Capilano Funded Scholar Completes PhD

31/10/2019

The team at Capilano would like to extend a huge congratulations to Simon Williams, who has completed his PhD and is all set to don the title of ‘Doctor’! Simon has been an integral part of Australian Manuka research, and it’s a real buzz to see all his hard work mapping the 84 different types of Australian Manuka finally pay off. Here is the scoop from Simon on everything he’s been up to since we last spoke.

What have you been up to?

It’s taken a bit of work to write up and process the data from my study into a thesis. However, the thesis has been awarded so I’m now Dr Simon Williams, PhD. I’m proud of my project having covered a lot of ground and meet and helped a lot of beekeepers over the last five years. During my research, I ended up testing nearly 1200 honey samples and 3000 trees, covering 55 of the 84 Leptospermum species in Australia. Though not planned for initially, the creation and publication of numerous identification guides has been amazing, and I’ve received great feedback from the community.

The final guide which includes photos for 66 of the species to assist beekeepers in identifying Leptospermum species is now hosted on the Agrifutures website for future generations to use. I also had the opportunity last year to film a segment for Gardening Australia with Jerry Coleby-Williams which aired earlier this year to great interest which was awesome. My research formed part of the recently released report ‘Active Australian Leptospermum Honey: New sources and their bioactivity’, that gained a bit of attention last week via the ABC. It also planted the seeds for projects being conducted by the CRC for Honey Bee Products plus others. It’s a great feeling to see your research getting used.

What are your thoughts on market access and the current naming rights issues for Australian Manuka?

The Australian industry is in a good position to capitalise on New Zealand’s limited production capability. New Zealand with only a single species and associated flowering period has limitations in the amount of honey it can produce. Though work has begun on the planting of Leptospermum plantations in New Zealand to help with supply, the land available for such plantings is still limited. With a limited supply, Australia can step into those markets that New Zealand can’t full.

To standout and obtain good prices for the beekeeper, The Australian industry should learn from New Zealand’s mistakes and be unified behind the naming and standards of Australian Leptospermum medicinal honey produced. I see the creation of the Australian Manuka Honey Association and their quality standard as a step in this direction.

How important is the security of Manuka honey production for Aussie beekeepers?

Securing Manuka honey production is important for Aussie beekeepers by providing additional options. Diversify is always important in any business. Manuka honey has become a high value product with medicinal benefits. It has also highlighted the uniqueness of mono-floral honeys and their associated flavours and colour which has assisted in highlighting other mono-florals honeys like Leatherwood from Tasmania and Jarrah and Marri from Western Australia. These honeys deliver beekeepers a premium on their hard work and encourages a new generation of beekeepers to enter the industry. Where you see the Manuka industry headed?

I see the industry growing, especially as the use of medicinal honey in wound care becomes more accepted in the medical field. Australia has the variety of species and flowering periods to meet this increase in demand.

What other research have you been involved in of late?

Under Dr Peter Brooks I’ve been assisting the CRC for Honey Bee Products, can’t say on what though. Around this work, I am continuing to help beekeepers with their Leptospermum questions and assisting with Leptospermum nectar and honey testing. Going forward I would like to get involved in looking at mono-floral honeys and the nectar the honey derives from as well as honey adulteration testing.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully in a junior position teaching at a University while continuing to support the honey and other industries with problems and developing new ideas. Also, will hopefully have the time and place to get my own hives.

Capilano were proud to provide funding for Simon’s PhD, through the University of the Sunshine Coast, and his graduation ceremony will be held next year. We cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store for Dr Williams, but we hope he finds some downtime to get some beehives. Below are some beeutiful pictures taken by Simon as part of his studies. On’ya, Simon!

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