Getting Started With Better Bee Management

Better data from beekeepers and sensors combined with modern analytics can have game-changing effects for any size beekeeper because it allows a deeper understanding of the health of their bee stock. It enables them to manage bee colonies to a level that has been unattainable in the industry using off-line management systems.
We are doing everything we can to ensure that bee welfare is the primary focus of this apitech revolution by providing a framework and tools that allow beekeepers to manage their bees more efficiently and focus on the ones that need their attention most.

 

Set up your account and log an inspection

  1. Subscribe for a subscription here: https://www.buzztech.nz/hive-management/
  2. Once subscribed, start the registration form by selecting “Beekeeper Managing Bees” from the first drop-down and select “Commercial” from the second dropdown
  3. Complete the form > tick the Terms and Conditions box > scroll to the bottom and click Accept > Click Submit
  1. You are now registered >Log in here: https://app.buzztech.nz/app
  2. Click on the Contacts button on the left-hand menu >Add Contact using a different email address than the one used to register (a land owner)  > complete the form >Save
  3. Click Create Apiary > select yourself as the beekeeper > complete the form > click Save
  4. Click on Hive Allocation from the menu on the left > Add Hive > complete the form > Save
  5. Click Select All > Move to Apiary > select your new apiary > Click Move
  6. Click Apiaries on the menu on the left > Click Details on your new apiary > Click Details on your new Hive
  7. Click Inspection Reports on the horizontal menu >Add New Inspection > complete the form > Save
  8. Congratulations! you have just added your first inspection – once you have completed this step you will need to activate the sensor.
  9. Email your sensor number to julian@buzztech.nz and it will be assigned to your new account for you to allocate to a hive.

 

 

 

Installing the Heartbeat Sensor

The sensor works over Wi-Fi and with an antenna inside the hive; the range is somewhat restricted.

Ideally, the hive being monitored will be within 10 meters of the Wi-Fi access point.

  • Remove packaging
  • Open battery enclosure
  • Remove cardboard from battery terminals
  • Check that batteries are installed firmly
  • Close battery enclosure
  • Open beehive
  • Place sensor above the bottom most brood box

Set up the Access Point

  • Connect to your WiFi Router
  • Rename existing or set up a secondary SSID named BeezThingz
  • Use WPA/PSK authentication with the password 155Wallace
  • Connect to the new Wifi with your phone and make sure you can access https://app.buzztech.nz
  • Once you have completed this step, the sensor should be collecting data over the internet.

 

 

 

 

If at any point you get stuck or have any questions, please feel free to call me directly on the number below for support.

 

Julian McCurdy

0278615084

Project Heartbeat

Working with schools and clubs as part of the Curious MindsSouthSci initiative and in collaboration with For The Love Of Bees and BeezThingz, we are proud to have our first few sensors up and running for the project with more expected this week.

Schools and clubs involved in the project use observations taken by the beekeeper and data provided by BuzzTech Heartbeat sensors to understand the correlations between the observed colony condition and the profile shown in the sensor data.

If you would like to get involved in the project please reach out by email: julian@beezthingz.co.nz or call 096223055

The charts below show a few of the sites we are working with on Project Heartbeat.

Top Left:
Shows the maximum of the 5 readings from each sensor in the 4 hives with 1 point every 40 Mins

Mid Left:
Shows the minimum of the 5 readings from each sensor in the 4 hives with 1 point every 40 Mins

Bottom Left:
Shows the standard deviation (Maximum minus minimum) for each sensor on the same scale

6 On Right:
The Maximum, minimum and standard deviation for each of the 6 hives currently with sensors.

Bee Business

“BuzzTech provides simple and effective bee management systems – we focus on quick data collection using an offline mobile app, optional hive heartbeat sensors, and intuitive web dashboards to help beekeepers prioritize work more efficiently and better manage their bees. “

 

With the main beekeeping season coming to a close; there is a number clever of operators who will be hanging up the bee suits and heading overseas for a well-deserved break (me included).

In this post, I would like to explore some of the changes happening for beekeeping businesses that will affect the way we operate day to day and hopefully, enable more of us to down tools and relax at least once a year.

 

Honey Export Requirements

The reason for all the change: 2016 MPI Apiculture Monitoring Report states $315 million worth of honey exports; $82 million more than the previous season and $128 million more than the season prior to that. The biggest driver of this rapid growth has not been the production of honey however, it has been the processing and marketing of honey to keep profit on-shore.

The view from the top seems to be that wholesale exports are a missed opportunity to collect a premium price for the finished product. Regulators are looking to drive growth in the industry further by updating the General Export Requirements for bee products that will affect every step of the supply chain. In essence it will give companies selling honey products certainty of quality of the product that arrives at the consumer and also allow the industry to control risks to growth like recalls and outbreaks.

For the beekeepers running a few hundred  to a couple of thousand hives and supplying honey for export these changes may have a significant impact as it would require unique labeling of every honey super and reliable inspection logs for every apiary visit, hive movement, and honey harvest to be supplied in addition to the harvest declaration.

To some of the old school beekeepers this will be a contentious issue as the idea of using technology to manage bees is not even considered an option. For the rest of us who understand the bigger picture of data collection, this change presents a fantastic opportunity to upskill staff, streamline operations and start using data to drive growth.

 

The BuzzTech management software is ideal for operators with 100 to 10,000 hives who wholesale honey rather than process and sell. We have focussed on simplifying the data entry process and provided a robust interface to prioritise & record apiary visits, oversee beekeeping operations, and track honey production. By adding landowner contacts, apiaries and hives into the BuzzTech Software, beekeepers can record bulk inspection from any device while offline in the field and use a real time dashboards to run the entire operation. Read more about the BuzzTech software here: https://buzztech.nz

Useful Honey Export Requirement Links:

 

 

Health and Safety

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has been finalized and came into force 4 April 2016; For beekeepers in the field, this includes keeping a log of potential hazards at each apiary and notifying landowners when they plan to be onsite.

Unlike an RMP (Risk Management Program) which is written for your operation to manage the hazards associated with processing honey and bee products, the Health and Safety Plan is written by your operation to manage hazards and protocols associated with running the day to day business to minimising risk of accident and injury.

There are basic templates available on the internet that will help people get started but the tricky part about H&S is that it requires explicit detail on operating machinery, working hives, navigating risks around the apiary, dealing with hazardous substances and a maintaining a live register of hazards and incidents.

For smaller operations especially, the task of establishing an H&S Plan is too much to achieve on their own; luckily there are 3rd party providers offering low-cost H&S Plans for the beekeeping industry and others that will tailor the plan to your business for a fee.

With an H&S Plan in place, the BuzzTech Management software lets operators record hazards and incidents at each apiary as they visit them and record hive data, negating the need to keep separate records and simplifying the actual implementation of the plan.

Useful Health and Safety Links:

 

 

Pest Management/ApiWeb

When speaking with beekeepers about software, the conversation will 9 times out of 10 get to ApiWeb, and then the swear words start.

We can all agree that the Pest Management Plan is a worthwhile endeavor but the real world application of the plan needs a lot of work for it to be effective in controlling (and ideally eradicating) American Foulbrood.

From conversations with MPI, Assure Quality and Apiculture NZ, I can say that there is a replacement for ApiWeb on the way….. but it hasn’t been started yet.

The issue is that ApiWeb is very outdated (31 years old), the people who built it have moved on and nobody wants to pay for the upgrade. The database that sits behind the website is still in good order and can easily be refreshed but the website and data collection part of the system needs a complete rebuild.

For beekeepers on the ground this means nothing though, they just want a simple way to assist the PMP in controlling AFB and to comply with regulations.

The final decision on how the replacement system will work has not yet been made from my understanding, but I can at least share that the potential outcome could look like:

  • Replace the ApiWeb website with a data linker between third party beehive management applications and the ApiWeb Database.
  • Use free and/or paid BuzzTech accounts to record apiary, hive, and disease inspection data
  • BuzzTech packages and sends specific information to the ApiWeb data linker in the background to automatically file your annual disease return while you relax.

 

Operational Software

With hive and super level traceability systems becoming a requirement for most serious beekeeping organizations in New Zealand, the need for IT infrastructure has never been stronger.

There are at least 6 platforms currently advertising beehive management software for beekeepers that I have found through google but with some digging and experimenting with each of the systems available it is clear that they are not all worth the shift.

ApiTrack and HiveTracks have been referred to as overly complicated, hard to navigate, and slow to add inspections by some of the beekeepers I spoke to. Both are cloud-based web applications so there is a dashboard overview available but because the system contains beekeeping, processing, packaging, and tracking, the dashboard is hard to use for general beekeeping operations.

BeeTight and HiveKeepers are great if you want a really cheap really basic app for running a few hives as a hobby but is hard to use commercially due to the lack of a good web interface and the ability to have multiple beekeepers and run groups.

BuzzTech provides simple and effective bee management systems – we focus on quick data collection using an offline mobile app and intuitive web dashboards to help beekeepers prioritize work more efficiently and better manage their bees.

Beekeepers are able to record honey production to the super (if they choose) and quickly look up hive movements and manipulations.

For your operation to excel in the new world of precision apiculture, you will need to satisfy the new and proposed regulatory changes.

Check out the BuzzTech plans here for the most beekeeper friendly and cost effective bee management system in the world. 

 

Beehive Sensors 

For some beekeepers wanting to extract maximum value from their bee stock, the idea of installing electronics into remote hives isn’t too far-fetched, especially when the value of some of the honey they get can be in the $80 to $120 per kg range.

Depending on the motivations of the beekeeper, there are a number of electronics on the market that will help in maximizing your production but very few that will let you monitor individual colony health.

HiveMind provides (very expensive) satellite-based weight scales that send data to a website for you to look at graphs of hive weight over time. These are good if you just want to monitor a small number of very remote hives for specific nectar flows but it provides no indication of actual hive health.

Arnia has a range of products that work with a satellite base station to provide a (also very expensive) option for monitoring a single brood temperature and the weight of the hive. This is not an NZ company but they have a number of customers around the country. The general feedback from their customers I spoke to was that the unit was to expensive to use on more than a couple of hives, the single brood temp is very inefficient at measuring colony size, and the system was unreliable.

BuzzTech provides low cost Hive Heartbeat sensors that measure 5 individual temperatures across the top of the brood chamber to accurately estimate the number of frames with brood. This information is incorporated into the bee management software and used to alert beekeepers to colony conditions and better allocate work. The simplicity of the sensor and the lack of a hive scale means the sensors only cost a fraction of the others.

The BuzzTech Hive Heartbeat sensors use temperature and audio profiles to accurately estimate colony size and condition, this information helps prioritize work for beekeepers and dramatically reduce seasonal colony losses.

Check out the BuzzTech Hive Heartbeat sensors here for the only sensor on the market that will help you work more efficiently. 

 

I hope this provides a  broad overview of the advanced and commercial beekeeping landscape for those wanting to step up their beekeeping game.

 

Cheers for now,

 

Julian McCurdy

 

 

 

Keeping track of the bees

The last couple of months I’ve been out in the field talking to beekeepers about BuzzTech’s bee management tools. On my travels, I have been trying to understand some of the ways beekeeping businesses can benefit from more robust management systems. There’s been some great feedback from a range of beekeeping models in Pollination, Breeding and Honey production.

 

The beekeeping industry has been rather slow to pick up on technology especially in the area of bee management system. Tried and tested methods (like stickers, bricks, or diaries) are familiar and appear easier to manage, however with the changing needs and requirements of the industry it makes sense to centralise this process in a software system that enables beekeepers to achieve operational excellence while focussing on optimum colony health.

 

A number of enterprise level operators with 20,000+ hives have been developing internal management systems with mixed level of success, 3 out of the 5 I spoke to have developed internal systems that they were not satisfied with because the technology was hard for them to manage and update internally. The others had paper based systems that were not providing any useful data at all!

Of the commercial level operators, less than 20% had tried using software or apps for hive management and many less had integrated these systems into their daily beekeeping operations long term.

 

In talking with beekeepers and beekeeping company operators I’ve identified some recurring issues with the current ‘offline’ and primitive online systems:

  • Beekeepers summarise inspection data for apiary visits on paper, which is never indexed or used in reporting. Hive specific information like strength and condition are sometimes left with the hive (stickers, bricks, etc) and eventually overwritten.
  • If a beekeeper want to know what’s come and gone from an apiary, they need to look back through diaries or try to remember – this causes difficulty with recommended RMP certification and AFB quarantining procedures.
  • Beekeepers and managers don’t have access to any records while on the road – they rely on phone calls to find things out, which is not ideal when beekeepers work out of coverage.
  • Beekeepers don’t know what happens in an apiary or hive when they aren’t there – results in theft, swarming, and colony deaths.

Taking these insights; BuzzTech’s bee management software enables real time delivery of information, easy logging of inspections at the hive or apiary level, tracking the performance of stock over time, seeing what needs doing and where, and to record and track the location of every hive. https://buzztech.nz/hive-management/

Isaac

 

Isaac Eyres Owner | Director of Eyres Apiary has been trialing our Bee Management Software. I stopped in to have a chat and find out some of the benefits he’s been experiencing.

BT: How do beekeepers benefit from more data?
EA: Having more data available to us [the beekeeper] means we can make better decisions on where to go and when or if to go at all. The ability to see trends in the data relating to behaviour and productivity means we can predict better honey flows and be prepared for situations.

BT: How are the bees benefitting from better data?
EA: The bees (colonies) are benefiting as they are being attended to at the right time. I can see what’s going on so I have the right gear to boost the colony when I visit an apiary. If it’s space to grow we can adjust that or food then we can meet their requirements in a timely and efficient way.

BT: What are the advantages of bee management software?
EA: All-encompassing bee management software means I can manage our hives offline while in the field, ideally an app version of a hive diary. This then syncs when I’m back at home base or in reception. The offline is a must in my opinion as a lot of apiaries are in remote locations and there’s no point writing something in a diary and then transferring it to a computer when you can put it into your phone or iPad and have it automatically update with back in a service area. Another advantage is software that has the ability to remotely monitor hives.

BT: What innovations would you like to see in the industry?
EA: It would be great to see advancements in hive tracking especially a GPS system that can track hives for security purposes.

BT: What are the benefits of technology for the industry?
EA: Technology will change the industry making it more efficient for beekeeping operations, cost savings (as long as the technology is cost effective) and simple to use out in the field. We have to remember beekeepers are out in the elements, and often very busy so if it takes too long to input data / log inspections beekeepers won’t take it up.

Beekeepers, and beekeeping business owners who have tried other apiary/hive logbook replacements and have been disappointed by the scalability, the ease of use, or the lack of features; you will want to take the BuzzTech trial for a spin.

We offer an app for offline + bulk inspection logging and we provide a web interface for managing your beekeeping operation.

Find out more about BuzzTech software and sensors by clicking HERE or emailing me directly at Julian@buzztech.nz
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It’s The Entire Buzz

WELCOME TO THE BUZZTECH APICULTURE BLOG

It’s The Entire Buzz …. Technology that will help grow the Apiculture industry

It’s been a busy few months here at BuzzTech.

I was part of the Sprout Agri-Tech Accelerator program earlier this year. It was a fantastic opportunity – tough work and lots of learning – and plenty of exciting changes.

As a result, I realised we needed two businesses – one for the rental of beehives and one for the hardware and software for the hives.

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So now I have BuzzTech to focus on the development, delivery and sales of beekeeping products such as software and sensors. After a successful funding round, BuzzTech is piloting its technology with key partners, preparing for production and Series A funding in 2017.
What I’ve also learned is there is a real need for BuzzTech technology. Despite the advancement in some areas of our apiculture industry there is room for better understanding and focus on data collection.

A recent blog post HERE by Dr Rosie Bosworth, following the 2016 New Zealand Apiculture Conference in Rotorua, identifies some of the burgeoning issues our industry is facing, the enormous growth along with new innovations and technology advancements. But as she notes, there’s room for more which makes our new technology developments even more exciting.

In validating our product I’ve learned there isn’t much focus on data collection and its importance in improving the operational aspect of the business. BuzzTech’s mission is to develop and produce operations focused software and apiary technology exceptionally well. With the result beekeepers will have time to focus on things like maximising colony health, finding better hive sites, and growing their business.

So with that in mind, I am looking for beekeepers to join me for the pilot testing launching in December.

I want to better understand the commercial intricacies involved in the deployment of software and sensors into commercial bee operations. Of course, there is a special concession involved for beekeepers participating in the
commercial pilot.

I am excited about the results of the first product trial report which is available to read HERE.

If you’d like to take part in the pilot testing phase click HERE for more information or email me directly at Julian@buzztech.nz

It’s an exciting journey!

 

 

Happy Beekeeping,

Julian McCurdy

BuzzTech

4hivesensor

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