Dr Craig Hardner with a macadamia tree in Hawaii
Dr Craig Hardner with a macadamia tree in Hawaii
30 May 2013

A scientist from The University of Queensland has set out to re-trace the steps of a 19th century naval captain who kick-started the international macadamia industry.

QAAFI research fellow Dr Craig Hardner received a Churchill Fellowship to pursue Captain Robert Jordan - father of the macadamia industry - an American who took a bag of Australian macadamia nuts to Hawaii in 1892.

Using his expertise in genetics and tree improvement, Dr Hardner seeks to better understand how a single bag of macadamia nuts evolved into a global industry, currently estimated at almost half-a-billion dollars a year.

"The macadamia, which is widely regarded as one of the world's premium nuts, is one of the few Australian native plants grown successfully as a commercial crop," Dr Hardner said.

"In Hawaii, I'll be seeking out old groves and exploring the heritage component of this truly magnificent Australian plant.

"Unfortunately, macadamia trees prefer much the same latitudes as humans, which means population growth has placed Australia's native macadamias under considerable pressure."

"The iconic Australian species is currently listed as vulnerable and threatened in many of the regions where it was once common," he said.

The macadamia nuts Captain Jordan took to Hawaii in 1892 are said to have been sourced from Pimpama, now a suburb of the Gold Coast.

The Australian macadamia industry has an annual farm gate value of $120 million and about three times that amount in annual sales around the world.

Follow Craig's Hawaiian adventures on Twitter @QAAFI or visit his blog.

Contact: Craig Hardner - c.hardner@uq.edu.au Please note: Dr Hardner is on location in Hawaii until 13 July (and again for several days after 30 July).

Media: Ron Hohenhaus, Communications Manager, QAAFI, 07 3346 0553, r.hohen@uq.edu.au

QAAFI background
The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) is a UQ research institute which was formed under an alliance with the Queensland Government. QAAFI draws together 100 research teams specialising in plant, animal and food sciences from twelve UQ and Queensland Government sites across the state. QAAFI is focused on improving tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors through high-impact science.