Digital bees for the UK’s Local Honey Man

Madalina is Thingitude’s new trainee. Last week she had her first visit to a collaborative project focused on using the Internet of Things (IoT) to help beekeepers monitor the health of their hives. Here is Madalina’s report on the day.

Introducing the Local Honey Man

Curtis Thompson was first introduced to Apiculture (professional beekeeping) by his uncle at the age of 15. Curtis was fascinated with one of natures wonders “raw honey” – and the many problems that bees can solve.

As an adult Curtis carved a career in finance and banking, but his heart and passion were with the bees. He realised that there were many gaps in the market so he started testing different business models.

Ten years later, Local Honey Man has over 80 bee hives and an incredible company built around it.

Local Honey Man showroom in Walthamstow
Beeswax candles, showing bees produce more than just honey

When he was introduced to our project Curtis loved the idea of “becoming a pioneer and helping digitalise the way people keep and manage bees”.

Background to the project

The brains behind this project belong to Paulette Elliott, managing director at Huduma. She founded the company 13 years ago.

Throughout her extensive career in technology Paulette has learned that she gets most enjoyment from “introducing something that is brand new.”

She was an early pioneer of remote working and more recently has been working with autonomous vehicles.

Paulette and Curtis discussing
the plan

Paulette loves to offer a fresh perspective as a business mentor and help new businesses. Back in 2015 she met bee keeper Curtis Thompson and introduced the idea of remotely monitoring bees and making a farmer’s work more efficient. The idea was of interest, but the technology wasn’t ready at that point.

In 2020 she revived the project and explored whether it could be beneficial and cost-effective for bee keepers. She asked Mark from Thingitude to share his experience with low-cost sensors and smart technology. The research motivated her to pursue this idea further, using sensors that can collect data for the beekeepers without them needing to be physically present themselves.

A couple of years later the stars aligned and the project was able to begin.

Off to Walthamstow

When you think of bee hives you picture a green meadow surrounded by blossom and flowers splattered with all sorts of colours. However, there are also urban beekeepers with very successful businesses and happy bees in built-up areas. Curtis has bee hives scattered all around London, which is beneficial for him, his customers, green spaces and of course the bees.

We arrived on site to install the sensors for the bee hive, but the summer weather was making the bees quite active. Luckily, Curtis had his beekeeper suit on, so we talked him through the process of applying each part to the hive.

First he had to put the base of the sensor on a flat surface. This is to make sure that we get an accurate weight of the hive. Then, place the microphone at the bottom part of the hive to make sure to get a clear reading. Lastly, the temperature and humidity sensor was placed in the middle of the hive to get a good average reading for the hive.

Curtis with the sensors
Installing the base and microphone
Positioning the temperature and humidity sensor

Once it was nicely set up and ready to go we waited 15-20 minutes for it to send the sensor data over LoRaWAN to the internet.

Once the data arrives, it is displayed on a purpose-built dashboard that Curtis’s team will use to monitor the health of the bee hives.

What’s next?

Alongside the dashboard, we are working with Masters students Dingye Zhang and Ning Wang from Goldsmiths (University of London). They are building a digital twin of the hive for us to use for virtual reality training of future beekeepers, and a STEM Upskilling educational resource for Further Education students.

We are only part way through this 12-month project, and can’t wait to see how everything performs and discover whether it delivers the value we hope it will.

Thank you

Many thanks to Curtis, Cassie and Local Honey Man team for inviting us over, being interviewed, and posing for the photos. You can follow localhoneymanUK on Instagram – their honey is AMAZING by the way.

If you are interested to find out whether Thingitude could help your business take advantage of smart technology, please contact us, we’d love to talk.

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