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Big opportunities for seed to grow bush food industry

Liv Casben -

A traditional bush food with huge nutritional benefits could also provide big opportunities to Indigenous communities according to new research.

There are close to a thousand different types of wattleseed unique to Australia, but only a handful of varieties are used commercially.

A University of Queensland study examined the nutritional value of the seed as well as existing Indigenous knowledge around the bush food and developed new recipes for it.

The research found there are opportunities for the seed as a major ingredient in food.

"A majority of the products that utilise wattleseeds in the current (Australian) food market consider them a flavouring ingredient," a research paper says.

PhD candidate Sera Susan Jacob, who carried out the research for the ARC Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods, has been studying the seed for four years.

Her research included trips to the Northern Territory to interview Indigenous community residents.

"How (Indigenous communities) used wattleseeds in the past and what are their views on creating more conventional products to better fit wattle seeds into their lifestyle," she said.

Ms Susan Jacob said less than three per cent of native food production was owned and operated by Indigenous groups.

"A lot of (bush food) doesn't really belong to Indigenous communities and most of the businesses are not Indigenous-led and owned and operated," she said.

Working with Territory-based employment group Karen Sheldon Training, the researcher found the seed could provide Indigenous jobs if commercialised properly.

"We've always been interested in anything that can provide jobs on country and training in things that Aboriginal people easily identify with," Karen Sheldon told AAP.

"It's everywhere in central Australia, and there's many different strains of it, and there hasn't been a lot of research done."

Dozens of consumers were also interviewed to understand the broader market for wattleseed products.

Working with industry partners, the UQ researcher helped create recipes that contain more than 20 per cent wattleseed, compared with the three per cent found in most existing commercial products.

They included a curry-style savoury dish, inspired by Ms Susan Jacob's Indian heritage, and a muesli bar to appeal to consumers in regional and remote northern Australia.

"In an ideal scenario, we would like to introduce the new products into schools as school lunches and put them into the community stores," Ms Susan Jacob said.

The research is published in the Journal of Food Science.

Liv Casben - AAP

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