By: Kim Flottum
“…and a lot of it will be wrong, but just enough of it will be right.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
In the past several months there has been an overwhelming wave of information, from magazine and newspaper articles, blogs, webinars, podcasts, books, email blasts, social media sources by the dozen, meeting talks and the like on the changes in agriculture due to, because of and in spite of artificial intelligence, robotics, distant monitoring, unmanned aerial devices, optical sensing, data collection and more. Beekeeping, in particular pollination, overwintering and remote sensing data collection have received as much, if not more of this kind of attention.
“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” The Economist William Gibson
But what about other aspects of keeping honey bees? Take a look at some of these recent headlines from various publications –
- Indoor Wintering. In America, over 100,000 hives now winter indoors, mostly in Idaho. Canadians have wintered most of their bees indoors for decades; and the knowledge accumulated is available for a new generation of bee buildings.
- Wintering Sheds: Why are more North American beekeepers overwintering their bees in cold storage?
- WSU to use new refrigerators in study to help save honey bees
- Bees may do better being kept in the dark. Controlled Atmosphere storage could give bees an edge in the fight against the devastating Varroa mite.
- Beekeeper develops ‘smart bee’ winter storage system. Bravo and Agri-Stor to design a building that would control temperature, humidity and CO2 levels and allow for smart phone monitoring.
“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” Stewart Brand
OK, let’s look at another side of technology that hasn’t been explored here yet. Developing the Genius Hive, remote sensing, advanced computer technology, communications and data collection and smart phone apps for better colony management. Take a look –
- Data Sharing Risks and rewards
- The Genius Hive will be able to tell you what it needs to do better.
Here are just a few recent headlines on several aspects of agriculture in general –
- The FAA has awarded the first air carrier certification to a commercial drone package delivery company. The company will be delivering food to homes.
- Picking strawberries takes speed, stamina, and skill. Can a robot do it? Short answer, yes, by the end of the year by a robot called Berry 5.1, using GPS, cameras, gentle hands and unending energy will be harvesting acres per hour, nearly 24/7, no matter the weather.
- How Self-Driving Tractors and AI (Artificial Intelligence) are changing Agriculture, using computer vision, data science and deep learning algorithms.
- Your next salad might include leafy greens planted, grown and harvested by robots in California greenhouses.
- Optical Sensing Solutions for Food Sorting and Grading of Fruits, Grains and Vegetables. Optical sensing helps ensure consistent quality and improves efficiency. This includes moisture content in dates, sugar levels in oranges, bruises or rot inside pears and color binning of apples.
“The future depends on what you do today.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Now take a look at these, from just a few sources I found during March and April. These several headlines are looking at what’s happening to the beekeeping industry today. Take a look –
- Dropcopter releases pollination results – Way more fruit using a drone than when using honey bees. Technique shows a 25 – 60% pollination set on cherries and almonds, and significantly increasing the pollination of king blooms on apples.
- Mechanical pollination of almonds using an electrostatic orchard sprayer affective in apples and cherries, increasing fruit set and reducing costs.
- WSU Researcher Licenses Pollen Suspension while Continuing Electrostatic Research. Pollination results boosted 10 – 200% in cherry, pear and apple orchards in Washington.
- Firman Pollen, proud partner in the Precision Pollination System plants orchards strictly to produce pollen to use in Scumby Pollen Puffer and Beehive Inserts. (this is an ad in a grower magazine in April, this year)
- PollenNation NW, Pollen Collection, sales and application. Apples, pears and cherry pollen Introducing “ULTRA-SET” Pollination Technology, an electrostatic application process used in California and Washington to increase yields 30% to 50% per acre in Cherries, almonds and Pistachios.
- New Technology Makes Commercial Beekeeping More Efficient.
- Measuring Thermal Efficiency
- BXML Parts 1 & 2. The Power Of Big Data and Analytics.
- A Chat with the Co-Founder of the ApisProtect Colony Monitoring System
- Electronic Record Keeping – The Path To Better Beekeeping.
- The MiteCheck App
- Technology Acceptance Model – Nudging beekeepers Into the future.
- Arina: Using remote Hive Monitoring Data.
- Decoding the Songs of Bees for Improved Colony Health
- As a big part of this there is a long list of smart phone apps you can find and what they can do for you. Developed by Dr. Malcolm Sanford and published in his newsletter. Contact him here for more info. Patreon <firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened. John M. Richardson, Jr.
So there it is – technology leaps in the areas of robotics, pollination, wintering, remote sensing and data collection with all manner of instruments and techniques. And we’ve made no mention of the advances in honey bee nutrition and other health and pest control issues that have come to be recently.
Last month I mentioned that I had been talking to someone who was interested in getting into the business of bees – supplies, food, genetics, services and the like. His comment, after a long look at what we do for a living, was to note that in his experience, no industry he was familiar with, ag, manufacturing or technology, had gone 100 years with essentially no progress. Until now.
He was half right I think. The progress other industries have made is well known, and used by those who benefit and are progressive enough to see the light. All of the headlines here prove that progress in many forms, for both other industries and ours is a matter of fact real. That’s the half right part
The half wrong part is that mostly all of our industry is watching. Aware, but not participating. We’re still trying to find enough bees to get to almonds next year, while the almond growers are looking for ways to get rid of bees for pollination. We’re still trying to figure out wintering in huge holding yards with no forage and feeding all winter, while a very few beekeepers are moving into controlled atmosphere buildings to weather the storms of winter. Some vegetable growers are using robots to do the mundane and manual, saving labor costs and improving efficiency, while we’re still scraping boxes all winter with imported labor. And the computer age is here, whether we like it or not, and remote sensing, seeing, hearing and learning are part of the real world for some growers and for a few beekeepers, but far too many haven’t tuned in.
For the most part, you don’t see any of this in the supply catalogs you get every spring. Is that because beekeepers don’t want these advances so why sell them, or, suppliers don’t want to sell them so don’t make them available? It’s probably some of each, but soon somebody, somewhere will see the future, and the rest of us will watch the steam roller, or, sadly, become part of the road.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Apple Inc.
So, you think you have a good idea, aye? Gonna save bees and beekeeping and beekeepers, right? Well, we have just the place for you to show off if you think it’s a good enough idea. On page 20 there’s a new column called All Around The Beeyard. The idea isn’t new, but what we’ve done is take a good idea from a couple of farm magazines we get and turn it into something you can use. A good friend has a saying – I know a good idea when I steal it – and this is a good idea, and we stole it.
Over my 30+ years here I’ve been in countless honey houses, beeyards, storage buildings, bee trucks, backyards, insemination rooms, and just about everywhere a bee or beekeeper can be. In all those places I’ve seen dozens and dozens of ways that beekeepers have solved equipment, technique, management, biology, employee, government, neighbor or other problems somewhat outside the box, outside our normal experience, or simply a better idea of a way to do things that saves money, time, grief, pain, and money again.
That’s what this column is about. Show us what you have created to solve those problems. Tell, draw or photograph what you’ve done, tell us what we are seeing, why it’s better, faster, safer, easier.
Each month we’ll show what you’ve sent in, and the best each month gets $100 prize, and all those we show that month get a free one year subscription. But better, thousands of beekeepers worldwide now have a better way of doing what you showed them, and, life for all of us just got a little better. Send in your ideas, drawings, photos, writeups to me, Kim@BeeCulture.com, with In The Beeyard in the subject line. If email isn’t your thing, a photo or drawing and write up sent USPS works just fine, to me at the mailing address of this magazine. Good Ideas, Good Luck.
It’s late May, early June as you read this. One more summer is on its way. One more season, one more crop, one more vacation, one more – once more. Tired is a way of life for many for the next few months. Get the bees, get the boxes, get the honey, get rid of the mites, harvest, bottle it, pail it, or barrel and sell, and clean up and get ready for what’s next, and start all over again. We wish you both good luck and good bees, lots of honey, lots of bees and lots of whatever it is that gets you through this Summer.