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.
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.
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.
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.