Your Source For Beekeeping News, Information and Entertainment
March 21, 2022

HiveTracks 2022 Update and AID-CSB Partnership in Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Lebanon (S4, E40)

HiveTracks 2022 Update and AID-CSB Partnership in Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Lebanon (S4, E40)

On today’s episode, we invite back friend of the podcast, James Wilkes to talk about the latest updates and changes to the HiveTracks: the Beekeeper’s Companion, which has grown beyond being just a great hive management application for your...


JamesLauraSarah

On today’s episode, we invite back friend of the podcast, James Wilkes to talk about the latest updates and changes to the HiveTracks: the Beekeeper’s Companion, which has grown beyond being just a great hive management application for your mobile device. We also talked about the exciting new international program he and our other two guests, Laura Becker and Sarah Denton are working on to localize the Beekeeper’s Companion app for women beekeepers in Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, and Lebanon.

In those developing countries, beekeeping is more than a hobby, it is a means to a better livelihood in the face of climate change. The AID-CSB projects localize the Beekeeper’s Companion app to incorporate traditional and local beekeeping knowledge along with weather data to help beekeepers monitor and manage their hives.

Let us know what you think by leaving comments for this episode above. Start a discussion!

Thank you for listening!

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast: 

Honey Bee Obscura

______________

We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. Betterbee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, Betterbee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com

We welcome HiveAlive back as an episode sponsor. HiveAlive is the #1 liquid feed supplement for honeybees worldwide.  It contains a unique blend of seaweed extracts, thyme and lemongrass. HiveAlive has been proven to increase bee strength, produce more honey, improved bee gut health and improved overwinter survival. Ask about HiveAlive and new HiveAlive Fondant & Pollen Patty at your local beekeeping store or visit the website www.usa.hivealivebees.com for more information.  

This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help Global Pattiesensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode! 

Thanks for Northern Bee Books for their sponsorship of Bee Books: Old & New with Kim Flottum. Northern Bee Books is the publisher of bee books available worldwide from their website or from Amazon and bookstores everywhere. They are also the publishers of The Beekeepers Quarterly and Natural Bee Husbandry. Check them out today!

Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping TodayStrong Microbials Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website: https://www.strongmicrobials.com

We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a regular podcast featuring interviews with leading bee and insect researchers in the world of pollination, hosted by Dr. Kirsten Traynor.

_______________

We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments: questions@beekeepingtodaypodcast.com

Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at www.beeculture.com

Bee Culture Magazine

Thank you for listening! 

Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott

Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC

Growing Planet Media, LLC

Transcript

S4, E40 – HiveTracks 2022 Update and AID-CSB Partnership with Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Lebanon

 

[Music]

Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim Flottum: I'm Kim Flottum.

Global Patties: Hey Jeff and Kim, today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow.

Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta and in Butte, Montana or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today @www.global patties.com.

Jeff: Thank you, Sherry and thank you global patties. Each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather we get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen from the transcripts, the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, the recorders, they enable each episode.

With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. We want to welcome back Hive Alive as an episode sponsor. Hive Alive is the number one liquid feed supplement for honeybees worldwide. It contains a unique blend of seaweed at extracts time and lemon grass.

The formula has been proven to help bees produce more honey, improve bee gut health and improve over winter survival. Ask about Hive Alive at your local bee keeping store or visit the website at usa.hivealivebees.com, or from visiting our website sponsor page for more information. Hey everybody. Thanks for joining us. We're truly happy you are here. Hey, before we get started, I just want to remind you to subscribe and to follow Beekeeping Today Podcast. It really helps us.

While you're there, give us a thumbs up or give us a five star rating too, it really helps. Also, don't forget we've added a couple new features to our website. We are now adding complete transcripts of each episode. Some listeners like to read along as we talk, and they are also very helpful for our hearing impaired beekeeping listeners. Check them out. Second, you can also leave questions and comments online for each show. You can click on a comment, ask a question, reply to a question, ours or our listeners, or just comment on the show at all.

Just click on, leave a comment at the top of each episode's show notes, to join the discussion. Thirdly, have you listened to an episode and thought, "That person sounds really interesting and I'd like to know more about him." Well, you can now each episode links to a guest profile. Each profile has a guest photo, a bio, contact information and including links to their Instagram and Twitter details if they have them.

Check out our website, at beekeepingtodaypodcast.com and finally, share the podcast with your beekeeping friends, email them links and/or mention it to your next beekeeper meeting. Last year, we created a multipart series on how to get started with beekeeping, and this would be really good listening for those beekeepers attending those meetings to know about as they're start out their first season.

Hey everybody, thanks again for joining us. Kim is away. Don't worry, he's okay. He'll be back again in a couple weeks. Well, spring arrived this weekend and it may have arrived already for you depending on where you live or may have only arrived on paper if you live in the Pacific Northwest. Springtime means everything comes back to life. Flowers start to bloom, birds sing and peepers peep and bees start to arrive in packages and nucs. Are you ready for yours?

I received a call the other day stating packages would be two weeks early this year. Good thing I cleaned up my dead outs in January. How about you? Is your equipment ready? Have you been informed that your bees will be here early? Check with your supplier because there's a good chance they might be here a little earlier than you expected. On our sister podcast, Honey Bee Obscure, Kim Flottum and Jim Tubin discussing planning for the spring, including episodes on deciding between packages and nucs, equipment selection, lake winner management, and dealing with old hive equipment.

Check them out at www.honeybeeobscure.com. On today's episode, we invite back friend of the podcast, James Wilkes to talk about the latest changes to the HiveTracks application. We also talk about an exciting program he and our other two guests, Laura Becker and Sarah Denton are working on to localize a HiveTracks app for women beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia. In those developing countries, beekeeping is more than a hobby, it is a means to a life.

The AIDCSB or ACSB funded localized companion app incorporates traditional and local beekeeping knowledge along with local weather data to help beekeepers monitor and manage their hives. Overall, it's a great tool for beekeepers in those developing countries. Before we get to that discussion, let's hear from our good friends at Strong Microbials.

StrongMicrobials: Hello, beekeepers. Your honeybees face a lot of out there. Unbalanced food sources from monoculture crops, holding yards, drought, food shortages, antibiotics, pesticides and pathogens like chalkbrood. To overcome these challenges, your bees need the multiple bacteria that are in all nectars, pollens and the environment. These bacteria aid the honeybees digestion and improve your honeybees response and resilience to pesticides.

Now you can help improve your honey colony health with a quick, easy and safe to use product. Strong microbials, super DFM honeybee uses naturally occurring bacteria to restore the healthy gut biome of your honeybees. Check them out today at wwwstrongmicrobials.com.

Jeff: We sure appreciate our sponsors, thanks. Hey everybody. Welcome back to the show, sitting across the virtual Zoom table right now are three great guests. First, I want to welcome back James Wilkes for HiveTracks, Laura Becker and Sarah Denton. We'll introduce everybody here. Well, let's just do a quick round of introductions real quick. James, we'll start with you.

James Wilkes: Hey, this is James Wilkes, founder of HiveTracks and great to be back with you, Jeff and Kim today.

Sarah Denton: Awesome. I'm Sarah Denton. I'm the UX and UI designer for HiveTracks and for the AID-CSB project, which we'll be talking about.

Jeff: Then Laura.

Laura Becker: Yes. My name is Laura Becker. I work on the monitoring evaluation and learning team at ICARDA, which is the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. I work together with Sarah and James on the AI driven climate smart beekeeping for women project.

Jeff: Oh, a little tease to what's coming. Fantastic. Thanks a lot. It's great to all of you. James, you've been on the show a couple times. This might be your fourth or fifth time, I think, not including the audio postcards, you've been so generous to send us. Let's talk a little bit just for those who aren't real familiar with HiveTracks App. Why don't you give us a little bit of a background about the HiveTracks, how it got and then where it is today before we start talking to Laura and Sarah.

James: Sure. HighTracks is a peer management software or beekeeping technology. There's different lenses you can look at it through, but it's a software that I started more than a dozen years ago. I'm a beekeeper. Sideliner beekeeper, I have a family farm here in the Western mountains of North Carolina in the Sourwood region, if you are familiar with that varietal. I've been beekeeping for about 20 years. I'm also a computer science Professor at Appalachian state.

The technology and the bee keeping came together in my bee yard 2008 or so. HiveTracks popped out of that. Had ideas back then about bringing technology into the beekeeping space and really been iterating on that ever since. The original HiveTracks was a web application for beekeepers to keep the information that you have around your beekeeping, when you visit your hives, what you did, what conditions you see, your observations and really just give another tool to beekeepers for decision making. That has held true, that idea has continued to approve valuable and we've iterated on that idea, both through different technology builds and beekeeping behavior and adoption.

We've come to this present time. We're still here and we are launching a brand new version of HiveTracks called the Beekeepers' Companion. It's really various reasons for going into that. We can talk more about that as we go, but that's-- HiveTracks is software for beekeepers.

Jeff: Yes, and it's expanded beyond just being basically a record keeping system, hasn't it?

James: Correct. Originally, that that was the concept was just to give away to keep the records that your beekeeping classes, you learn about the importance of records, and everybody's usually not really good at it, and so trying to make that a more effective tool for that. That was the original concept, but over the years we've really come to believe, and even have data to back it up, that using such an app or technology can improve your beekeeping, not only for the beekeeper themselves, but for the broader community.

There's concepts about aggregating the data. Just think of going to your local beekeeper meeting. In fact, I'm going to our first meeting of the season here in a couple of hours. When you go to those meetings, you exchange information, you talk about what's happening in the current environment of your bees and what everybody's seeing in their hives. That collective information that you get there, we're trying to bring that into the digital space and give a platform where that can happen. That's one way to view the additional value that we bring to the table.

Jeff: Very good. I have to be careful on how to use the term programs, but the HiveTracks has expanded beyond the application. We've touched on this a little bit before, doing a lot with the data science and data collection and you've been working with Joseph Kasier with the data modeling. With HiveTracks, what are some of the other programs, if you will, that you're working in?

James: The beekeepers companion, we view that as a gateway product, if you will and really we have a full new build of our backend platform with data applications in mind, and there's a number of applications that revolve around beekeeping data and it's really environmental data is what you're collecting when you're collecting beekeeping data. When you're observing your bees, they are a proxy for what's happening in the ecosystem around your beehive.

Some other things that we've been not only ideating about, but creating pathways to applications in the data space and some of those revolve around ideas like honey traceability, that's a global issue of differentiating between honeys that you produce. As I said, I produce varietal honey called sourwood and there's a lot of fake sourwood that's out there. Providing a tool that's data-driven for honey traceability is one of those applications.

Then the other is pollination services, there's others in that category out there, technology companies as well, that measuring the impact and bees are coming out of almonds right now. That's one of the biggest examples, but the bees in your backyard are also providing an environmental pollination service to your neighborhood and your area. Measuring that and accounting for that is something that we believe there's a gap and so providing a tool for doing that is one of those.

Over the years, HiveTracks has organically grown around the world. We never really set out to be a global software company. We just put this out there and the nature of the internet things just propagate organically. Over those 10 years before this new product, we were picked up by beekeepers in 150 plus countries and over 40,000 people have registered for accounts, things like that.

Those are vanity metrics, but it does show how widespread uptake or interest in this kind of thing. We've always been interested in what does that look like globally, and are there places that we can bring this technology to improve livelihoods or just to help beekeepers in different parts of the world. Actually, it was in 2019, I was in Rome at the FAO office with Apimondia pitching the concept of the importance of beekeeping data and Joseph Cazier was there with me.

On the plane trip back from that, I actually came up with a concept note that said, this is how we could take this to the country level. Could we bring this in collaboration with organizations within a region and bring the technology in and in coordination with either government or NGOs or whatever organization, bring it to a broader number of beekeepers. That note was actually the genesis of this project that we're going to be talking about the AI-driven, climate-smart beekeeping for women project, that that was the original idea, and we were able to get this funded.

The AID-CSB project is our internal name, well, external too, acronym for it. I'm excited that we're able to talk about that. We put that under our category called nature-based solutions, and it's a new term for that application. We have multiple instances of this now, so that the AID-CSB that we're going to talk about was our first instance of that. We've got a version of that in Lebanon that's getting started just right now, and we're in the second year of this the HCSB project itself.

Then we also have one that's a similar model, but it's in the US, it's with the Minnesota Bee Squad, and your listeners are probably familiar with that group at the University of Minnesota and Bridget and Katie Lee. That's a fun project. It's a different example, different context, but the same concept that we're taking into Uzbekistan and Ethiopia.

HiveAlive: We welcome Hive Alive back as an episode sponsor. Hive Alive is the number one liquid feed supplement for honeybees worldwide. It contains a unique blend of seaweed extracts, time and lemongrass. Hive Alive has been proven to increase bee strength, produce more honey, improve bee gut health and improve overwinter survival. Ask about Hive Alive and new Hive Alive fondant and pollen patty at your local beekeeping store or visit the website usa.hivealivebees.com, for more information.

Jeff: When you talk about the environmental data that's collected, you're not talking about just the environmental-- Well, what do you mean by environmental--

James: That's a great question. If you think about what information do you collect about the bees? What's the health of the bees? It's the honey production of the bees. The health of the bees as a proxy for the health of the ecosystem around them in some measure. Drawing those lines between the connection of the be health and the local environment, they're totally dependent on that local environment.

We can use the bee health as a proxy for environmental health around the biodiversity or forage availability, all those and even weather influences on that if you layer weather on top of the health, it certainly has an effect. Your changes in weather patterns or big events that come through an area, you'll be able to see that reflected in the health of the bees. That's the idea of environmental data.

There's groups in Europe, they're doing pollen sampling to see when the bees are flying out and gathering nectar and water and pollen, they're sampling the environment and bringing that back into the hive and so there are ways of seeing what's going on within the forage radius of the bees from what's in the hive.

Jeff: All right. Who has access to that data, who makes that assessment?

James: A lot of that's yet to determine. The data set that's that will be created, there are a number of ways that that can be used and can add value to different stakeholders. That's the view. It's a platform, there are going to be different stakeholders that would like and be interested in that data that it would add value to and right here at the front, I want to also state our data philosophy.

We've said this before, we're very pro-data privacy and data ownership by the beekeepers, and so we have pretty strong data privacy policies, as well as just a stance on how to build technology in a way that doesn't even allow the data to get out in a way that violates what we believe is good privacy.

Jeff: There's not a big mission-controlled data dashboard at HiveTracks central with this big wall screen of talking about the health of bees across the United States and around the world, 150 different countries. That doesn't exist.

James: Well, I would love to have a global bee health dashboard. You could have that without it hurting anyone's privacy.

Jeff: That's right.

James: That's the point. That's the beauty of what can happen while at the same time preserving privacy. We believe that's possible. Again, you can let your imagination run with what's possible there.

[music]

Betterbee: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Beekeeping Today Podcast. For over 40 years Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment and knowledge needed to succeed because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions.

From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at Betterbee.com.

[music]

Jeff: Let's talk about the program here with the AI-driven climate-smart beekeeping advisory and extension program that you have going and I'll bring in Sarah and Laura. Just talk about that. What is it?

Laura: All right. That is our project in Lebanon that we've started a few months ago funded by GIZ. There we are focused on localizing the beekeepers' companion app to the context in Lebanon. We have a working Arabic prototype of the app, which is very cool to see and are getting the right names of the bee species and hives and local flora. That's one component. Then a second component is the advisory and extension part.

We want to use the data that is collected by the app and share that with the beekeeping extension service. It's basically one guy in Lebanon who's responsible for supporting all of these beekeepers. Obviously, he can't be everywhere at once and so having this information for him is going to be super helpful so that he can best support his beekeepers.

Jeff: That'd be a big responsibility. One person in charge of it for everyone.

Laura: Yes.

James: One note here Jeff, the AID-CSB is our top-level name for this project that we've got. It started last year in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia and then Lebanon is a follow-up version of it that has this added extension component that Laura's talking about. That does have-- You talked about a dashboard, there is a web backend dashboard for the extension folks. You can think of in the United States, your agricultural extension agents, this would be those folks who are trying to push information out to the beekeepers or help them with their beekeeping. In Lebanon, they want to be able to have that ability, and so that's why we're doing with that.

Jeff: That's in Lebanon, that's the extension part of it. The AID-CSB, that's AID as in A-I-D dash C-S-B, right? So people aren't thinking I'm saying ACSB. It's AID, A-I-D dash C-S-B. How does that-- The extension part is the part in Lebanon, that's added on for Lebanon, what about Uzbekistan and Ethiopia? Let's talk about how those programs-- the main component, I guess, of that program.

Laura: Our work in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia started together last year and that project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office. We started out doing there a lot of the work that we're doing now in Lebanon. Basically, again, localizing the app for Uzbekistan and for Ethiopia. To do that process, there was a lot of interviews done by Sarah with local beekeepers there to better understand their challenges and their needs and she can talk a bit more about that.

Last year that was a big part of the process and this year in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia, it's more about the adoption of the app. We want beekeepers to start using it this season. We want to share it in new regions of the country and then we also have two additional components. One is a symptom checker feature. We heard from the beekeepers last year that there was some challenges to identify what was going on with their bees. They would have maybe a symptom but not know what was the problem.

This is a new feature that will support them with the right treatment or action to take care of their bees and then eventually help provide data that can-- James was talking a bit about earlier, provide more information in relation to the environment around them. Having these symptoms of the bees can tell us a lot about what's going on in the area.

Jeff: Oh, good. Sarah, you've been bridging the gap across right now in Lebanon and Uzbekistan and Ethiopia.

Sarah: Yes.

Jeff: What's the similarities and what are the differences that you're having to work with?

Sarah: That's a great question. One of the coolest things that I learned in this project too, is understanding the similarities of beekeepers across the world and the differences. I would say overall, what I learned was that beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia and Lebanon, they share the same concerns. There are a few differences in terms of pests that might affect the area. I know in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia, they have this bird that they call the bee eater bird, and it wreaks all sorts of havoc for the bee keepers. There's little differences like that.

Then in Ethiopia, there's some variation with beekeeping practices. Beekeeping has been around in Ethiopia, obviously, for a very long time and they have traditional beekeeping practices as well as more modern methods of beekeeping that are more familiar to us. Uzbekistan is-- I actually didn't find too many differences with them in terms of their beekeeping practices, but it was fascinating to learn all of that.

James: Jeff, I want you to ask Sarah what she actually does. It's fascinating what she's been doing.

Jeff: I don't want to get into HR issues, James. This is a beekeeping--

James: The work that she's doing with the UX design is just amazing, and so I want to make sure that you talk about that.

Jeff: Sarah, what do you?

Sarah: What do I do? As a UX and UI designer, I'll start off for people who might not be familiar with that term. UX stands for user experience and UI stands for user interface. For this particular project, I was very focused on the UX side of things. We all have experience with using, say, a mobile app or going to a website. We might be like, "This is confusing. I don't know what to do." Like, "Where's this--" That would be an example of bad UX design.

My job is to make sure that users of hi-tech products have a good user experience while using the app. What was great about this particular project is that we already have the Beekeeper's Companion in development. This project was really about localizing it for the beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia. In order to do that, in order to design any product, you have to understand the needs of the people who will be using the product.

There are a lot of different ways to do that, but for this particular project, there were three important components and that is conducting one-on-one user interviews, that was translations and localizing the beekeeping terminology and also prototype testing. I can go into more detail with each of those because that's really where the work got very cool. [laughs]. For starters, the user interviews, as I said, I wanted those to be one-on-one. I wanted the beekeepers-- And I was talking primarily to women beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia.

I wanted them to feel really comfortable that-- I wanted it to be a conversation like what we're doing right now. I wanted them to give me just the background on their beekeeping experiences, the challenges that they have as beekeepers, but being women, or just general challenges facing beekeepers in their country. We had a translator present for these interviews and each of them lasted 30 minutes to an hour.

I talked to, I think, 24 beekeepers in Uzbekistan and I can't remember the exact number in Ethiopia, but I talked to a lot of beekeepers and they all had such different interesting experiences. I think the youngest beekeeper I talked to was 12 years old and the eldest beekeepers that I talked to in their 60s. They had just decades of experience and what I did with what they told me in those conversations, those interviews, I used all of that information to design a prototype for them to test of the Beekeeper's Companion.

With that, there was a lot of translation involved but not only translation, we also wanted to localize it. We didn't just want to translate what was already in the app from English into say, Uzbek or Russian or Amharic, we wanted to use the correct beekeeping terminology that they use. There was a very in depth-- it's still ongoing really, the translation process and localization process to get that as perfect as we can, so that there's no confusion for the beekeepers using the app in their countries.

The prototype tests were again, one-on-one meetings. We had the beekeepers just test certain features within the Beekeeper's Companion App and give direct feedback and everything that they told us, all the suggestions, ideas, all of that was incorporated in our iterations and what the product is today. From the start, the beekeepers involved in this project, the women beekeepers, they absolutely played a crucial role in the design and development process of the apps. It was very cool.

Jeff: Now, are these primarily hobbyist commercials sustainability type beekeepers? How would you rank-- how would you rate them or how would you categorize them?

Sarah: It varies. In Uzbekistan, I would say the key difference is here in the US, we have hobbyists beekeepers primarily with a few hives. In Uzbekistan and Ethiopia, these-- beekeeping is their livelihood. Some of these beekeepers span generations. Their great grandfathers for beekeepers and now, they're beekeepers. They have several hives, not just one or two. In Ethiopia, depending on the type of beekeeping that they practice, whether it's traditional or not, they could have hundreds of hives.

Jeff: I can see where if you're going into different countries, you're going to have different types of hives and different types of management systems for those different types of hives. How did you adjust for those?

Sarah: Yes, that's a great question. In terms of things like hive types, bee species, all of that, we are going to work to localize it, so when in the app they set up their apiary and their hives, I would like to have-- within the app, there's actually a little illustration, a graphic of a hive. One looks like a Langstroth. you have different hive type varieties, so I want to create graphics for their hives in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia.

When they select what type of hive they have, they see a graphic representation of that. Another key difference is the Beekeeper's Companion App is primarily for hobbyists with a few hives. We quickly understood that we needed to adapt in a way to where somebody conducting an apiary level inspection, rather than a hide level inspection. We needed to build a component to make that possible.

Again, we're working-- that's in development now and we're working to design that with the beekeepers and just to make those adjustments so that it caters to their specific needs based on their location and beekeeping practices.

Laura: If I may, I think one really interesting example from Ethiopia is their traditional hives. They do have Langstroth hives, but they also have a hive type that's traditional that you can't actually do internal inspections on. This really requires a different set of things that you check for and different frequency of inspection. That's one cool customization that Sarah's worked on.

Jeff: I can imagine the number of changes between the different countries would be both fun and quite a bit of a challenge.

James: Yes, and that's the challenge from a technology standpoint is what's all the same, and then where can we make the differences that have the biggest impact? Creating that balance is the challenge from a technology and maintenance standpoint and all that and cost. Yes, it's really iconified from the hive type standpoint and Laura Becker, great call on that traditional hive. That's a big management difference, is for traditional hives.

Their management actions are just completely different, but our framework that we've created within the HiveTracks mobile app for collecting this information, the framework that we have there is flexible enough that we can create different-- what we call records that can adapt to these different practices. We're testing our own internal flexibility as well as we're doing these exercises, but it's working pretty well so far.

Jeff: What's the climate smart component of new beekeeper companion.

James: Laura, you want to take that one with, I think a lot of the desk research and that piece that our folks do feed into that.

Laura: I think it comes from a few different types of data. One is weather data, which is beekeepers are excited to have that in the app because sometimes either they can't get accurate weather data or they separately check their TV for that information. Another type is the local environment. When you set up your your apiary, you say what-- if you're in the mountains or in a forest and our desk researchers have collected data on what are the local types of flora and fauna that will affect that environment.

Based on all of this, then the beekeeper, they get these smart notifications that can inform them when it is a good time to inspect their bees or maybe give them a notification that a certain type of flowers is now in bloom, so that they can respond to the climate and environment around them.

Jeff: Can the beekeeper supply their feeds from maybe sensors, weather stations they have in their bee yard and/or from sensors they have in their hives and help contribute to the overall database.

James: The answer to that is not yet. As usual, we can-- as you know from technology standpoint, we can essentially integrate anything we want to at some point. I would say that our framework is set up to do that. Just the ecosystem from a technology standpoint, it's pretty much API driven. We can ingest data from whatever source. We have these feeds that's weather and we have a whole component that is in the IoT sensor area so that you can plug in things there.

We're anticipating that, but certainly with our MVP product, that's not fully integrated yet, but like I said, we are anticipating that. It's an obvious add on that will be there eventually.

Jeff: Yes, really good. Did this original project, the AI driven climate smart beekeeping program, this is focused on women beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia. Can you elaborate a little bit on that as well?

Laura: The app itself will be available to beekeepers of both genders, of course, for anyone to use but we decided to focus mostly on working with women beekeepers for a few reasons. One is that, many places in the world in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia women have fewer economic opportunities, less access to resources. We wanted to give them an opportunity to create some secondary sources of income.

Additionally, in Uzbekistan in particular, many women also-- Well, actually in both countries balance beekeeping with caregiving roles. Might be mostly around home and beekeeping is unique in that you could do it from your home. Lastly, compared to other agricultural activities, beekeeping requires less inputs than some more heavy machinery intensive farming activities. I think from all of those reasons, it made beekeeping a great choice for a project for women in these countries.

Jeff: Yes. One of things we've pointed out in other shows is the great thing about beekeeping especially in developing countries, and is that the beekeeper doesn't need to own the land, which is a big barrier to many agricultural programs.

James: Laura, you might speak to our sponsor of the project as well. That's their focus. The German Federal Foreign Office, the group that's there, it's the Human Rights component of that unit that's sponsoring the project.

Laura: Yes, that's correct. In Ethiopia and Uzbekistan, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, as James mentioned, we're specifically with the Human Rights Office there. They really want us to see us support women and also beekeeping, it's just so intersectional, it's so much more than honey or income, it also impacts the environment and through the pollination services that honeybees provide, they affect a lot of our human rights.

For example, our right to food, I think that one is quite straightforward with the pollination services that honeybees provide. Then also things like our right to water and our right to health, as many medicinal plants require pollinators and also indigenous populations sometimes are very dependent on the natural resources and require an ecosystem that is healthy and biodiverse. The honeybees with their pollination services can support all of this and thereby, also human rights.

Jeff: There's so much we could talk about, but there's only so much time. I'm intrigued by all of this and I like the fact that the program is focused on women beekeepers in these countries, I like the fact that it's providing that resource or beekeeping tools for these beekeepers. I'm fascinated by the environmental data collection that you're providing and the the health of the area, that's really cool. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this all leads to down the road, James. That's pretty fascinating.

James: Yes, we're excited. This is, like I said, right in line with what we've been about with HiveTracks over the years and is an extension. I was in-- Actually, ironically enough Kyiv in 2013 at APIMONDIA and got my first engagement with beekeepers in Tanzania. I've been talking to folks in different countries and trying to get projects like this started. This is the first one that we've really been able to execute on and it's really exciting to see it come to life. It's just fascinating. There's so many angles to this that are just intriguing.

It's never a dull moment in what we're doing and really breaking new ground, I believe in a lot of different ways whether it's beekeeping, or the technology or the work that Sarah's doing with the UX across Zoom, through translators, across time zones, it's just amazing what she's been able to do.

Likewise, Laura has been-- she's very humble and wouldn't say this, but she has really driven this project with connecting the dots and the people and the people on the ground. There has to be good people on the ground, and they'd be coordinated for anything like this to happen and she's been the glue that's held that together and made that work. This has just been a fun experience so far and we're just on the front edge. We believe there's a lot more to do.

Jeff: Well, is there anything we haven't discussed that we can briefly mention then we'll make note to talk about it next time?

Laura: I was just thinking when you were talking about other countries we were in about I went with Sarah and Jakob from the HiveTracks team to Uzbekistan to visit our beekeepers and do our final project workshops in November of last year. That was just a really a great way to wrap up the project. I think one thing that we really took away from it was the importance of Sarah's one-on-one Interviews with the women beekeepers.

We did have a few groups setting conversations during those final workshops and we realized that I think given the traditional gender roles that we were up against, sometimes women felt less comfortable to participate, or men would be talking for most of the conversation, so I think it just showed us how important it was that Sarah's sat down one-on-one with a translator with each woman beekeeper because then they were a lot more open to share information with us.

James: I was going to mention their trip. They were able to go on-site. I was quite jealous of them getting to do that. We were scheduled to go to Ethiopia, but the conflicts there in northern Ethiopia came at just the wrong time and canceled those trips. Again, we've been doing all this through pandemic as well. There's layer upon layer. It's just been just kudos to our team for making this work.

One thing I did want to add, there's a final report that's going to be coming out about our project from last year, and we'll have an event that we're going to share that report and it'll will be available online, as well as there's several blog posts about their trip and this project that are online as well. If folks are interested in finding out more information, there's some already out there and there's more forthcoming.

Jeff: We'll have links to that information in the show notes. Also, I want to encourage our listeners to leave questions and comments in our comments section right by the show notes and start a discussion, what you liked, what you didn't like. Maybe we'll get Sarah, James or Laura to respond as well, be part of the conversation. James, Laura, Sarah, appreciate you being here with Beekeeping Today Podcast. Kim sends his regrets that he couldn't make it, but we'll catch him next time. Best of luck to you all. Thanks for being here.

James: Thank you so much.

Laura: Thank you.

Jeff: Well, James, Laura and Sarah are really working hard and rolling out the HiveTracks app to win beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia. It's really been fascinating to see how James and all the others at HiveTracks are enabling beekeepers around the world to make the most of available technology and put it to meaningful use in their apiaries. Good job, folks.

Well, that about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast or wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage.

As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at www.globalpatties.com Thanks to Hive Alive for returning to sponsor this episode. Check out their honey bee feed supplements at usa.highalive.com.

We want to thank Strong Microbials for their support of this podcast. Check out their probiotic line at strongmicrobials.com. Thanks to Betterbee for joining us as a supporter. Check out all of their great beekeeping supplies this spring at www.betterbee.com. Finally, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on the show. Feel free to leave us questions and comments on the website in our show notes at leave a comment.

We'd love to hear from you, start a discussion, join a discussion, share thoughts, share observations. We'd really love to hear from you. All right. Well, thanks a lot for being here. I've enjoyed your company. I hope you enjoyed ours. Take care and take care of your bees. Peace.

James Wilkes Profile Photo

James Wilkes

Founder - Hive Tracks, Beekeeper, College Professor,

James Wilkes is a beekeeper, college professor, farmer, and entrepreneur. With a career in computer science higher education (Appalachian State University) and years of practical beekeeping experience that includes building a small family farm and bee business (Faith Mountain Farm), his sweet spot is working at the intersection of computing and honey bees. He brings to life technology solutions that create a positive impact for honey bees and the stakeholders and food systems that depend on them and enjoys engaging the beekeeping community to improve our understanding and care of honey bees and the planet we inhabit.

James’ mathematics and computer science background (B.S. from Appalachian State University and M.S. and PhD. from Duke University) collided with farm and beekeeping life to create the environment for the creation and founding of HiveTracks as well as the genesis of the Bee Informed Partnership both of which were launched in the same week in August of 2010 in concert with the EAS conference in Boone, NC. Life since that moment has been full of growing businesses, research projects, honey bees, children, and relationships with people from around the world who share a common love of honey bees and their environs including the hosts of this podcast!

Sarah Denton Profile Photo

Sarah Denton

UX/UI designer

Sarah is a UX/UI designer for HiveTracks with a passion for the environment and doing what she can to support biodiversity. She lives in Los Angeles.

Laura Becker Profile Photo

Laura Becker

Project Coordinator

Laura Becker coordinates the AI-Driven Climate-Smart Beekeeping for Women projects in Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Lebanon. She is a member of the monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) team at the International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and has worked on several data-for-decision making initiatives in the nutrition and agriculture sectors.