When successful entrepreneur Karl Lijun Qin set out to save bees by increasing the consumption of honey, he had no idea his honey powder invention would one day be a prime candidate for use as space food.
Combining his love for bees, honey and space has led Karl on a journey to developing healthy and tasty food for astronauts, with a goal to place Australia on the map as a leading producer of quality food for outer space travel.
A SPACE JOURNEY
For most people, forging a career in a single field is enough to make it through an entire lifetime of work.
But Karl Lijun Qin is not most people. After establishing his own successful factory and import-export business, then teaching entrepreneurship at Macquarie University for 7 years, a brief encounter with a bee became the catalyst for a major pivot resulting in the establishment of Quality Global Supply (QGS): a food manufacturing business specialising in honey powder.
With a belief that increased honey consumption is a vital component to saving the world’s rapidly diminishing bee population, Karl is on a mission to change how we see and use honey in our daily lives.
However, he’s not just thinking about our daily lives on Earth. Karl is now working to develop honey products that can sustain astronauts while travelling in space.
He is keen to put Australia on the map as a leading producer of space food, and feels Australia’s natural resources place us in a competitive position to achieve it.
“Every nation wants to contribute to the global space effort,” says Karl. “I believe it would be very difficult for Australia to compete in areas that other nations have been working on for decades. But if we look to Australia’s strengths, we see great natural resources that give us an enormous advantage.
“Producing high-quality space foods locally – and a variety of them – was what started my personal exploration on how to combine my love for bees, honey and space exploration.”
HONEY POWDER AS A KEY INGREDIENT
Karl and his team have since worked tirelessly on developing and testing new foods for space that include honey powder as a key ingredient.
He has worked with the CSIRO to conduct joint research, and has been validating the shelf life of his products over many years.
“Any food supplied to space must have a six to seven year shelf life which is not easy to achieve. However, 100-year-old liquid honey was discovered in Egypt and it was still in good condition. We have lots of research behind us now showing that honey powder retains its original colour and taste after 6 years.”
As with any growing business, the challenges QGS faces have centred on the ability to gain recognition and support. Funding is also key, due to the high expense of ongoing research and development.
Dr Mary Wang, National Business Development Leader and co-leader of RSM’s Space and Advanced Manufacturing industry group, reached out to Karl after reading an article about his efforts in the space sector.
“Mary has enormous knowledge of space exploration and gave me lots of encouragement,” says Karl. “She connected me with her networks at the Australian Space Agency, Deakin University, and others.
“When she found we were struggling with R&D claims, she connected me with RSM’s Principal of R&D tax.”
RSM ABOARD THE SHIP
Dr Richard Wraith, Principal of R&D Tax at RSM, says deep industry knowledge is key to assisting a company with effective R&D tax preparation to achieve the best possible return.
“Our R&D tax team is comprised of industry experts, not tax accountants. They have a highly technical background that relates to the different sectors our clients operate in. It means we can have detailed and frank conversations about the nature of the business to ensure they are eligible and getting the full return.
“Karl’s business was fascinating to our special interest practice group, and on the flip side it’s been valuable for Karl to have access to our team’s expertise. There are many instances where a client will come to us for R&D tax but we get to know the business so well that we end up supporting directors with business advisory, growth opportunities, transfer pricing, employment tax, and a range of other services.
“Karl’s ambitions are substantial and he has the drive and energy to achieve them. It’s exciting to work with clients like Karl because we not only help with day to day tax and compliance, but become really involved in the innovations they lead.”
Dr Mary, who connected Karl with Richard, agrees Karl’s work is incredibly fascinating and can’t wait to see its progression.
“We want all clients to be successful and we think Karl’s work is very meaningful. Richard has a PhD and is very experienced in R&D tax incentives, which helps ensure QGS is reclaiming all possible costs from investing in space food and the money can go back into facilitating more research.
“In the last federal budget, the government named space as one of the 6 sectors they wish to focus on. So there is the potential for grants which we can assist QGS to apply for, and also connect Karl with other likeminded people in the space sector to advance his efforts.
“It is how we add value and help our clients achieve their goals. Personally, I see the success of companies such as QGS as key to inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs which is critical in the STEM space.”
ALL SYSTEMS GO
Moving forward, QGS is continuing to develop and test new space food – as well as 3D food printing within space vehicles.
“No one wants to eat the same bland food every day, so we’re looking at how to use 3D printing and different ingredients to add breadth and depth to the ‘space menu’,” says Karl. “We want to make Australia the benchmark for healthy food production, and particularly space food that tastes good, promotes good health, and is long lasting.
“RSM has shown great interest in my business, and they offer a very wide network in addition to expert advice. They have helped me draw the picture of the future, test my ideas, and engage with others in the sector who are interested in the same activities.”
“RSM’s team give me guidance on what to do, which is not what you would expect from a traditional finance firm. The extra help they give to me is why I treasure the relationship. I really appreciate what RSM has done for me.”
HOW CAN RSM HELP?
If you have any questions or require further information, contact your local RSM office today.