Northern Australia rice industry collaborators, L-R: Russell Ford (SunRice), Professor Robert Henry (QAAFI), Jed Matz (CEO, CRCNA) and Paul Ryan (Olive Vale Pastoral).
For more than 10,000 years, people in Australia’s Top End have harvested and eaten native rice, which grows wild in wetlands and includes genetically diverse small-grained species that are nutritious and able to resist drought and disease.
Researchers analysing rice DNA tracked the origins of northern Australia’s wild rice to ancient strains from Africa. Several species were cross-bred with domesticated rice to boost production, and new gourmet markets now exist for this ancient grain.
The CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) has announced a new 18-month, $505,000 research collaboration to investigate the northern Australian rice sector. The project will evaluate three northern rice industry scenarios: producing wild rice, creating a unique northern Australian rice variety, and commercialising wild rice genes to boost global production.
The project brings together the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at the University of Queensland, Charles Darwin University, Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rice Research Australia (SunRice), Olive Vale Pastoral and Savannah Ag Consulting at James Cook University’s Cairns Institute.
QAAFI’s Professor Robert Henry says northern Australia is well placed to capitalise on emerging markets for speciality wild rice products, potentially worth around $10 million per year within five years.
CRCNA chair Sheriden Morris says the project — one of eight industry situational analyses funded by the CRCNA in 2017–2018 — will zero in on the opportunities for traditional owners and agriculturalists.
The outcome will include an ‘action plan’ for industry and inform future CRCNA investment and research.
— Fran Molloy
This article was published in KnowHow Issue 9.