The project aims to lay the foundations for commercialisation of Australian native rice as a high-value, low-volume, culturally-identified, nutritious food, especially for tourism, gourmet food, restaurant markets and value-added products.
Australian native rice grows in natural wetlands throughout the Northern Territory and Queensland. It is currently wild harvested but only in very small quantities from crocodile infested environments using airboats. This harvest method cannot be implemented economically at scale.
The project is:
- Collecting samples of wild grown populations of Australian native rices, Oryza meridionalis, O. rufipogon and O. australiensis, from wetlands in the NT and Queensland, for cultivation trials.
- Investigating the agronomy of native rice under controlled conditions at NT Government research stations to develop and validate approaches to cultivate Australian native rice,
- Scaling-up native rice cultivation trials with CRC partner Indigenous enterprises in the NT and Queensland,
- Analysing and comparing nutritional values of the Australian and Canadian wild rice species,
- Developing new milling techniques for native Australian rice and apply learnings from Canadian indigenous industry to commercialise wild rice as a gourmet/health food and inputs to nutritional supplements.
The involvement of CRC partners, Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours and Olive Vale Pastoral Pty Ltd demonstrates strong support for the project among Australian Indigenous enterprises and communities. Myera, an indigenous enterprise working with the Cree people in Manitoba, Canada, has successfully developed advanced cultivation techniques for Canadian native rice and supplies both mainstream and niche nutrition product in North America markets. The involvement of Myera adds a First Nations collaboration dimension to the project with potential for indigenous bilateral trade partnerships. Myera is also interested in the value-additions to native rice.
NT DITT (previously NT DPIR) is making a substantial commitment in facilities and staff, has been conducting rice trials in the NT and has a Research Agronomist with more than 25 years of rice research experience in the Philippines.
The university partners have been undertaking research on Australian native rice for over 25 years, including research into the ecology of native Australian rice, cooking trials and market surveys of tourists and restaurants with Pudakul.