Everybody wants to save the world, but unless you are superwomen, saving the world can be quite of a hassle… However, small actions can make big waves and one of those inspiring projects who aim to make waves is HIIVE.
HIIVE, one of the greenest startups in our Future City Incubator, has re-invented the traditional beehive. Finally beekeepers are able to offer a natural, species adequate home to the most important animal on the planet.
HIIVE is the first bee home, which completely replicates the specifications of a wild bee home ( tree cave ). With its stable microclimate HIIVE keeps the bees healthy and happy, so you don‘t need to spoil them with chemicals. HIIVE is also made exclusively from sustainable raw materials.
The prototype for this exciting project is already running in the outskirts of Berlin and delivering great results. In between the flowers and the busy bees, we caught up with the founding team , Philip Potthast and Fabian Wischmann, for a short interview.
Who has inspired you on your journey to become an entrepreneur?
We were not looking for a cool project in order to become entrepreneurs. But when we discovered the problem and started to look for a solution we recognized that there are not many other options than doing it yourself. That is how really the journey started and what drives us: solving an important problem.
For whom HIIVE is for and what kind of impact it can have on the environment?
HIIVE is a solution for all beekeepers who are interested in sustainability and species adequate beekeeping. It also aims on first-time beekeepers, which we like to call “new-bees”. People who are interested in bees and beekeeping because they want to have a positive impact on our ecosystem.
Many studies suggest that bees, which are living in their natural habitat are less susceptible to, or better able to cope with, parasites such as the varroa mite. Our vision with HIIVE is to give beekeepers the opportunity to keep their animals as free of chemicals as possible and as appropriate to their nature as possible.
Honeybees pollinate 80% of all plants, so they are absolutely critical for our ecosystem. At the same time, most honeybees nowadays live domesticated with beekeepers. Therefore, we should all be very concerned about whether beekeepers have the right means at their disposal to keep the most important animal in a natural and balanced way.
As a hardware business, what does your road to profitability look like?
Long and dusty… Seriously, we have a longer and more cost expensive product development cycle compared to a digital product. But the good news is that we have all the product development competencies in our team and thanks to rapid prototyping processes we were already able to produce a functioning prototype at comparable low cost.
Generally we face a “classic” hardware business path. We do have higher initial development cost but our product is designed to be produced at industrial scale. This means we do have a high set up cost but once this is archived we can produce very economically and scalable. However, that is the point we need to reach yet.
How can each and every one of us create a better environment for bees to thrive?
The way conventional farming and forestry is done today is a big problem for our (honey)bees. They suffer from pesticides, monocultures and not enough diversity in general.
You can influence this aspect with your own decision when buying food. Try to buy from sustainable sources, farmers who care about biodiversity and who are avoiding pesticides.
If you have a balcony or garden, try to plant some blooming plants. It is very important for bees to have food all year, for this reason it makes sense to plant flowers, which are blooming in spring, summer and fall. Especially in late autumn it can be very hard for bees to find enough food. You can easily google bee-friendly flowers, but also many garden centres nowadays even label plants as “bee-friendly”.
Another tip is to provide water in saucers and shallows around your plants. In dry summers it can get very hard for bees to find water. Make sure to put some stones in the bee-basin so they can sit on it to get to the water. Beehotels for wild bees are also a very good idea to support diversity. You can either buy them or build them yourself. You will also find many DIY tutorials online.
What is your first memory involving bees?
Probably watching “Biene Maja” on TV.
How much honey can one get from the HIIVE and what would be the best way to use it?
That is a tricky question, where we need to give a bit more context. Bees produce honey in order to have a food stock for their colony for the winter. In general, if a human or any other animal goes to a beehive and takes out honey you literally steal their food stock.
Today Beekeepers have perfected the maximum extraction of honey per colony with various methods, without letting them starve. For example, they are giving them sugar in exchange for the honey. Unfortunately sugar is not as healthy for the bees as their own honey.
In the Middle Ages, before there were beekeepers, there were so-called “Zeidler”. These men would climb up trees and take honey from tree caves of wild living bees in a way that they were much more connected to nature. They would only take a small amount of honey per colony in order to not harm the whole colony.
We hope to shift the mind-set away from “how much honey you can make” rather to “how good will it be for the bees”. HIIVE tries to be the beehome for 21st century Zeidler.