THE PRESIDENT of a huge honey company was so impressed by Johann Ander that the young Whanganui beekeeper has been invited to Japan to teach and learn.

Mr Ander is just 22, but already the 51per cent owner of Yobees Honey. He's done a year's study and had five years' fulltime work in the honey industry - plus put about $50,000 of his own money into the business.

He is going to Japan because he impressed Hideo Yamada, the president of Yamada Bee Company, who visited New Zealand last month. The company president came to New Zealand learn about manuka honey production. He saw hives in Taranaki, as a guest of Manuka Research Partnership chairman Neil Walker, a supporter of Mr Ander and shareholder in Yobees Honey.

The young Whanganui beekeeper also has a special interest in breeding queen bees, which fits with the Yamada company.

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Mr Ander will be in Tokyo, Okayama and Hokkaido from July 15 to August 20, teaching Yamada staff and doing an internship himself. He's very excited, because he's never been overseas and has wanted to travel.
He has always had an interest in insects. As a child he used a microscope to look at them and take them apart. He did his primary schooling at Faith Academy and was home schooled after that.
School didn't cater for his interest in insects.
"It makes you do all the subjects that are unnecessary for what you want to do."
As a home schooler he attended the Wanganui Beekeepers' Club and worked two days for John Brandon's Canaan Apiaries. After finishing school he did a one-year course at Lincoln University's Telford campus, finishing with a Certificate in Apiculture.
He got a job with Taihape's Tweeddale Apiaries, where he got his truck licence and learned to work hard. Two years later, when Comvita bought Kiwi Honey in Whanganui, he became a team leader there.
With Comvita Mr Ander got training in using all kinds of machinery - including four wheelers, cranes, forklifts and chainsaws.
But beekeepers like to have their own hives, even when they work for other people. It was always his plan to have his own business.
He left Comvita in spring last year to start Yobees Honey. Mr Walker is one three other owners and the company supplies honey for export, mainly to China.
At present it only has 150 hives, based in the backblocks of Brunswick and South Taranaki. But he plans to build up numbers, and said it will only take one or two seasons to do that.
Then the business will take on staff, and have its own shed. At the same time Mr Ander is building up his knowledge of queen bee breeding and genetics, which he hopes to increase in Japan. ¦

MEET THE BOSS: At 22, Johann Ander is the major shareholder in a honey company. PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO TOKYO BOUND: Johann Ander's interest in bees is taking him to Japan. PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO