Buzz about manuka honey business on Northern Rivers
A new plantation of manuka trees (Leptospermum - or jelly bush) is about to be set up on the Northern Rivers to create medicinal honey.
Twelve thousand trees will be planted on 10 hectares at a farm in the Ballina Shire, with the land now ready for planting.
The site will join a number of other plantations on the Northern Rivers and around NSW.
Ballina company Gather By produces Manuka honey, and the Wardell site is part of its target of 6.25 million manuka trees planted in different sites in NSW over five to eight years.
Founder and CEO Matt Blomfield is working with farmers to have the plants installed, bees pollinating and then he buys the honey from them to sell it national and internationally.
The raw honey sold by Gather By contains Methylglyoxal (MGO), a naturally-occurring molecule from the plant that gives it antibiotic, antiviral and antimicrobial properties.
The honey is sold for its benefits to gut health, oral health, and to be part of skin wound or infection treatment.
Mr Blomfield said the NSW east coast, and particularly northern NSW, offers perfect growing conditions for active Australia native Leptospermum plants.
"15 of the 87 varieties of Leptospermum contain a molecule (Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA) that converts to MGO in the honey," he said.
"The higher the MGO, the more potent the honey."
Mr Blomfield said the honey had been sold nationally and exported to new markets for the last 18 months.
"We are growing native trees, we are offering bees some of the plants they need to survive, we are offering farmers a new, sustainable source of income, and we are creating local jobs from the propagation of the trees to the commercialisation of the honey," he said.
"When we need more plants, more jobs are offered at nurseries, those plants are delivered to the sites and planted, irrigation needs to be installed by local contractors, so the indirect jobs are quite diverse," he said.
"The level of demand we are seeing means that we need to increase and guarantee supply of honey, and we are ready to expand.
"We have a plan to put another eight to ten extra people on in the next 18 months."
The company has seen interest from consumers from the Middle East, the European Union, South East Asia and other North Asian countries, for sports health, wellbeing and other uses.