Exploring RD&E Priorities to Grow Amaranth in Australia: Fuelling Growth to $10 Million by 2026

23.03.21

An ancient grain dating back more than 8,000 years, amaranth was once a staple food of the Aztec, Inca and Mayan people. Today, this gluten-free superfood offers a staggering variety of potential uses – as a grain it is an alternative to rice and couscous, a grazing crop, leafy vegetable and as a humble garden plant, with a global market hungry for more. 

With such a variety of uses, amaranth has been identified as a crop with significant growth potential for Australian farmers and, with strong global demand, the future looks bright. The popularity of gluten-free staples and superfoods boosted the global value of amaranth to more than AUD $7.8 billion in 2017. While Australia’s own amaranth industry was estimated to be worth $2 million in the same year, industry experts predict that the gross value product potential is in excess of $10 million.

Perspective Important for RD&E Plan Success 

With the aim of accelerating industry growth over the next five years, AgriFutures Australia has recently invested in the establishment of a dedicated research, development and extension (RD&E) plan to determine the potential for amaranth. The plan  includes scoping activities to inform stakeholders across the Amaranth value chain about market and investment opportunities.

“Industry stakeholders, corporations and government agencies will be able to determine future support on an industry-endorsed and cohesive RD&E Plan,” said Tom McCue, AgriFutures Australia’s Senior Manager, Emerging Industries.

Development of the Plan is being led by Tony Eyres from agriculture advisory Rounding Up who said that the resource will be a “commercially-centred, strategic and industry-owned plan that meets the market needs for consumers and, more importantly, growers.”

“We are looking to expand sector knowledge about the benefits and applications of amaranth to create a pathway that will increase industry gross value product from $2 million to more than $10 million,” he said.

Mr Eyres said that the input of current or future stakeholders in the amaranth value chain was critical in developing a successful roadmap for the industry.

“We need to capture the input of all perspectives in relation to amaranth including its various end uses such as grain, as a leafy vegetable, pasture for livestock and as a garden plant, and throughout the value chain from research and agronomy through to growers, processors and consumers.

“Having a detailed cross section of input from the amaranth industry is key in ensuring an effective strategy that achieves growth goals over the next five years,” he added.

Ancient Grain for a Future Climate 

If strong market demand and excellent end user versatility weren’t encouraging enough, amaranth can also be used by growers as a break or grazing crop. A rapid growing crop with low input requirements, amaranth can provide a significantly higher biomass compared with other pasture types. Its dual-purpose capabilities help farmers to mitigate risk in adverse seasonal conditions – a factor that Mr McCue says makes amaranth an opportunity worth exploring for Australian growers.

“Examining the potential of new crops capable of adapting to climate change and environmental sustainability demands within the food and feed chain while producing a commodity of high nutritional value has never been more important.”

If you’re currently involved in the amaranth sector, or you’re considering being involved in the future, we’d like to hear from you. Provide your input to help shape a research, development and extension strategy to guide Australian amaranth. Register your interest via email to amaranth@rounding-up.com 

For more information about the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program, visit agrifutures.com.au/emerging-industries/ 

Fast facts:

  • Amaranth is an ancient grain with a history dating back 8,000 years and can be used as an alternative to rice or cous cous, a leafy vegetable, in muesli or confectionary, as stockfeed and as an ornamental garden plant.
  • Estimates suggest Australia’s fledgling amaranth industry is valued at $2 million per annum with a global scene worth $7.8 billion.
  • A new RD&E plan is currently being established with the aim of growing the domestic amaranth industry to $10 million over the next five years.
  • As a dual grain and graze crop, amaranth offers a profitable option for farmers, with an added risk management advantage.