CEO and Co-founder of Melibio, Darko Mandich joins me on The Plantbased Business Hour to discuss making honey without the bees and why this is mission critical. Listen in to learn about the secret life of bees and plant-based and fermented honey – yes, it’s a thing.
Specifically, Darko and I discuss,
- Why he decided to make plant-based honey,
- Is there a difference between a honeybee and an essential bee/native bee? A pollinating bee and a honeybee?
- What are the issues with commercial bee farming?
- What do we do to encourage the population of native bees?
- How is Melibio made?
- Having recently done a tasting in San Francisco, can you scale this for B2B? And would there be interest in this?
Below is a clip and transcript from their passionate conversation. The podcast is here.
Elysabeth: Can you talk to me about commercial farming? All factory farming is just overpopulated and so it’s easy to transmit disease whether that be African Swine Fever with pigs or the African honeybee or what have you, the European honey bee or crickets for that matter which is another show. In short, factory farming can give way to disease. Talk to me a little bit about that and what that means for bees and us.
Darko Mandich: I mean in 2021 if anyone needs any proof that intersection of humans and animals at the level that we allow to happen…if anyone needs proof that that’s not the best way moving forward to save humankind, I don’t know what to say to that. Very often delivering the truth comes with a shock. I was personally very shocked when I found out about the honeybees and this connection and, you know, I challenged that. I looked into many articles beyond one, but it perfectly came together after, you know, you make a connection with everything you do.
We as a humankind discover something and we find use for something and then we introduce efficiency and new methods and at that moment realize the consequences of that. People started using honey all the way back to 6400 BC in the current territory of Georgia, in between Europe and Asia. There are findings of honey in the Egyptian pyramids from 2000 BC. Humans have this emotional connection with honey and bees. Take any religious book with any religion in the world and you will find honey in it, which is not the case for other foods.
So this is a very interesting topic. It’s a very emotional product. It’s a very emotional story and what I can say is that we need to look into the science and the data. We need to realize what’s happening out there because if we just decide that we live only within the narrative that was downloaded to us in previous generations or any other reason…if we don’t challenge that we’re going to be having problems.
Unfortunately, only 2% of beekeepers are organic beekeepers. It is considered that organic beekeepers are treating bees a little bit better than commercial scale beekeeping, but that’s only 2%. You know, Elysabeth, I would say look at all the amazing things we accomplished as a humankind. Look at the world today versus what we had in the past and I’m wondering who has the right to stop evolution, Elysabeth? Who has the right to say we’ve been eating something coming from an animal for decades or centuries, what if there is a better way? What if in order to survive on this planet we need to adapt and use what we’ve built so far, which is knowledge and science, to our own benefit? This is what Melibio is.
I’m not a scientist. My co-founder is a scientist. I went to business school, and I come from an entrepreneurial family that’s really connected to food, but I really believe that the more I discover science the more I think about the plant-based route or precision fermentation. I see enormous opportunities to feed the world, to leave no one without food, and to make that sustainable so that we keep this planet and these creatures alive.
Elysabeth: I love what you’re saying and again so much to unpack there. So much of what we talked about when we talked about our global shifting food supply system is food security and making sure that all the people. That’s almost ten billion people by 2050 according to the UN. Now we’re at 7.7. billion people so you’re looking at almost a 30% increase. How are you going to feed all of those people? So as we look to a more efficient food supply system, what you’re saying is that you’re trying to make sure that everybody gets the honey that they want and love. The Egyptians called it liquid gold, and who wants to give up on liquid gold? But we can’t do so at the expense of the native species which we really need as pollinators. Although there are twenty thousand species, there are these two different kinds of bees: the pollinators that are quite prolific and allow us a prolific vegetation if you will, and then the honeybees themselves.