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The challenge

New extraction processes for native plants that are respectful and scientifically sound

Working with Indigenous-owned businesses on research and products involving Indigenous knowledge requires deep respect and understanding from CSIRO and our people.

(l-r) Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Peter Peckham, CSIRO scientist Dr Katherine Locock and Native Secrets founder Phil Thompson

These engagements take time and involve building trusted and respectful relationships that are as important as the science and technology being developed.

Our response

Connections to manufacturing experts via CSIRO Kick-Start

CSIRO Kick-Start is an initiative for innovative Australian start-ups and small businesses, providing funding support and access to CSIRO’s research expertise and capabilities to help grow and develop their business.

The company Secret Harvest and its brand Native Secrets is owned by Bidjara Kurra Kurra man Phil Thompson and his wife Cherie. They were connected to CSIRO Manufacturing via Kick-Start to collaborate on new extraction processes for native plants.

“We thought working with CSIRO via Kick-Start was a great chance to explore opportunities around new technologies, extraction methodologies, and our native plants. It’s such a great fit for us,” Phil said.

CSIRO's Dr Peter Duggan said ”Not only are we looking at extraction methods, led by Dr Kathleen Turner, but Dr Parveen Sangwan's team is establishing the antimicrobial activity of the plant extracts and Dr Ben Cao's team is looking for scientific evidence for anti-inflammatory properties. The results of these studies will help guide the design and use of products derived from the plant extracts.”

This Indigenous-led collaboration is seeing ancient, generational knowledge being explored to the potential benefit of us all.

“For us, our company Secret Harvest, and our brand Native Secrets, it’s an opportunity to start telling positive stories about our people and to make sure we captured the wealth of knowledge known to our old people before it’s lost,’ Phil said.

”I’ve always thought that if we can share that knowledge then we can all benefit from it. This is an Australian story that we can all share and be really proud of.”

The results

Potential for perfect extraction plus regional growth

Secret Harvest began working with CSIRO in 2022 to explore the potential of a plant indigenous to the area around their farm on Wiradjuri Country outside Dubbo, and in other parts of Australia.

Scientist Katherine Locock on country with Phil Thomson of Dubbo SME Native Secrets

”There’s one particular native plant that we’ve used for generations, and CSIRO is testing different methodologies for the best possible ways of how we can extract the bio-actives that are in this native plant,” Phil said.

”Our best-case scenario is that CSIRO will say they’ve found the perfect extraction methodology for this plant, and it could be transferrable. Then that will be the technology that we’ll invest in and we’ll do that locally here in regional New South Wales. This could lead to the creation of as many as 30 new jobs for the region within three years.”

CSIRO scientist Adjunct Professor Peter Duggan, leader of the Botanical Pharmaceuticals team, is working with Secret Harvest to deliver the best options for their business.

”This is a great opportunity for CSIRO to apply our expertise in botanical medicine development to an entirely Australian product with First Nations people,” Peter said.

”Not only are we looking at extraction methods, we are also establishing the antimicrobial activity of the plant extracts and looking for scientific evidence for anti-inflammatory properties. The results of these studies will help guide the design and use of products derived from the plant extracts.”

Hear from co-founder of Secret Harvest, Phil Thomson on how he was connected via CSIRO Kick-Start to Manfacturing scientists, Dr Katherine Locock to work on an exciting new extration process for native plants in their Natie Secrets skin care range.

Welcome to Country from Wiradjuri Elder, Uncle Peter Peckham.

Welcome to Country from Wiradjuri Elder, Uncle Peter Peckham.

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