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Integrating cultural knowledge with high-tech agriculture on the table

David Prestipino -

How to unlock the untapped potential of traditional First Nations knowledge systems and integrate them with modern agricultural technology will be a major focus of an agrifood conference in Perth this week.

The AgriFutures 2024 evokeAG event at Perth Convention Exhibition Centre on February 20-21 will seek how to leverage the mostly untapped pool of First Nations learnings of land management and practices, especially with tech and innovation businesses, to help drive more native food supply and ensure sustainable land and farming management.

For established and budding native food entrepreneurs, the challenges and opportunities are many, as demand grows across the Indigenous food industry, estimated to be worth more than $80 million in 2019-2020, according to the University of Sydney, with the potential to double by 2025.

EvokeAG 2024 panelist and proud Maiawaii man Darryl Lyons has been drawing inspiration from the traditions and knowledge of his people from central west Queensland to integrate Indigenous sustainable practices with modern technology.

The co-founder of Rainstick, which builds on a 10,000-year-old practice that acknowledges the influence of lightning on how plants grow, Mr Lyons and his team use electricity to mimic lightning's natural effects on plants, one of the company's several projects at the junction of electrochemistry and plant biology.

"The Maiawali culture used a 'chuggera', a rain stick to influence weather systems and create thunderstorms because we know how important that is to grow food," he said ahead of this week's event.

"Now we're integrating new tools into our existing Maiawali philosophy to develop innovative technology for generating electric fields."

Mr Lyons will feature in the panel discussion 'The convergence of cultural IP and western innovation' alongside acclaimed international entrepreneur and Wonnarua woman Amanda Healy, the CEO and founder of Perth-based Kirrikin, which showcases contemporary Indigenous art in luxury clothing and accessories.

Also joining the discussion is Spinifex Brewing Co. founding partner and head brewer John Gibbs, and Noongar Landholder Enterprises founding director and Yaraguia Enterprises chair Oral McGuire.

Ms Healy, originally from the upper Hunter Valley but now a resident of WA, said the significance of the living knowledge system and cultural stories was powerful and more relevant than ever.

"I've worked all over the world, and for the first time in my life, we're seeing a strong embrace of our Indigenous culture and what we've got to offer," she said.

Ms Healy said the value of traditional knowledge and wisdom of land management practices was crucial as interest in bush food and contemporary integration of native vegetation became mainstream.

"We have walked on this country for at least 60,000 years and in complete harmony with nature," she said.

"There is an opportunity ... to embrace and understand what we have to offer, and to see how we can impact both the agricultural future of Australia and its environmental future."

Leading entrepreneurs will share personal and business experiences, as well as the first-hand successes with the convergence of cultural knowledge and western innovation.

The 2024 AgriFutures evokeAG event will feature industry leaders and emerging entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of agriculture, food manufacturing, research, innovation, investment and policy share ideas and build connections over the cross-sector two-day program, in pursuit of a more resilient, sustainable and profitable agrifood industry and value chain.

View the full two-day program, including speakers, event and ticket information here.


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