“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:
- http://mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/consultations/proposed-general-export-requirements-for-bee-products/ – MPI on the changes
- http://mpi.govt.nz/document-vault/17362 – Summary of proposed requirements
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:
- https://apinz.org.nz/shop/health-and-safety-programme/ – OnFarmSafety – Templates for purchase from Apiculture NZ
- https://www.flyingpigeon.org/ – Flying Pigeon – H&S Management Plans & Consulting
- http://www.hazardco.com/agriculture-and-horticulture – HazardCo – H&S Management Plans & Consulting
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.
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.
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.
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,