Metro News: University of Manitoba technology helps local beekeepers compete against imports

When apiarist Allan Campbell heads out to check his hives this summer, he’ll have a new tool to help him optimize honey production – an iPad.

Sensors placed directly inside the hives will relay information directly to Campbell and his crew to help them keep watch on what’s happening in the hives and make better decisions about when to harvest honey.

“Right now the only way to inspect bees is to open the lid, puff smoke in and take the hive apart to examine it,” explained Campbell.

His operation, Durston Honey Farms, is based in Dauphin and is one of Manitoba’s largest honey producers with 3,500 hives located throughout the province as well as in the Fraser and Okanagan Valleys of British Columbia.

The technology was developed by Winnipeg software firm Function Four and a team of researchers led by Professor Cyrus Shafai at the University of Manitoba. Funding came from Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization that works with universities, private companies and both federal and provincial governments to develop the next generation of innovators.

Campbell says the technology will help the company take preventative action against problems in the hives and save money when it comes to harvesting

“Whenever we send out a crew with equipment it comes at a cost and if we find the hives aren’t making honey as we thought they were, we’ve wasted resources,” he explained “When these high-tech sensors pick up a heavier weight on the scale or detect more foraging activity, we will know where to find a full honey load and can keep our harvesting costs down.”

Canadian beekeepers are facing increased competition from low-priced imported honey that’s often diluted with corn or rice syrup. At the same time, Canadian honey producers are under increased pressure to comply with emerging food traceability standards.

“This technology is putting our company ahead of the farm-to-fork curve,” Campbell said. “Ultimately our goal is to be able to tell consumers, this honey came from hive number 457 at this precise location and the name of the queen is Carrie.”

Byline: Shel Zolkewich