By HVN’s Chief Scientist, Professor Richard Mithen

HVN co-sponsored the recent Kai mō Aotearoa Food Science meeting at the 2023 Queenstown Research Week, which focused on the use of native species for food and health.

The meeting was very well received, with excellent feedback about the ‘buzz’ at the meeting. Many commented on the high quality of the science (much of which was supported by HVN) and the interesting discussion that followed the individual presentations.

From my own perspective, it was immensely pleasing to see how HVN funding had led to excellent science on the native fauna and flora of Aotearoa New Zealand, and the constructive and positive working relationships that were very evident amongst all the participants regardless of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Haunui Royal from the Liggins Institute acted as Kaiwhakataki for the meeting; opening and closing each day with a karakia and chairing many of the presentations.

The meeting was in four sessions:

  • An introductory session that considered the use of native species, the interface of science and Mātauranga and the use and conservation of biodiversity in the context of Te Tiriti
  • Plant Natural Products and Biodiversity
  • The Science of Mānuka Honey
  • The Evidence for Health Benefits from Greenshell Mussels™

Nick Roskruge, Professor of Ethnobotany at Massey University, provided an excellent start to the meeting with a discussion of Te Tiriti and biodiversity and the nature and significance of taonga species.

The discussion concerning taonga was extended by Anna Edwards from AgResearch, followed by a presentation by Vicky Thorn on K7 Ahuwhenua Trust’s approach to Mātauranga Māori and realising the potential of the whenua.

These three presentations led to much discussion and provided the context for the rest of the meeting.

The Plant Natural Products and Biodiversity session started with an excellent overview by Professor Nigel Perry from the University of Otago, presented by Dr John van Klink as Professor Perry could not join the meeting.

The session continued with presentations on mānuka, kānuka, kawakawa and horopito, which featured aspects of their chemistry and genetic diversity and results from human intervention studies on biomarkers of health.

The second day started with a honey symposium co-sponsored by Comvita, with six presentations on mānuka honey, including

  • The mānuka nectar-derived compound lepteridine by Professor Kerry Loomes, University of Auckland
  • The biodiversity of mānuka orchards by Georgia Woodall, Comvita
  • The application of mānuka honey to treat antibiotic resistant Mycobacterium abscessus lung infection by Dr Jonathan Cox, University of Aston, UK
  • A fascinating presentation on honeydew honey by Dr Rothman Kam, AUT
  • Progress on the HVN-Comvita funded SOOTHE trial by Professor Nicole Roy, University of Otago

For the final session, the topic moved to Greenshell Mussels™. Dr Matt Miller of the Cawthron Institute gave an excellent introduction and overview, followed by presentations on the results of HVN-sponsored intervention trials led by Professors Marlena Kruger and Pamela von Hurst from Massey University, and Dr Dominic Lomiwes of Plant & Food Research.