City Hives: crowdsourcing for bees
City Hives - a crowdsourcing project to save the bees, and make delicious honey in cities.
The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you
Country of residence of entrepreneur
Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?
I love bees. From an early age, they have always been with me to celebrate success, sooth my worries and give me advice (metaphorically, of course. I don't speak bee. Yet.). I studied one of the world's most dedicated bee enthusiasts - Jan Swammerdam - during my Masters' degree at Imperial College London (History of Science, Technology and Medicine) and wrote about them as a press officer for the Society for General Microbiology, then back at Imperial. I operated for several years as a sole trading educator (English, maths and science) with a company called ExamBee. I run the Bee Special Interest Group for British Mensa (it's smart to like bees) and kept my own hive for a while in England. (I'm now living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where my best option for keeping bees is in the apartment, much to my boyfriend's concern.) I now work as Press & Communications Manager for the Global Reporting Initiative - we promote sustainable business and transparency by showing companies how to report their impacts.
When I first heard about the plight of the honeybees, I was devastated. Then I decided to help them. So I'm setting up City Hives, so that people can get together to look after bees, make delicious honey and boost the economy.
I think people can be brilliant, and together they could make sure bees are healthy, alive and making lovely honey for us for many more centuries to come. I'm a people person as much as a bee person: my success lies in inspiring others and getting the best out of them. In ten years I think every home in every city could welcome a colony of honeybees, providing sweet treats, income and a wonderfully relaxing hobby. Bees are my inspiration and my passion, and to me there's no easier sell.
About Your Organization
Netherlands, NH, Amsterdam
Country where this project is creating social impact
Netherlands, NH, Amsterdam
Is your organization a
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The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
Every week around 1.3 million people move into cities around the world. It’s a task to feed a whole city when the food must come from the country. People like to eat honey. So what happens when all these new people living in our cities want honey? It gets imported. This is expensive, unsustainable, and less healthy than local honey.
Bee populations worldwide are declining; the result of several worrying trends. Fewer people in Europe are keeping bees, hives are becoming more diseased and a mystery illness – Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – is threatening bees worldwide. By pollinating crops, bees indirectly produce two of the three mouthfuls of food we eat. No bees means much less food.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
An interesting trend is emerging in cities: urban beekeeping is becoming popular. Cities are great for beekeeping. People who live in cities often have higher income and more luxurious lifestyles, so can afford to build and tend more exotic and healthy plants. Roof gardens, balconies and patios can be excellent food sources, and homes, for bees.
What’s more, beekeeping is a calming, rewarding hobby – beekeepers have the longest life expectancy of any profession. For people working in stressful jobs, living in busy cities, beekeeping could offer relaxation, healthy food and additional income.
By providing training and support to would-beekeepers living in cities, City Hives aims to:
- Increase the number of beekeepers in cities
- Crowdsource honey in cities around the world
- Put money into research, training and low-cost equipment
- Rebuild bee populations
- Give people a fun, rewarding hobby
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
A successful bee colony operates as a single organism – 60,000 bees work together and their individual efforts count towards the colony’s output. To save the bees, humans can work together as a colony. City Hives brings individuals together, crowdsourcing their efforts and their honey to increase bee populations and make a delicious product.
City Hives provides training and equipment, and the support of a worldwide network. This means that Jane with her hive on the balcony, John with two hives on his rooftop and Jackie with her hive at the school next door can make honey, support the economy and save the bees together.
As a City Beekeeper, you can get training and low-cost equipment from City Hives, rebuild bee populations, contribute to research to prevent bee disease and start a lovely new hobby.
City Hives pools the honey to sell in individual cities - starting with Amsterdam Honey.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
The EU is the biggest honey market, accounting for around 25 percent of all honey consumption, at more than 300,000 tonnes per year. In The Netherlands, the average person consumes 0.5kg honey per year, but there are only 40,000 to 80,000 hives in the country.
A few beekeepers around the world are starting to produce honey in cities – New York, Melbourne and Mumbai. These are owned and operated by individuals who don’t get the public involved in production.
The biggest challenge to crowdsourcing for bees is attitude and education. Ever been stung by a wasp? They’re mean and it hurts. Many people can’t tell the difference between bees and wasps, and think they are both stinging machines. Education through regular events, visits and publications will be key to turning this around.
Select the stage that best applies to your business
Operating for less than a year
This Entry is about (Issues)
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?
City Hives is being set up, and is not yet producing honey. Lots of people have already gathered together and are waiting to get training and hives, and start their new hobby.
The expectation is that City Hives will impact society in a few main ways:
- Educate people (including children) about the importance of bees and how to conserve wildlife
- Provide people living in cities with a low-cost, simple way to start beekeeping
- Provide beekeepers with a sustainable income that they can control
- Make a new network of friends who can work together to protect our future (and the bees!)
Because the model can be replicated globally, it has the potential to reach every urban area in the world.
What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?
People's knowledge of and attitude to our tiny furry friends is one main barrier. While they do sting (and it really doesn't hurt as much as you remember), they only sting if they are threatened. Knowing how to behave around bees (and knowing that they don't do fly-bys like wasps) will help overcome this.
A risk is the decline of bee populations due to disease. Researchers worldwide are trying to find out why bees are dying, and some of the profits from honey sales will feed into the research pot to reduce the negative impact of bee disease.
How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?
Bees are important to the environment and to our food security. City Hives means more beekeepers and more, healthier bees.
Training is developed and provided in partnership with local beekeepers’ associations. People who join the City Hives network get free training, and anyone can pay for training if they just want to learn. People who join the network can buy equipment at low cost, and others can purchase it at the normal price. It’s advisable to wear suitable clothing for beekeeping (bees walk towards the sun when they land, and are quite happy climbing up inside your trouser leg), but you also want to look good, so City Hives provides a nice clothing range.
People who join the City Hives network sign a contract, sharing a proportion of their honey for an agreed price and duration. Equipment cost is determined on this basis. Honey is pooled and sold as City Honey (Amsterdam Honey, London Honey, Tokyo Honey). In addition to profits from products and services, City Hives will also seek funding for certain projects and activities from government agencies.
City Hives partners with local beekeepers’ associations, governments and schools to maximize the positive impact of beekeeping in cities. City Hives partners with a charity that trains beekeepers in developing countries to boost the local economy and alleviate poverty.
A proportion of the profit goes to bee disease research, and sustainable development.
Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?
There are now seven billion of us cohabiting on this planet and, like it or not, we need money. More than 85 percent of us live in developing countries. Business cannot just use financial profits as the measure of success today. Developing economies face many different issues to western ones – human rights infringements, food security and climate change can have much bigger impacts in developing countries. In the case of bees, their success or demise will have an impact on our food security globally: losing two thirds of our crops will be devastating.
Entrepreneurs create jobs and boost the economy – so if they measure success through social and environmental impacts rather than just financial ones, our economies will become more sustainable. Supporting society, providing access to education, food and housing, can be achieved through social entrepreneurship. This will ultimately protect our financial future, and the future of our planet.
What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?
I can't wait to learn from VSO and the social entrepreneurs in Uganda! It will be a wonderful chance to experience business in a different setting, and to apply what I've learned to City Hives, to make a difference all over the world. Meeting new friends and fellow entrepreneurs will be incredibly rewarding, and sharing experiences will open us all to new possibilities. It will also be amazing to learn about Ben & Jerry's supply chain and how Fair Trade is benefiting the company, the supplier and the local community. I don't know much about the vanilla trade, so I'm looking forward to learning!
It will be a challenge to see the effects of climate change in Uganda, and to find out about some of the other environmental and social issues the local communities are facing. Learning about new cultures is always exciting, and although English is an official language in Uganda, I would definitely challenge myself to pick up some of the local languages!