Why Ballina has become a medicinal honey hub
BALLINA has become the home of medicinal honey production on the Northern Rivers after plants growing in the region were found to have enormous health benefits.
New Zealand honey made from the manuka plant is renowned for its healing properties, but Australia is also home to the species.
Matt Blomfield, the CEO and founder of Gather By, said Australia not only had the same plant species as New Zealand, but had a total of 87 varieties of the Tea Tree variety Leptospermum, also called jelly bush or manuka.
After testing thousands of Tea Tree plants and their nectar from Sydney to Gympie for the active molecule dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the team discovered the centre of the natural stands of Leptospermum with the highest concentration of DHA were in and around the Northern Rivers region.
"After five years of research, Gather By opened its headquarters in Ballina in 2019 and is a fully operational regenerative agribusiness that works with an integrated community of partnerships spanning the entire supply chain," Mr Blomfield said.
He said the business currently employs 12 people and is led by a board of directors of four members.
"Gather By has honey being sold online, through the Ballina store and is also exporting its premium Australian high-potency, medicinal-grade honey into six countries with orders doubling at every packing cycle," he said.
"We chose Ballina because it has an airport, infrastructure, a motivated community, innovative beekeepers, as well as available land with rich soils that had been cleared waiting for another crop."
Blomfield's team found that 15 of the 87 species of Leptospermum contain high-levels of the active molecule dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that converts to methylglyoxal (MGO) in the honey giving Australian Manuka its beneficial medicinal and therapeutic effects.
"Unlike nurseries that are planting from seed, Gather By's innovative Medicinal Clonal Selection (MCS) plant stocks also exhibit earlier flowering.
"As a result, Gather By's plants greatly extend the harvesting window to as much as six months, compared with New Zealand single-species Manuka's 3-weeks.
"Consequently, there is only a small manuka industry in Australia, currently producing only 625 tonnes of manuka per year. This is in comparison to New Zealand that are currently producing 17,000 - 20,000 tonnes per year."
Gather By is looking for growers of their manuka plants.
"We are looking for farmers in the area that are looking to diversify.
"If you have five hectares of cleared land or more, with water, then you are invited to join the Gather By community of growers of these native Australian plants in a model that we call the 'Medicinal Honey Forest' which produce our Gather By bioactive+ Australian Manuka Honey ‒ a high-value, world-premium therapeutic and medicinal honey."