ICONIC South Australian brand Spring Gully Foods will trial the production of premium Manuka honey in the Mid North.
A licence agreement between Forestry SA and Spring Gully Foods will allow the company to establish a 10-hectare plantation of Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka) shrubs in the Wirrabara State Forest.
The project has also been given a $150,000 grant from the state government’s Regional Development Fund for irrigation works, fencing, spraying equipment, tree supply and planting.
Spring Gully Foods managing director Kevin Webb said the trial infrastructure, including fencing and irrigation, will be built before June. Plantings of the Manuka shrubs will start after the winter rains with establishment complete by the end of August.
“The forest has an average annual rainfall well above the 500 millimetres required by the Manuka shrub and the soil types are workable also,” he said.
“The region has also been looking for alternative uses for the burnt forest, and based on the trial results, we hope to be part of that change.
“Depending on seasonal conditions, the first honey harvest will start three years from planting with maximum honey production expected after five years.”
Mr Webb said if the trial is successful then negotiations will take place with the state government to do a large-scale planting.
A second stage of the project could also include construction of a processing facility and visitor centre to produce, package and showcase Manuka honey.
“We currently pack approximately 1500 tonnes of honey a year and are well-placed to develop our honey business into this space,” Mr Webb said.
“We are looking forward to starting the trials and seeing the plantation establish.
“We are also looking at other complementary species which flower at different times and offer alternative sources of native foods.”
The trial is supported by a joint research agreement between food business Spring Gully Foods, Forestry SA and PIRSA through SARDI, which will provide advice and ongoing data analysis during the trial.