This research project was initially conducted by TPWA with assistance from Fresh Produce Alliance to investigate the development of value added truffle product, processing truffle for products, shelf stability of truffle product, maintaining essential aromas and flavours of truffle product, market acceptance of truffle product.
The project has been funded through the Grower Groups Research and Development Grants Program which is part of the Agricultural Sciences Research and Development Fund supported by the Royalties for Regions program led by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia now the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
The truffle industry is an emerging industry for the South-West of Western Australia. The WA truffle industry is highly export focused, it is estimated that over 80% of current production is exported. There has been good growth in exports from WA, from approximately 1000kg in 2011 to over 8000kg in 2018 (ABS provisional statistics, DPIRD analysed).
Truffles grown in Western Australia are exported to a diverse range of markets, including USA, France, Japan, Hong Kong, UK, Singapore and Germany. Production in the region is growing and in 2018 production reached approximately eight (8) tonne. This represents 80% of Australian production and approximately 90% of this production is exported. Projections for growth suggest that, based on current plantings and the regional success of orchards, production will reach 30+ tonnes by 2025.
Fresh Truffles have a short shelf life of 2-3 weeks under the best conditions and a relatively short season of three months in winter. Currently approximately 30% of high-quality product is downgraded simply because of size or appearance. This product, known as 'trim', is perfectly usable, is of high culinary value and lends itself to preservation techniques. New technologies are now available to preserve the true flavours of fresh foodstuffs in a hygienic and practical manner. This project is about applying those new technologies to the preservation and value-adding of truffles.
The project initially began in collaboration with Fresh Produce Alliance and a Sensory Panel was formed. Products were tested to determine the stability of the processed truffle in products and sensory testing of the products were conducted by the testing panel to rate the product using a set criteria.
Investigation was also undertaken to assess when truffle (as an ingredient) would be best added to products being tested.
The Truffle used in the project is sourced from within Western Australia during the truffle harvesting period of late May to August, and then from Europe during their harvesting period of December to March. The truffle used for the project is Melanosporum.
The closing of Fresh Produce Alliance in Manjimup in 2018 has presented the TPWA Sub Committee overseeing the project with challenges. This has led to a review of the project with the support of DPIRD and alternative directions and collaborations being explored by the TPWA Committee to achieve the best outcomes for TPWA members and the industry.
It is hoped that TPWA will shortly be able to announce new collaborations and directions for the project.