Over recent years, bee populations have been declining at staggering rates, with thousands of hive keepers reporting losses. That's alarming because, as pollinators, bees directly or indirectly contribute to a host of industries, playing a major role in the maintenance of fragile ecosystems. But a father-son beekeeping team has developed a new type of hive that might just give bees--and the entrepreneurs who depend on them--a fighting chance.
The "most significant beekeeping invention since 1852"
Developed by Stuart and Cedar Anderson, Flow Hive is a one-of-a-kind beehive with an integrated channel mechanism. When beekeepers flip a simple lever, the honeycomb cells split, forming pathways honey can flow through. Tubes direct the honey out of the hive and into waiting jars or other suitable containers. Once the jars are full, the beekeepers trip the lever again to return the cells to their original position. You can watch the system operate in the video below.
The idea for the hive took years of trial and error, with Stuart and Cedar drawing and trying out different prototype options in their shed for a full decade. Cedar initially developed the idea to split the cells horizontally. It worked, but not as well as the duo wanted. Stuart then came up with the concept of offsetting the cell halves. After working through many prototypes and getting beekeepers to help test the improvements, Flow Hive was officially ready to patent and enter the market.
Easy on both the bees and the keepers
The Anderson's design is brilliant in two major ways. With traditional beekeeping, beekeepers have to disorient the bees with smoke to avoid getting stung. They then have to lift individual frames from sections (supers) of the hive out, remove the bees through a variety of methods, uncap the honeycomb and extract the honey. This time-consuming process is tough on both the beekeepers and the bees. But with Flow Hive's "honey on tap" system, there's no need to completely disrupt and stress the bees. That matters because, given how many bees are being lost, every insect that can stay healthy and survive counts. The bees can stay in the hive and go about their business, even when beekeepers flip the lever. Secondly, the beekeepers don't have to put so much physical work into the job or worry so much about getting stung.
One innovation, two beautiful kinds of green
Flow Hive is a perfect example of how people can use innovation to foster overall environmental health. But the idea is proving green financially, too. As described on the Flow Hive website, the Anderson's launched an Indiegogo campaign in February, 2015 with a modest goal of just $70,000. Investors obliterated that target, attracting $250,000 in preorders within a mere 15 minutes. The campaign shattered Indiegogo records, racking up a whopping $4,256,970 in funds from more than 111 countries and more than 9,000 contributors. It still ranks the sixth most successful crowdfunding campaign of all time.
Currently, full hive frames from Flow Hive are between $629 and $677. That price is by no means deterring the Anderson's customers, with thousands of orders rolling in. Although the Andersons are having to learn about and overcome a host of marketing, design and other hurdles quickly, they're meeting the challenge. Their success is letting them not only bring more quality honey into the market in an eco-friendly way, but also giving the Andersons a valuable platform as bee advocates.
That's pretty sweet stuff, indeed.