Liq­uid gold rush

Agribusi­ness plans to de­velop $1b Manuka honey in­dus­try

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Front Page - Kate O’Neill

How lo­cal honey could cre­ate a $1 bil­lion in­dus­try

MANUKA honey has the po­ten­tial to be­come a $1 bil­lion in­dus­try on the North­ern Rivers, with lo­cal land­hold­ers, bees, and the en­vi­ron­ment set to ben­e­fit, ac­cord­ing to agribusi­ness com­pany Gather By.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the com­pany were in the re­gion last week to host in­for­ma­tion ses­sions at Newry­bar and Lis­more, in which they out­lined their plans for a med­i­cal-grade Manuka honey busi­ness to be cre­ated in part­ner­ship with lo­cal land­hold­ers.

Un­der the model, lo­cal land­hold­ers will grow plan­ta­tions of the Manuka plant, or lep­tosper­mum, on their prop­er­ties, and be paid by Gather By for the high-grade honey that is pro­duced from them.

Gather By’s net­work of pro­fes­sional bee­keep­ers will be used to harvest the honey.

Gather By’s tar­get is to plant 5000ha or 13 mil­lion plants over the next five years to pro­duce 1800 tonnes or $1 bil­lion worth of Manuka honey in NSW and Queens­land.

Gather By CEO Mat Blom­field said the com­pany was fo­cused on the North­ern Rivers be­cause it was a hotspot for the lep­tosper­mum plant.

“You’ve got the red soil, the cli­mate the wa­ter and it’s where it’s been nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring for tens of thou­sands of years,” Mr Bloom­filed said.

“It’s ab­so­lutely right in the sweet spot.

“Ev­ery­body’s try­ing to make it in other places, but this is it – this is the epi­cen­tre of it.”

Gather By has col­lab­o­rated with the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast, Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and Univer­sity of West­ern Syd­ney in the devel­op­ment of the pro­ject, and se­lected 15 species of high-po­tency Manuka plants for prop­a­ga­tion.

They have cre­ated a plan­ta­tion model called the Medic­i­nal Honey Forest – sim­i­lar to that used in a per­ma­cul­ture food forest – which fo­cuses on soil health and the in­clu­sion of plants for bee health and nu­tri­tion

❝ Ev­ery­body is try­ing to make it in other places, but this is it – this is the epi­cen­tre of it. — Gather By CEO Mat Blom­field

along­side the lep­tosper­mum.

The com­pany cur­rently has plan­ta­tions in seven bio-re­gions in NSW and Queens­land, in­clud­ing a site at Limp­in­wood near Mt Warn­ing, and a com­mer­cial plan­ta­tion near By­ron Bay.

After three years of re­search, Mr Blom­field says they are ready to com­mer­cialise the pro­ject, and are seek­ing land­hold­ers with at least 4ha to in­vest in a plan­ta­tion.

Lo­cal land­hold­ers at Gather By’s in­for­ma­tion ses­sion at Newry­bar Hall last week heard that there was a mas­sive global de­mand for Manuka honey, but cur­rently nowhere near enough sup­ply.

New Zealand, the only other coun­try where the Manuka bush grows, has de­vel­oped a highly suc­cess­ful Manuka honey in­dus­try, and Aus­tralia, which is home to more than 86 species of lep­tosper­mum, has the po­ten­tial do the same.

Manuka honey, or medic­i­nal-grade honey, is highly sought after for its ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits.

It has anti-mi­cro­bial prop­er­ties that are ben­e­fi­cial for wound heal­ing and gut health and it has been iden­ti­fied as a tool in the fight against the grow­ing threat of an­tibi­otic-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs.

Price per kg varies de­pend­ing on the po­tency of the honey, which is mea­sured in UMF (Unique Manuka Fac­tor) and ranges from 5+ (lower ac­tiv­ity) to 25+ (su­per anti-mi­cro­bial ac­tiv­ity).

The higher the rat­ing, the higher the cost – the high­est rated Manuka honey cur­rently re­tails for more than $250/kg.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

SWEET FU­TURE: Gather By CEO Mat Blom­field at a lep­tosper­mum plan­ta­tion near Mt Warn­ing.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

IN DE­MAND: There is a mas­sive global de­mand for Manuka honey.

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