Leading Organic and Non-GMO Company Terra Working to Bring The Grain Fonio to the U.S.
Terra Ingredients, one of the world’s leading organic and non-GMO companies with a presence on six continents, is working to bring the little-known grain fonio out of Africa and into international markets.
Fonio is grown in remote areas of the Sahel region of Africa, an area south of the Sahara, stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, and has never been formally cultivated, nor has it ever been bred for desired characteristics. The grain has a nutty flavor, is a good source of fiber, protein, amino acids, zinc, B vitamins, and magnesium, and can be eaten on its own like quinoa or couscous, or processed into an excellent gluten-free flour. Furthermore, it is a sustainable crop, thriving without the need for fertilizers or pesticides.
Despite checking off all the boxes looked for by today’s Western consumers, the grain is difficult to source and process. However, Terra has established sourcing agreements with three villages, and another agreement with a women’s co-op, and has spent 12 months in R&D to develop a processing method for the grain. They also have built a plant in Dakar, Senegal to carry out initial processing before sending the grain to a Terra Ingredients plant in North Dakota for metal detection and final pasteurization.
Photo Credit: Jose Hernandez, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database