AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program research spotlight: Australian Manuka

10.09.21

AgriFutures Australia has welcomed the opportunity for an ongoing partnership with ManukaLife, collaborating to provide a further opportunity for the Australian Manuka industry to enter the high-grade Manuka honey market.

AgriFutures Australia, in partnership with ManukaLife are delivering the project Greenhouse production of high-grade medical mono floral Manuka honey – 2021. This project aims to produce the world’s first high grade mono floral Manuka honey. This will be achieved by integrating honey bees into green houses with plants trialled in the project Leptospermum Plant Breeding Program for Development of High-grade Manuka Honey. By containing both the Leptospermum plants and the honey bee within the greenhouse, it will allow for high-grade, ‘pure’ Manuka honey production.

Managing Director of ManukaLife, Paul Callander is extremely pleased to have the support of AgriFutures Australia for this important work for the Manuka honey industry.

Why is this research work so important?

Creating elite clonal genetics of high value enables the production of high strength manuka honey. Production of this grade allows use of the natural products, along with backing by science and research to create value add products in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. From an agricultural perspective, to grow leptospermum in large, enclosed areas with water will de risk some of the agricultural issues and still provide high internal rates of return on the plantings. With the integration of bees this will also produce more monofloral manuka honey.

How will this research benefit the Manuka honey industry?

When we prove the concept, we will be able to license the genetics and IP to third parties who are interested in establishing these kinds of plantations. The enclosed environment concepts have already been proven from an additional yield and return perspective, being used for pollination of blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, to name a few.

Why have you decided to look at the industry and research differently?

Just like any industry you have to look at things from a continuous improvement perspective and how you can maximise effectiveness and opportunities to achieve your goals. When you look at the agricultural industry, we need to do more with less and need to continue to innovate. By 2050 we will need 50% more food for our growing population.

To successfully feed the planet in 2050 we would be required to clear most of the world’s remaining forests, wiping out thousands more species, and releasing enough greenhouse gas emissions to exceed the 1.5°C and 2°C warming targets. We must innovate continuously and work out a way to use technology to maximise yield per hectare while using less resources and limiting the impact on the environment.

Are there any other industries undergoing similar research or trials? What have you learnt from them?

If you look at Holland, they are the second largest exporter of agricultural products globally, which is amazing for a tiny country with a small amount of arable land that is expensive. The use of large-scale enclosed environments has been around for some time and is well understood. Economies of scale are possible, costs are down, and better yields can be achieved through control of climate, soils and water. This is why we always continue to look at thing’s from as many angles as possible. Australia has been using large scale enclosed environment’s for over 20 years and some of this is used for pollination very successfully. Our difference is going to be using this for nectar collection and working with the bees and ensuring their health is a key area of focus for us and will be some of the world’s first to do this.

What excites you most about this research?

Currently, Manuka honey in its purest form is hard to secure, as most manuka honey is collected from the wild or in field and will typically be diluted with other nectars. We will be one of the first in the world to use enclosed environments for nectar collection.

The research project is confirmation that the last five years of research and development on elite clonal genetics has paid off, allowing us to look at large scale commercialisation in enclosed infrastructure to produce the high-grade product with scientific backing. That will result in value-add products in the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

Read more about this project here: agrifutures.com.au/news/renewed-partnership-to-benefit-the-australian-manuka-industry/