Project snapshot: Increasing the value of Australian honey as a health food
Honey has a long history of use to treat digestive ailments and research suggests honey acts as a prebiotic food that favourably changes the balance...
Published: 21 Jun 2023
Author(s): Jessica Berry
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The Australian Propolis Project was initiated following the release of a comprehensive 2019 report, Australian propolis market and production potential, by Michael Clarke. The report highlighted that more than $20 million worth of supplements containing propolis were sold in Australia each year. Australian beekeepers could potentially benefit by supplying this market with a competitive advantage, stemming from our unique environment and some of the healthiest bee populations on the planet.
From late 2019 to 2021, Hive & Wellness Australia, in collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast, undertook research to qualify the potency of Australian propolis. This research investigated the levels of antioxidants and phenolics, and total resin yield. The results indicated select Australian propolis types have health properties that rival existing internationally sourced, market-leading propolis. Additionally, 40% of Australian samples, sourced nationally, demonstrated highly active and unique compounds.
These impressive results reinforced the opportunity for an Australian propolis industry and Hive & Wellness Australia secured further funding to progress industry development. During 2022, processing methods and potential formats for commercial sale were explored, followed by preliminary investigations into internationally used propolis production devices.
The most recent research, which has concluded in 2023, attempted to validate a collection method based on devices and processes used in Brazil. Adapting this method slightly, the project team aimed to increase the quality and volume of propolis without impeding bee welfare or honey production, all while meeting Australian biosecurity standards. In Brazil, devices use clear plastic tape, which is not compliant in Australia due to the potential for it to break and leave hives exposed. As such, the project team used a clear, solid food-grade Perspex material to ensure no biosecurity risks.
The bees did not respond to the Perspex, which resulted in an unsuccessful trial. However, the outcomes of the exercise improved understanding of the next steps required to increase Australian propolis production and create a supplementary revenue stream for Australian beekeepers in the future.