The Kakadu Plum project was launched in 2010, and is a major initiative between two Australian universities and the acquaculture industries. It has transformed the native food industry, and empowered Aboriginal Communities in the process. Its success derives from the preservative properties of the Kakadu Plum, which as a functional ingredient is now used by 75% of the Queensland aquaculture industry as a natural preservative, which significantly extends the retail shelf life of prawns.
The project was initiated when Australian Native Foods and Botanicals (ANFAB) and AgriFutures Australia approached The University of Queensland in 2010 to expand research into the functional properties of native plant foods. Work investigating the functional properties of Kakadu Plums secured funding from industry sources that included Australian Native Food and Botanicals (formerly ANFIL), AgriFutures Australia (formerly RIRDC), Australian Seafood CRC, Australian Prawn Farmers Association, the Australian Government's Entrepreneurs' Programme, and Karen Sheldon Catering Pty Ltd. UQ received funding from Kindred Spirits Foundation for equipment to test the safe use of Australian native foods.
Kakadu plums and their powder have properties that extend the shelf life of food.
As demand for the product grew, the Kindred Spirits Foundation partnered with Aboriginal communities to develop a supply chain that involved community-based collection hubs across northern Australia and retained Aboriginal control. Over 250 people from communities have now participated in the harvesting and development of value-added Kakadu plum food products. This model is considered a benchmark for development of new native food industries.
The Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) and Karen Sheldon Catering have commercialised value-added products using Kakadu Plum as a functional ingredient in their products for the past four years.
The aquaculture sector contributes approximately $80 million to the Queensland economy annually. The Kakadu Plum as a functional ingredient is now used by 75% of the Queensland aquaculture industry. The prepared meals industry has grown over the past five years in Australia and is valued at $900 million with an annual growth of 3.6%.
There are 24,000 known native foods in Australia. Sale of unprocessed native foods is around $18 million annually.
Sales of value-added products derived from these plants are expected to reach $200 million annually. The Kakadu Plum product is being developed for application to multiple industries.
The future involves expansion of the production base to meet commercial demand. Across Northern Australia, 20 tonnes of plums are harvested annually. Participants aim to increase this wild harvest to over 100 tonnes.
Charles Darwin University has forged collaborations with several Indigenous, academic, and government institutions and is drafting a Wildlife Management Plan for the Kakadu Plum across the Northern Territory.
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