The McNaul family are growing the ancient grain, teff on their farm in the NSW Riverina. Through their company, Outback Harvest, son Fraser is working with CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL) to develop certified gluten-free foods made from teff.

The challenge

Cropping diversity for farming sustainability

Growing wheat and corn mixed with some cattle and sheep, rice has been the McNaul's traditional crop. A couple of years ago, they realised they needed to diversify their cropping program to become more sustainable and innovative.

They heard about teff, an ancient grain that's been a staple of Ethiopian cooking for centuries. It's a gluten-free wholegrain and the world's smallest grain. The scientific literature shows that the fibre content in teff is several times higher than in wheat and rice, and it contains the fermentable fibre, resistant starch.

The McNaul family farm is in the New South Wales Riverina, a region with a warm to hot climate and ample water for irrigation. They started a company, Outback Harvest, and approached CSIRO and FIAL to help them develop teff baked goods and extruded snacks that could bring this nutritious grain into the mainstream western palette.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Teff, Ancient grain, new again]

[Music plays and images move through of an aerial view of farm buildings and vehicles, Fraser McNaul driving a ute, Fraser McNaul walking towards a silo and then spilling grain through his hands]

[Image changes to show Fraser McNaul and another male standing in a field of Teff and then bending down and looking at the stalks]

Fraser McNaul: Farming’s becoming tougher and tougher and the margins are becoming smaller so we really need to diversify and move into other areas. 

[Image changes to show Thu and another male bending down looking at the crop and then the camera zooms in on a Teff stalk being held in the hand]

We have a mixed farming enterprise and rice is our traditional crop. 

[Images move through of a side view of Fraser McNaul, the Teff crop being harvested, a close-up view of the harvester and then Fraser McNaul, Thu and another male looking at the stalks of Teff]

We grow other crops including wheat and barley and oats and a couple of years ago we started looking around and we came across Teff. 

[Image changes to show Fraser McNaul standing in front of a harvester and talking to the camera and text appears: Fraser McNaul, Outback Harvest]

Hi, I’m Fraser McNaul and I’m a farmer from the New South Wales Riverina.

[Music plays and images move through of Fraser McNaul smiling at the camera and then Fraser McNaul, Thu and another male walking towards the camera through the Teff crop]

Teff is an ancient grain that originates from Ethiopia. 

[Camera pans down into the crop they are walking through]

It’s been a staple in their diet for thousands of years and we wanted to trial it and create Teff products designed for the Western palate. 

[Images move through of Fraser McNaul and another male watching Thu holding a sheaf of Teff stalks, all three bending down and looking at the crop and then the crop itself]

Teff is a nutritious, gluten free wholegrain with a nice nutty flavour and no allergies and the scientific data shows that

[Images move through of grain running through a hopper, grain being poured from hand to hand, Fraser McNaul talking to the camera, Thu and Fraser walking into a room]

it’s a good source of iron, calcium, fibre and resistant starch and it’s also got a protein level similar to wheat and a good amino acid balance.

[Image shows Fraser and Thu walking through a door and into the CSIRO facility and then the camera zooms in on a back view of them as they walk]

We worked with the CSIRO developing prototype Teff foods. 

[Image shows Fraser and Thu handling long strands of extruded snacks as they come out of a machine]

We’ve got Teff bread, muffins and also extruded snacks. 

[Images move through of strands of extruded snacks, crunchy extruded snack balls in a container, held in the hands, in the machine, in a container and Thu and Fraser tasting them]
 
The extruded snacks are crunchy, ball size and they can be used either as a crispy snack or they could also be used in cereals depending on the way that you wanted to dry them after they come out of the extruder and they’ve got a potential to be a really healthy snack or cereal.

[Images move through of a male pouring Teff product from a bag into a bucket, Teff product moving through a machine and a close-up view of Thu’s face]

Without CSIRO and FIAL all we would be able to do would be have a grain and a flour product and in the long term that’s not vertically integrating or helping us out as farmers. 

[Images move through of a male operating a touch screen, the male’s face and a computer screen display]

So, we really wanted to do the value added products which FIAL and CSIRO have been able to help us with.

[Image changes to show Fraser McNaul talking to the camera]

We wouldn’t have been able to do anything.  We’re not Scientists. 

[Image changes to show a back, side and then an aerial view of Fraser, Thu and another male walking through the crop and then the image changes to show Thu, Fraser and a female in the lab]
 
We’re good at growing the crop and looking after that side of it and the CSIRO and FIAL have been able to put us in contact with industry leaders and manufacturers which has been a real benefit to our business.

[Camera zooms in on Thu cracking an egg into a bowl and then the camera zooms in on Thu’s face]

One of the main people I worked with at CSIRO was Thu. 

[Images move through of Fraser, Thu and another female looking down, the bowl of ingredients and Thu stirring the bowl of ingredients while the other two look on]

She’s been absolutely fantastic to work with. 

[Image changes to show Thu, Fraser and another male walking through the crop of Teff and then Thu picking up and looking at the stalks and then looking at grains in her hands]

There’s been weekly conversations backwards and forwards on updates on how we’re getting along and it’s been great to bring her out here and show her where the origins of the Teff comes from that she’s been working on in the lab.

[Image changes to show Fraser McNaul talking to the camera and then images move through of a female looking down, the extruded snack strands and Fraser tasting the extruded snack]

FIAL have been great with networks being able to put us in touch with Government officials that can help us with grants and also themselves helping with grants. 

[Images move through of the extruded snack strands being produced and then the camera zooms in on a pile of extruded snack strands and then the extruded snack strands being turned in the hands]

And also helping, putting us in contact with industry leaders who helped progress our prototypes, I guess.

[Images move through of two males at a machine, muffin mix in a bowl, Fraser McNaul looking down and smiling, Thu opening an oven, muffins on the bench and muffins next to packets of Teff products]

The muffin mixes that we developed with the CSIRO taste fantastic and they’re just about ready for commercialisation and release into the retail and wholesale markets and we’ve also been certified by Coeliac Australia and New Zealand. 

[Image changes to show Fraser and Thu looking at packets of Teff products and then the camera zooms in on Fraser talking and then a packet of Teff product Thu is holding]

We’ve started engaging with smaller retailers, independents, greengrocers and also health food stores, distributing our retail products. 

[Image changes to show a back view of a male walking through a Teff crop to the harvester and then the image changes to show the male climbing up inside the harvester]

Our long-term goal would be to export our Australian grown Teff to not only Asia but the rest of the world.

[Images move through of an aerial view of a harvester in the crop and the camera pans in an anticlockwise direction and then image shows an aerial view looking directly down on the harvester]

It’s been a long road but it’s been, you know it’s been really fun. 

[Images move through of Fraser McNaul getting out of a ute, an aerial view of the farm buildings and silos and Thu and Fraser walking towards the silos]

We really enjoy doing this sort of thing and it’s something a bit different to farming.

[Image changes to show Fraser opening a hatch in the silo, Thu catching some grain in her hand and pouring it into Fraser’s hand and then Teff grain running through a hatch]

The goal is to grow the Teff industry in Australia and have this become a major part of our farming operation. 

[Image changes to show Fraser McNaul standing in the foreground of a crop of Teff and talking to the camera]

So, look out for Teff in your local health food store.

[Music plays and the image shows Fraser McNaul walking across the Teff crop towards a harvester in the background and the camera gradually pans up to show an aerial view]

[CSIRO, FIAL, Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and Industry Growth Centres logos and text appears: The Enterprise Solution Centre, A collaboration between CSIRO and FIAL, csiro.au, fial.com.au]

[CSIRO logo and text appears: Australia’s innovation catalyst]

Outback Harvest and teff grain

Our response

Developing new foods with teff

With our expertise in food science and new product development, we developed prototype muffins, bread and dry cake mixes using brown and ivory teff varieties. We also produced extruded teff snacks in the form of a crunchy snack ball in our world-class pilot-scale food innovation centre in Werribee, Victoria.

When it's milled, the brown teff produces a darker coloured flour that's ideally suited to a product like muffins. It has a chocolate look and taste. The ivory variety produces lighter coloured flour with a nutty flavour and is perfect for something like pancakes.

The results

Teff retail products hit the market

Fraser has moved to Melbourne to concentrate on developing packaging, marketing and distributing the first retail products, which have been endorsed as gluten-free by Coeliac Australia and Coeliac New Zealand.

He is considering expanding into other value-adding opportunities such as snack bars, tortillas and flat breads. He'd like to export to Asia as well in the future.

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