Cedar Anderson grew up around bees. A third-generation beekeeper in the hills near Nimbin and Byron Bay, he remembers helping harvest honey and pulling apart old hives to see how they worked.
But when his brother was badly stung, he decided it was time to shake up the traditional ways of getting honey from bees. Some 10 years on, Anderson and his dad have created Flow Hive: a system that allows beekeepers to extract honey from hives at the turn of a tap.
Instead of going down a traditional venture capital route to bring the Flow Hive to market, they decided to bypass traditional funding models to get it to market and turned to crowd-funding website Indiegogo. Anderson’s sister created a video about it, and within days it had gone viral.
Initially, they’d hoped to raise $US70,000 ($96,952). Eight weeks later, at the end of the campaign, they’d raised $US12.2 million in advanced orders of the hives and Anderson’s life in the bush suddenly got a whole lot more busy. Investors and buyers started calling, new workers had to be hired and the media came calling.
“All of a sudden they’re telling me I have to have an office and I don‘t want an office, that’s my worst nightmare, but okay, we need an office, and now they want me to go to the office,” Anderson says in an interview with the ABC.
The ABC recently profiled Anderson’s journey in an episode of Australian Story, and online and print news publications everywhere have taken to it like bees to honey.
How It Works
In traditional beekeeping, gathering honey requires smoking of the bees to sedate them and a lot of manual lifting, manoeuvring and filtering of honey. It’s a process that’s taxing for both the beekeepers and the bees.
The Flow Hive uses partially-formed plastic honeycomb that the bees “fill out”, which then creates channels of honey when it is ready to harvest. It’s designed to let bees to do their thing relatively undisturbed, and lets keepers check when honey is ready to harvest before extracting it with a tap that also bypasses the need to filter it.
“It’s far less stress for the bees and much, much easier for the beekeeper,” the Flow Hive Indiegogo campaign page says.
But while the Flow Hive is being praised as “the most significant invention in beekeeping since 1852”, not everyone is convinced it should be widely used.
Some beekeepers around the world have expressed concerns that it could lead to lax beekeeping practises, as bees need to be looked after and supported by keepers beyond the harvesting phase.
“My biggest worry is that people invest in a Hive and then with dreams of easy use, abandon them when they realize they require more care or work or knowledge than they might have,” US beekeeper Eliza De La Portilla explains in an article published on Huffington Post.
She adds that it is hard to tell where the Flow Hive fits in the industry at this stage, but “what we do know is that we like the idea but we don’t believe that the Flow Hive is the be all and end all solution it is toted to be.”
As with any new invention, it’s probably too early to tell how the Flow Hive will impact on beekeeping around the world. On the one hand, De La Portilla and the other concerned keepers could have a point about lax beekeeping. On the other hand, creating awareness and making beekeeping more accessible could help bolster the world’s dwindling populations of bees.
For Anderson, though, the goal is to create a better relationship between keepers and their bees.
“What’s really important is that the bees are taken care of, because harvesting honey is only one part of a beekeepers challenges, it is taking care of the bees and making sure they are healthy,” he says, adding: “I really, really love bees.”