Australian Honey Ventures crowd-funding nears $3million

Australian Honey Ventures Nick Cummins

Perth based start-up, Australian Honey Ventures, has raised as much as $3million from its crowd-sourced funding campaigns.

With only days to go at the time of writing, the second round of the company’s crowd-sourced funding campaign appears to have sold more than $2million in shares.

That comes on top of a reported $700,000 raised in an initial crowd-raising campaign concluded in July last year.

The funds have come from an estimated 1500 people investing in the company’s share offer.

Enthusiasm for the company’s campaign has been boosted by celebrity endorsement from high-profile rugby player, Nick Cummins. Colloquially known as the ‘Honey Badger’, Cummins has reportedly invested in the company as well as appearing in its marketing materials.

Another significant investor is leading West Australian honey producer, Stephen Fewster.

His backing has been critical in giving the company both credibility in the industry, and also a guaranteed supply of honey.

Company founder - Jay Curtin, is the other major owner alongside Fewster, and developer of the company’s unusual “honey-brokering” business model.

Curtin is promising beekeepers both a better price for their bulk honey, and a share of profits.

The higher prices and profit share will be achieved by marketing traditional Western Australian eucalyptus honey varieties such as redgum and blackbutt as “medicinal honeys”.

“Better than Manuka”

Curtin claims that these honeys are “better than manuka”, with a better taste and similar therapeutic qualities.The company’s flagship ‘Real Good Honey’ brand is being marketed with ‘Total Activity’ (i.e TA) ratings of up to 35+ on the label.Real Good Honey jarTotal Activity is a measure of the anti-microbial capabilities of the honey.

The TA number indicates the potency of the honey’s anti-microbial capability as compared with a standard laboratory bleach – phenol.  (So a 35+ rating indicates the honey has the same potency as a 35% phenol solution.)

TA ratings are determined using the same laboratory technique as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating system in New Zealand.

However TA ratings are no longer used in New Zealand or, for that matter, in most of Australia.

That’s because TA ratings combine or aggregrate the effects of two different anti-microbial medicinal honey components – hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal (i.e MGO).

However, unlike MGO,  hydrogen peroxide is both found in all honeys, and relatively temporary in its presence.

Or in other words, honey’s hydrogen peroxide component disappears quite quickly once the honey is opened, and/or exposed to the air.

In contrast, the MGO based anti-microbial capability of Manuka (and Jarrah) honey persists even after the honey is exposed to air and/or sunlight.

UMF ratings are, of course, protected by a commercial licensing system, operated by NZ’s Unique Manuka Honey Factor  organisation.

Many larger honey packers and marketers prefer to avoid the UMF licensing cost, and to also avoid any accusations of misleading consumers through labelling their honey with TA ratings.

So they label their medicinal honeys with a Non Peroxide Activity or NPA rating number.

It isn’t clear whether Australian Honey Ventures recognises the issues associated with TA ratings, and it is an open question as to whether the new company will be able to achieve ongoing market and industry acceptance for its approach.

Nevertheless, Curtin and her new company have already demonstrated considerable flexibility and openness to change.

For example, Curtin’s initial venture in the honey industry was with an online business that she describes as an “eBay for honey” concept. That formed the basis of her now defunct

And even in her short time with Australian Honey Ventures she has had to dramatically and quickly change strategic directions.

The company was initially aiming at the Chinese market, and even launched on the Hong Kong TMall under the BeeWell brand.

But China’s  unofficial trade ban on Australia has put paid to any real prospect of a future in that market

So the company has re-focussed its marketing efforts to Middle Eastern and other markets under a different brand - “Real Good Honey”.

But whatever the company’s products are called, and whether or not the business model ultimately proves to be sustainable and/or capable of generating continuing profits, Curtin herself has earned widespread admiration within the industry, and respect for her tenacity and energy.

So too, the genuiness of her commitment to including Australia’s indigenous peoples in the company’s plans is both unquestionable and commendable.

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