• Patrick Dawkins

Mānuka Orchard: Honey Services that Bear Fruit

ADVERTORIAL: MĀNUKA ORCHARD

PROFILING APIARIST’S ADVOCATE’S LEADING SUPPORTERS

Before an orchard bears fruit there must be growth and, while Mānuka Orchard may not be home to trees in the biological sense, the mantra is still true on many fronts. The concept behind the Bay of Plenty honey storage facility was first seeded almost three years ago and in that time their facility has flourished to one providing a wide range of honey services, from extracting right through to its sale. We learn how a desire to be better not only in their services offered, but to make Kiwi beekeepers’ honey better, is bearing fruit for all involved.

While the tasks they undertake are often quite technical in nature, the overall philosophy of Logan and Tania Bowyer’s business is quite simple.

“I like to tell beekeepers we are part of their team,” explains Logan Bowyer.

“We are just an extension of them and hopefully doing what they normally would, but to a higher standard because we specialise in it.”

Specialisation is at the heart of Mānuka Orchard’s service, with the Paengaroa facility aiming to play their role in ensuring New Zealand honey is the highest quality in the world by using their expertise to assist in extraction, storage, testing, moisture reduction, creaming, blending and honey sales – everything beyond the hives.

Manuka Orchard founders Logan and Tania Bowyer with children Chloe and Joel.

“We have focused on the area from extraction through to selling honey. The idea is to specialise in it and do it well,” Bowyer says.

“Beekeepers have the expertise to make sure their hives are as productive as possible and we have the expertise at our facility to make sure the value of their honey is fully obtained by ensuring best practice through clean and hygienic extraction and then value adding through appropriate storage, management and then sales.”

MOVING HONEY

Soon after concept it was realised selling of their beekeeper clients’ honey would be a crucial part of the Mānuka Orchard model, with the facility maintaining a database of potential buyers who receive weekly data on what honey is stored at the facility and up for sale.

Ensuring the cleanest, highest quality and most compliant honey possible is at the heart of Mānuka Orchard’s service to beekeepers.

When it comes to helping beekeepers sell their honey, it’s not just about collating the database of honey on hand and having contact details of potential buyers though. The Mānuka Orchard model is also heavily focused on making sure honey is in the best state possible to appeal to buyers. To this end, they have introduced a grading system from fully tested and compliant “A” grade honey to “D” grades which have arrived onsite untested, and everything in between. This system makes it easier for both buyer and beekeeper to understand what they have.

“We used to focus on getting honey and getting it stored, but now we have a greater focus on compliance and making sure the honey is fit for market. That is not just any market, it means the best market and the one that is paying the most,” Bowyer explains.

ALL THE GEAR AND THE RIGHT IDEA

The pallets don’t stay empty for long, with Mānuka Orchard currently holding 4500 drums of honey in stock.

Carrying out tasks such as gathering samples for testing, storing for growth, drying, blending or creaming require not just the most appropriate equipment and facilities, they require the expertise to get them done correctly and cost-effectively.

The equipment and facilities are constantly evolving to meet beekeepers’ demands and Bowyer’s previous career specialising in chemical cleaning and engineering in food and pharmaceutical plants, then streamlining honey processing plants, is continued with his Mānuka Engineering business which operates alongside Mānuka Orchard. The engineering team spend the majority of their time improving the Orchard facilities as it grows, but then also provide specialised engineering solutions in honey sheds all over the country.

As for the Mānuka Orchard team’s expertise in honey management, that is all geared towards extracting maximum value for beekeepers’ honey.

“There is a lot of consultancy that goes on between us and the beekeepers and those that choose to use my knowledge do quite well out of it,” Bowyer says.

“It starts by having the right testing done in the right sequence, to avoid wasted costs. It then moves to having a conversation with the customer to determine what the best steps are going forward, to add the most value – growing out honey can be a big part of that.”

Demand for Mānuka Orchard’s expert honey extraction services has risen four-fold this season.

GROWTH

While growing honey is a core service, there is plenty more growth going on around the facility – which incidentally was once the site of a kiwifruit packhouse.

Since conception their handled drum tally has climbed to 10,500, with 4500 drums currently on site. It’s not just honey in drums rolling in though, word is getting out about Mānuka Orchard’s extraction expertise and their throughput has quadrupled this season. Such growth is driven by their attitude to the job Bowyer says.

“It is the professionalism we bring to it. Yeh, we are slow at extracting at only 120 boxes a day, but that is because we put emphasis on the quality of the product and not the quantity. My target is not to make money out of extracting honey. It is to make everyone more money by getting honey that is compliant, ready for any market in the world and can demand the highest possible price.”

Extraction costs $15 per honey super, while storage costs are fixed for two years which allows both clients and the Orchard to budget together – all part of the mantra of working for and alongside their beekeepers.

WHAT’S NEXT

There are considerable plans for the future of the facility and for gaining even greater value for clients’ produce, but two simple rules which have been in place from the start will remain.

“One, don’t have any complicated contracts that put people off – be good and honest and do deals up front,” Bowyer says.

The Mānuka Orchard yard is only getting busier as truck loads of honey come and go.

“Two, don’t own any honey ourselves. I can’t gain trust from people who I am trying to sell honey for if they think I am prioritising mine.”

Further to those rules, simplifying the process of marketing customers’ honey and best matching it to buyers is at the forefront of the management team at Mānuka Orchard’s thinking. Accordingly, the beekeeping industry should keep their eye out for some big innovations coming soon, Bowyer signals.

Maintaining open and effective communication with their clients, and prospective clients, is crucial too. So, they will continue regular email updates and host a second Mānuka Orchard Expo Day at the facility in July. The first hosting of the event in winter 2020 drew beekeepers from around the North Island, as well as industry suppliers and several experts who spoke to the gathering.

So, while the Orchard has already provided plentiful “fruit” for beekeepers, it won’t stop now and the owner says it is beekeepers that have ultimately made it all possible.

“Through beekeepers’ support we have managed to grow this system of honey extraction, storage and sales. Tania and I want to thank our clients for that,” Bowyer says, adding “If they keep on supporting us, we can keep on growing for them.”

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