knowledge.

“This will enable Traditional Owners the entrepreneurial freedom to grow their businesses for generations now and into the future.”

This article was originally published in UQ News.