Pine pollen has been used traditionally for 3000+ of years as a superfood and herbal supplement, and one Kiwi company is forging a market for it here in New Zealand. The pine pollen market in China is worth almost $4 billion, but few people here are aware of its incredible properties.
Meet the founder Carl Meyer of BioGold, one of the start-ups taking part in our three-month Sprout 2022 Accelerator in the Cohort VIII intake. After studying one of New Zealand’s largest industries, forestry, he discovered that pine pollen, an overlooked byproduct of pine trees, actually has thousands of years of historical use as a high-value herb in China, Japan and South Korea.
“The more I read about pine pollen, the more I went ‘wow, look at all these benefits! What we are doing now has evolved. We’ve realised many people are interested in pine pollen for testosterone, so that’s a problem we are looking to solve for people with low or suboptimal levels of testosterone. This is geared mainly towards men, but we are also scoping out products for women.”
With a background working for the Ministry for Primary Industries in the policy team, the question of how does New Zealand increase the value of the primary sector exports was something that came up a lot.
“To me, it was around sustainability, there being existing markets overseas and to be plant-based to reduce some of the sustainability, biosecurity and animal welfare issues. A lot of what our team focused on was supporting existing industries but I often thought about creating whole new industries for New Zealand.
And now, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Pioneering an entirely new industry is huge, and Carl’s aspirations are even bigger. For the pine pollen industry to be the size of the manuka honey industry and be a multibillion-dollar export industry that creates jobs, prioritises Maori owned forestry and supports social and environmental initiatives.
It’s been a challenging journey so far, one where Carl has had to rely on his passion to help push him through some of the tougher parts of it. Working his way through huge amounts of complex research and science during his research phase, Carl quickly realised that he had to start putting his own health and wellbeing before his health and wellbeing company.
“I experienced burnout at the start. I was working too hard and too much because I was so excited about this venture, but you have to prioritise yourself to keep the machine running. Founder mental health is not talked about enough, and it’s something I’m very open about to help other people.”
Carl has worked into his daily routine methods that help ensure his health and wellbeing are a top priority. Yoga, meditation and journaling are some of the tools in his tool kit, as is leaning on his team. Working alongside Carl is Matisse Mitchell, lead product designer who brings with her experience of start-ups, design and everything in between. Victoria University, Callaghan Institute, MPI and their new Sprout mentor Chris Mason all add to the collective brainpower that’s helping put BioGold on the map.
“I’ve grown and sold a company before this, and I made so many mistakes. The mistakes I made were beautiful because I have those lessons for life. If I had to go back and start this all over again with what I know now, I’m not sure I’d change anything because mistakes are all part of the process.”
After three years of research and development, BioGold is now shifting into its next phase of operations, getting the product into customers' hands.
“We’re now turning all that research into a product that has a purpose for people, so it’s a really exciting stage of the journey.”