A groundbreaking project at the University of Queensland (UQ) is harnessing technology to establish a native food value chain, ensuring that Indigenous communities and businesses play a pivotal role in the flourishing bushfood industry. UQ Project Empowers Indigenous Communities with Native Food Value Chain. Led by Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa, Director of UQ’s ARC Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods, this initiative combines Indigenous knowledge, scientific expertise, and cutting-edge technology to create a food value chain that benefits all stakeholders.
“We’ve been working on this project with our Indigenous Enterprise Group and software development company Smart Trade Networks,” explained Professor Sultanbawa. “This is a global first—a way for communities to lead, access premium-quality products, and tap into national and international markets.”
The native food value chain encompasses every aspect of bushfood production, from its inception to the final delivery to consumers. The primary goal of the project is to ensure that Indigenous businesses and communities have benefit-sharing agreements in place, enabling them to scale up their operations as demand for bushfood increases.
Madonna Thomson, Chair of the Indigenous Enterprise Group and a member of the Jagera, Yugambeh, and Githabul communities, emphasized the increasing commercial and economic potential of bushfoods worldwide. She underlined the importance of Indigenous communities shaping this burgeoning industry to prevent their marginalization as others start to buy and cultivate native plants on a larger scale.
“It’s not just about how much money people can make but recognizing the significance of Australia’s Indigenous communities and their cultural connection to the bush,” Ms. Thomson stressed. “This project will create equity, provenance, and protection for our communities and businesses that harvest native bushfoods.”
In addition to building a robust value chain, the project has developed a dedicated app allowing Indigenous communities to share their profound knowledge of Country digitally. This digitalization of Australian agriculture, particularly in areas where product provenance is central to long-term competitiveness, holds great significance.
Warwick Powell, Chair of Smart Trade Networks, expressed his satisfaction at having communities that they have collaborated with for over a decade join the project. He believes that this endeavor will place Australia’s Indigenous communities firmly on the map.
This pioneering project is supported by a National Agriculture Traceability Grant from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry. It represents a significant step towards preserving Indigenous culture and ensuring that it plays an essential role in the thriving bushfood industry.
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