West Australian jarrah honey finding new value in skincare products
Western Australian honey bee products are finding their way into a diverse range of products and businesses as the industry's reputation and value grows.
Up to $50 million worth of honey, wax, and pollen products are produced in Western Australia each year.
In the five years to 2020, West Australian Honey exports grew by roughly 200 tonnes, while the total value of that product almost doubled.
Some of that added value is due to the efforts of the Cooperative Research Centre for Honey Bee Products. As well as research, the organisation assists in business development via honey hackathons and regular bee meet-up groups.
A hackathon is an event where people work together to test and develop ideas in focused way. The concept is borrowed from technology industries, the name a portmanteau of 'hack' and 'marathon'.
It was following one of these events that Dani and Figge Boksjo started a business making quality skincare products using active local honey.
"That is where the idea come from. We thought let's do something that actually brings value to honey from $5-$10 a kilo … [it] can become a really, really good mark-up on it … and that is where our skin care products came in," Mr Boksjo said.
The couple moved from the northern beaches of Sydney to Yanchep near Perth four years ago, immediately seeking to be involved in the CRC for Honey Bee Products and local bee industry.
At the time Ms Boksjo, who had a Bachelor of Food Science and Technology but no beekeeping experience, initially thought to use honey in a food product.
"But then I remembered my grandmother back in Brazil. She used honey for her beauty treatments all the time," she said.
"She used to smash avocado with honey to make hair masks, clay masks for the face.
"And her skin was just fabulous and glowing, and I thought, 'Wow, that is what I am going to do'."
The business now produces six skin care products using active Jarrah honey and employs two part-time staff.
Jarrah honey is particularly prized for its medicinal qualities, which Ms Boksjo attributes to its high peroxide levels.
"The bees have an enzyme inside their bodies. They convert the nectar source into peroxide, so it is a natural peroxide in the honey, and that is how the honey is classified medicinally — it is called the TA grade," she said.
Other ideas to come out of hackathon events include uses for bee venom and project to cultivate native leptospermum trees, the blossom of which is essential to creating honey with medicinal qualities like those found in manuka honey.
The CRC for Honey Bee Products' chief executive, Liz Barbour, said WA is free from bee diseases that require chemical control, allowing local apiarists to produce some of the purest honey in the world.
"For every bit of honey that we can produce, we will be able to sell every scrap of it because we are so unusual. We are one of the last spots that has these rare conditions," Ms Barbour said.
"So we need to celebrate it while we can."
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