Busy Bee Farm has been using Excel to manage their beekeeping records for years, but it’s a challenge to stay on top of data entry during busy periods. Excel also does not provide them with analysis of their data. Specifically, they want to use their data to track the health and history of hives from pollination, post-pollination and winter. Busy Bee also wants to make informed decisions about which queen breeds work best for their operation.
By outfitting their team with BeeTrack, Busy Bee Farm is starting to better monitor queen performance, the impact of pollination on bee health, and their operation in general - without committing lots of time to data entry.
BeeTrack makes it easier for Busy Bee Farm to manage their employees and hives. Advantages include time saved through record keeping and easier planning for management. Simultaneously, the operation is collecting data to support decision-making about pollination, as well as data to guide future purchases of queen types.
Busy Bee Farm is a bulk honey producer and commercial pollination services provider with about 11,000 hives. Founded in 2008, the company is located near Hay Lakes, Alberta, Canada. Busy Bee Farm is run by Mike DeJong, a forward-thinking beekeeper with experience beekeeping in both Alberta and New Zealand. Most recently, Mike and his wife Jenny won the Beekeeper of the Year Award presented by the Alberta Beekeepers Commission. They were recognized for their constant push to develop better efficiency, better products, and better service to drive the industry forward.
DeJong recognizes that farming is continuously evolving, so he is always looking for ways to upgrade his operation. “It’s necessary to stay ahead in methods and technology,” DeJong says. “From manipulating bees to process modification, each year we discover new methods of efficiency through better practices.”
For years, DeJong has used Excel to keep track of what goes on in his operation and identify areas of improvement. Data entry into Excel has often been a struggle, especially during busy times of the year. Only an analytics expert could make sense of that volume of data and extract meaningful outcomes. DeJong knew they were not seeing the whole story, especially insights into hive mortality or queen performance.
Busy Bee Farm first started integrating BeeTrack into their operation in May of 2021. Together with Nectar’s Data Science team, DeJong has developed specialized reports from his BeeTrack data. He receives both the custom-built Pollination and Queen reports on a regular basis from Nectar.
The Queen Report shows how different queen providers and queen ages impact hive survivorship.
Using BeeTrack, Busy Bee tracked over 9,000 new queens from different suppliers during early 2022. Those queens cost Busy Bee more than $400K.
After the season, Nectar and DeJong will evaluate the relationship between queens and survivorship. This helps Busy Bee best allocate its queen purchasing in the future by only working with the vendors of the best-performing queens. DeJong also sees cost savings potential by tracking queen efficiency. Strong queens are essential for strong hives; especially when facing pressures like climate change, pests and disease.
The Pollination Report was initially set up as a limited test to determine the outcomes of different pollination locations on colony survivorship. It shows the different mortality rates of Busy Bee hives that traveled for pollination to a specific location vs the ones that stayed in their wintering yards.
The report quantified the difference in mortality rates between hives that went to pollination versus ones that didn’t, thus supporting DeJong’s decision on what pollination contracts to return to in 2023. “The pollination report has provided value, especially with planning where to send hives,” he says. “It helps us make decisions for future business endeavors.”
Overall, DeJong acknowledges that the system is still a work-in-progress, however he’s happy with the direction BeeTrack is progressing. It’s benefiting his operation, and making it easier to gain insights from the operation’s data. “We see a future in BeeTrack and we’re hoping to fully implement it in our daily management practices.”
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