Is it Analytics Time?

Is it Analytics Time?
By: John Miller

Readers: My editor, Jerry Hayes grants me extraordinary subject selection freedom on my monthly Bee Culture Magazine piece. As previously stated, this freedom is fabulous; and terrifying. I can write ‘The World According to John’ a semi-fictional varnished truth or two about beekeeping. Commercial beekeeping is my background.

But I’ve also seen bee clubs large and small, state and local beekeeping clubs that thrive, barely survive – and struggle in the new wilderness of meeting attendance and participation. In North Dakota, if a beekeeper in Williston decides to attend the North Dakota Beekeepers Assn. annual meeting, in early October – it’s an investment; not a small investment of time and money and fuel. It is 220 miles from Williston to Bismarck [depending on how hard & which direction the wind is blowing]. Once in Bismarck, an overnight stay on Friday, October 7, 2022. Membership dues, meals; and an expensive side trip to the Sporting Goods store, Scheels adds up.

Thinking about the meeting itself. The beekeeper makes a decision to invest the time necessary to attend the meeting. What information should the Association provide the Membership attending the meeting? Is there an expectation of a Return on Investment [ROI]?

The beekeeper invested, say, $1,000 in the weekend. If she returns with a Chinese grafting tool, snagged as a door prize – is that a return on investment? If she returns with the correct ingredients, say glycerin & oxalic acid, the correct ingredient mixing equipment, a contact for the correct size and absorbent sponge capacity – and application instructions to control Varroa destructor in her outfit – and how to safely transport 5,000 doses from shop to bee-yard -is THAT a good time investment?

When her Winter losses drop from 30% to 15%, that is a measurable return on investment.

In 1999, Apimondia was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. I have the commemorative hive tool. I’m not sure it was funds well invested. I can’t tell you a single thing about the products or machinery displayed. Can’t remember a single talk by a single speaker; apologies to readers who presented. What I do recall was a big brute of a guy seated in a lounge chair in the hallway. He was old, and bent like a beekeeper. It was Jim Powers. Jim, his brother Carl, and his father Irvin Francis Powers were beekeeping innovators. Jim had retired. Jim Powers was instrumental in the Miller family beekeeping success.

Jim Powers did not attend Apimondia to glean a return on investment – he had no ROI expectation. His decision to spend time attending Apimondia was to enjoy refreshing and renewing friendships made across the globe. Jim may be the only Harvard Business School – Small Business Management School graduate beekeeping ever produced. His was a life full of experiences and for me, spending time with Jim Powers produced a large ROI.

In 2017, my son, Jason was selected for Class #47 of the California Ag Leadership Program. Twenty-four emerging agricultural leaders are annually chosen from across California to participate. The commitment, for participants was 40 days of 2017 attending Ag Leadership events: International travel; presentations from financial, agricultural, scientific, governmental, mechanical, chemical, genetics and supply-chain experts. Leadership at Miller Honey knew the time invested would equal a big ROI on Jason’s career arc – and Miller Honey’s fifth generation of ownership is better prepared for emerging opportunities and challenges.

Everyone gets the same 24 hours, every day. The top ten outfits, the top ten operators, the top ten clubs, the top ten Bee Associations – all those leaders and members get the same 24 hours every day. The challenges and the solutions to a big change now underway in beekeeping involves how we spend our time and how we invest our hours.

Analytics. I’m not wandering here – the above examples I hope illustrate how the past informs the future. We don’t keep data the way we used to. Big, wonky bee boards give way to bilingual Cloud data storage retrievable in the field. Advantage: Analytics. Ten years ago, analytics upended professional sports. In 2022, with analytics, beekeepers can access real time data from distant beehives; anticipating needs without sending a crew to see when bees need supering/requeening/control materials/moving – imagine the possibilities of a device communicating from the bee yard to the operator – say hundreds of bee yards – or hundreds of paid pollination sites – in multiple crops – in multiple states – sampling tens of thousands of beehives.

This will be a messy process – several devices are now in development. The competition to optimize analytics is fierce. Actual money is being invested. The software to run these devices will rapidly improve. A beekeeper, a club, an Association; the vendors will all invest time, a precious commodity in development and refinement.

Beekeeping Analytics have arrived. Spend some time on a good investment.