Flax crop start of new ‘superfood’ for region

Michael TraillAlbany Advertiser
Melissa Homewood with some of the Alkaline café’s flax savoury muffins.
Camera IconMelissa Homewood with some of the Alkaline café’s flax savoury muffins. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

The first commercial crop of flax will be swathed in the Great Southern next month, with hopes it could spark the start of a new WA “superfood” industry.

Southern Dirt has flax growing at four sites across the region including research lots in Wagin, Woodanilling and Kojonup, but its 17ha Katanning crop is set to hit the local market mid next year.

Chief executive Tracey Hodgkins said the growing group was working on a supply chain business model for its forthcoming flaxseed haul.

“We cannot return it on farm gate, which means we need to take it to a full supply chain in order to be able to pay the return on the farmer — to make it viable,” she said.

“We’re just now waiting to see how much yield we’ll get; from there, we can start also looking at packaging and branding. Taking it right through the supply chain, right through to the market, it could end up at health-food shops or in supermarkets.”

If successful, Ms Hodgkins said a viable flaxseed industry would provide the region and its farmers multiple economic and agronomic advantages.

While still in trial stages, Ms Hodgkins said she believed 30 jobs in the Great Southern could be created by the industry, with the first coming by the end of next year.

The initial idea of trialling flaxseed crops themselves was to provide an alternate break crop for producers.

“Why it’s so important to us is that, it gives us a break crop and some areas we’re doing barley on barley and it’s not good for the soil,” she said.

“We’re trying to bring some nutrients back into the soil, and the crop that goes after it, generally from what we’re finding, is going to grow better.”

Ms Hodgkins said she hoped flax would become a $110 million industry within a decade, and be seen as on par with canola. Flaxseed demand has grown over recent years, with a number of online health influencers hailing the grain as a “superfood”.

Southern Dirt research manager Dr Bronwyn Copestake said flaxseed had health benefits for both consumers and livestock, with the grain providing a good source of omega-3.

Owner of Frederick Street’s The Alkaline Cafe Melissa Homewood said her business was already using the oilseed as a substitute for egg in some of their meals.

“Most definitely, Alkaline Cafe would look at locally sourced flax, we are always looking for more locally grown produce to get creative with,” she said.

“Currently, we mill our own flax meal, you must eat flax seeds ground to most effectively absorb their omega-3 fatty acids and other primary nutrients.

“However, it’s typically fine to eat the seeds raw. Alkaline uses flax as a substitute for eggs in some of our dishes. Flax seeds also go into cakes, slices and muffins.

“Flax has been around forever and it’s a staple for us; 100 per cent gluten free. It’s such a versatile food.”

Southern Dirt recently received a $100,000 grant towards an investment strategy and agronomic package to establish the industry fromAgriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.

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