21 organizations transforming Australia’s food system

From Danielle Nierenberg
Greetings from Melbourne, where I’m speaking at festival21—a celebration of the potential for change in Australia’s future food system, joining food experts like Fabrice DeClerck, Science Director at EAT; David Nabarro, Strategic Director of 4SD and recipient of the 2018 World Food Prize; Kaitlin Yarnall, Senior Vice President of Media Innovation for the National Geographic Society; Linda Weatherson, Director of the City Operations Group for the City of Melbourne; and Ben Shewry, chef and owner of Attica. Presented by the Sandro Demaio Foundation, the event will help Australia develop tools to make better choices in growing, eating, purchasing, and preventing food waste. This celebration all takes place in Melbourne: a city with a robust, progressive, and successful good food movement, changing the ways people interact with food and farmers on a daily basis.
Festival21 will kick off the event with the global launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health. At the launch I’ll be leading a panel of experts representing cities, chefs, entrepreneurs, and farmers in the food system considering how the findings of the EAT-Lancet Commission will impact their respective sectors, bringing both opportunities and risks.
The report’s findings set scientific targets for a sustainable food system and define a healthy diet: much like the Mediterranean diet, the healthy diet incorporates fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and—moderately—meat. And, the report notes that the food we should eat will directly impact the planet for the better—just as other scientific findings such as the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s Double Pyramid prescribe.
Food Tank is excited to highlight 21 organizations working toward a more sustainable, ethical, and equitable Australia through food: Aboriginal Carbon Foundation, Australian Center for International Agricultural Research, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, City of Melbourne Rooftop Project, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, FareShare, Food Frontier, Foodswell, Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, North Fitzroy Community Gardens Group, Northey Street City Farm, OzHarvest, Permaculture Research Institute, Regrarians, SecondBite, Sustainable Agriculture & Gardening Eurobodalla, The Indigenous Land Corporation, The Little Veggie Patch Co., The Orana Foundation, Youth Food Movement Australia, and Yume.
Contributing Author: Katherine Walla
This week, the Sandro Demaio Foundation’s festival21 will bring together food experts, entrepreneurs, and members of the public excited about the future of Australia’s food system. The event will help the city develop tools to make better choices in growing, eating, purchasing, and preventing food waste.
Australian government projects, non-profit organizations, and businesses continue to transform the food system, introducing new ways to engage with food, soil, farmers, and communities in need. From food rescue groups to Indigenous Australian farmer support and permaculture training institutes, these organizations are working to steer Australia to a better future using food.
Food Tank is excited to highlight 21 organizations working toward a more sustainable, ethical, and equitable Australia through food!

  1. Aboriginal Carbon Foundation
    The Aboriginal Carbon Fund aims to build a sustainable Aboriginal carbon farming industry. Led by an indigenous staff, AbCF works to build viable economies on Aboriginal lands through land management, savanna fires, livestock management, and carbon-storing farming practices. In 2018, AbCF launched the Reducing Carbon Building Communities to help groups looking to become carbon neutral purchase carbon credits from AbCF farmers, supporting rural farming communities and Indigenous communities.
  2. Australian Center for International Agricultural Research
    ACIAR operates as part of the Australian Aid Program and encourages Australian agricultural scientists to use their skills to benefit both Australia and developing countries. Having conducted more than 1500 research projects in 36 countries, ACIAR focuses on crops, agribusiness, horticulture, livestock, soil, and more to help farmers and policymakers surmount agricultural challenges. The organization connects Australian scientists directly with counterparts in developing countries to solve local problems with local means.
  3. Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
    The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is a farmer-led organization striving for better livelihoods for farmers; better preserved soils and waterways; and food security for all Australians. The advocacy network campaigns to raise awareness on the importance and success of sustainable and ethical food systems. And on its platform, farmers can share stories and advice, food insecure communities can connect with community supported agriculture programs, and farm workers can learn more about their rights and legal resources.
  4. City of Melbourne Rooftop Project
    As part of a campaign to achieve a greener city, the City of Melbourne mapped every rooftop to understand the expanse of—and potential for—solar, cool, and green roofs in 2015. Melbourne developed the Rooftop Project to encourage more rooftops to harness the possibilities of over 880 hectares of usable space. In 2017, 78 roofs housed vegetation around the city.
  5. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
    The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, uses scientific research to solve real issues on the planet and secure a better future for Australian communities. Covering topics such as farming and food production, animals and plants, and environment, CSIRO contributes to research intended to transform animal breeding, farming techniques, and agricultural technologies and innovations. In 2019, CSIRO launched a new software combining artificial intelligence, machine learning, and geospatial technology to assess and monitor rural land across Australia to advise farmers on necessary data from productivity to rainfall.
  6. FareShare
    Launched in Melbourne, FoodShare rescues, cooks, and grows food, distributing meals to charities. Powered by volunteers and a kitchen garden manager, the organization operates three kitchen gardens in Melbourne to produce about 40 tons of vegetables a year that supplement donated ingredients. In Victoria, FareShare’s meals go to over 400 charities serving homeless shelters, women’s refuges, and more.
  7. Food Frontier
    Food Frontier uses research and development, advocacy, and consulting to businesses, entrepreneurs, scientists, governments, and communities across Australia to support protein alternatives like plant-based meat and cell-based meat. Led by Thomas King, Young Australian of the Year in 2015, Food Frontier works directly with food innovators to push development, production, and supply of sustainable proteins.
  8. Foodswell
    Foodswell is a non-profit taking on the issue of food insecurity in Australia. Their research projects confront the design and community development causes of food insecurity in remote and indigenous settlements throughout the country. Foodswell designs edible landscapes along with other novel food growing strategies that are most appropriate for the specific communities—providing customized tools for greater access to affordable, healthy food.
  9. Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia
    The Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia (KIAA) represents the kangaroo industry in Australia, aiming to transform the kangaroo industry into an international model for sustainable meat producing and processing. Supported by non-governmental organizations, scientists, Aboriginal communities, and more, KIAA educates the general public about the environmental and economic benefits of the kangaroo industry, representing it as an intelligent way to harness Australia’s sustainable meat resource and support Aboriginal communities who live with kangaroos.
  10. North Fitzroy Community Gardens Group
    The North Fitzroy Community Gardens Group (NFCGG) aims to enhance sustainability in the Melbourne suburb by creating farms and gardens to improve urban space and promoting organic horticultural techniques. Including Rushall Garden, NFCGG invites the community to grow and access plants for food and participate in activities such as composting. NFCGG aims to respect the prior ownership of the land by Indigenous Australians by sharing a diversity of gardening skills with visitors and including native plants in the garden.
  11. Northey Street City Farm
    Northey Street City Farm is a community-based urban permaculture farm located in the heart of Brisbane. Founded in 1994 on a bare plot of land near the city center, the nonprofit is now a local food source, education site, and tourist destination. Northey Street City Farm promotes and educates about sustainability, working to uphold the permaculture principles of earth care, people care, and fair share. Projects on the farm include the City Farm Nursery, a weekly organic farmers market and upcycle market, adult and childhood education, and various permaculture workshops.
  12. OzHarvest
    OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organization transporting perfectly edible and delicious food—that businesses normally waste—to over 1000 charities, delivering more than 100 million meals and saving 35,000 tons of food from landfill. OzHarvest’s education programs enhance life skills, increase connectedness, and improve health and nutrition in vulnerable communities in partnership with international organizations like the United Nations Environment Programme. In 2017, OzHarvest opened Australia’s first rescued food supermarket, The OzHarvest Market, which is donation-based.
  13. Permaculture Research Institute
    Located in New South Wales, the Permaculture Research Center uses a demonstration site to conduct worldwide trainings and education programs. Expanding the knowledge and practices of sustainable agriculture using permaculture design, the Permaculture Research Institute strives to provide solutions for permanent abundance by equipping local people with the tools they need to serve their communities. On Zaytuna Farm, a 66-acre property with abundant wildlife, the institute offers students the opportunity to gain on-farm working experience with animals, crops, irrigation, renewable energy, waste, and more.
  14. Regrarians
    Regrarians (Regenerative Agrarians) works with producers and farmers to create profitable agricultural landscapes. With a do-it-yourself farm planning program, consultations, seminars, online discussions, and more, Regrarians trains all aspects of regenerative farming including design, business management, and farming practices. Regrarians has trained over 15,000 farmers, expanding from Australia to reach farmers in 50 countries.
  15. SecondBite
    SecondBite redistributes surplus fresh food from farmers, wholesalers, markets, supermarkets, caterers, and events to community food programs that support people in need. Working with over 1,300 community food programs, SecondBite seeks to erase the gap between the amount of food that goes wasted and the number of food that go hungry. The organization also commits to donation nutrition standards, promising that 95 percent of of food would be strictly nutritious and 75 percent would be fruits and vegetables.
  16. Sustainable Agriculture & Gardening Eurobodalla
    The Sustainable Agriculture & Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) is working to build a sustainable fair food economy in New South Wales, Australia. To “grow the growers,” SAGE operates a market garden with demonstrations on how to grow crops at home and provides an internship program for aspiring farmers. Internship graduates go on to serve SAGE’s award-winning farmers’ market with locally grown produce.
  17. The Indigenous Land Corporation
    The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) invests in agribusinesses that improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. While the ILC focused on owning and operating agricultural businesses to support Indigenous landholders, the corporation now also considers itself an equity partner, creating connections between Indigenous groups, investors, and business partners. While supporting indigenous farmers and communities, ILC also abides by animal welfare protocols on their agricultural lands.
  18. The Little Veggie Patch Co.
    Operating in Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs, The Little Veggie Patch Co. (LVPC) helps people grow food despite the limited space they may have in the city. The business installs raised garden beds and edible gardens in people’s homes, using recycled crates and heirloom seeds. LVPC offers workshops, advice, and videos to teach gardeners more about using permaculture techniques in small spaces, building their own garden beds, and more.
  19. The Orana Foundation
    The Orana Foundation recognises the richness of Indigenous food culture and the value of the relationship that Indigenous people have with the land. Led by Chef Jock Zonfrillo, Orana aims to refresh Australian food culture by reintegrating and preserving Indigenous practices and innovations. With a Native Australian Foods Database, an Innovation & Enterprise Hub to promote research and development of Australian ingredients, and an Australian Food Culture Enterprise that explores new gastronomical trends, Orana hopes to support Indigenous communities researching and innovating in food enterprise.
  20. Youth Food Movement Australia
    YFM aims to increase millennial food literacy levels and participation in the food system. Since 2011, YFM has delivered more than 40 projects, harnessing more than 60,000 volunteer hours to address food issues such as food waste, the aging farming population, and soil degradation. Their current program, Upstart, connects young people across Australia for trainings, project development, and more to co-create community food projects.
  21. Yume
    Founded by food rescue veteran Katy Barfield, Yume provides an online marketplace that connects suppliers in the commercial food sector with buyers to limit the edible food headed to landfills. The Melbourne-based app allows suppliers to upload any undesired wholesale ingredients—resulting from accidental orders, over-supplying, and more. Buyers choose from available products at prices discounted by a minimum of 20 percent. The app even helps facilitate donations to redirect any unsold food on the platform, helping deliver edible food to the people who need it most.
    (Danielle Nierenberg is President of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture.)