Beekeeping is the man-made way of providing a habitat for the honeybees as opposed to their natural phenomenon of hive making. Beekeeping is simple, easy and with the passage of time can become fun. In the modern day, bees have become a significant concern as their population declines. After decades of commercial popularity of beekeeping, the business is now making strides among young learners and entrepreneurs opening new vistas in the field of agribusiness. You can start bee farming for profits today.
Attributed to the origin of humanity when we shifted from hunting for sustenance to growing our own food, agribusiness is one of the oldest and the most conventional forms of business. Especially in the Indo-Pak region. Yet, for some odd reason, we seem to have lost touch with our core skills. Nonetheless, one can use technology to enhance their agricultural abilities. Entrepreneurship can have many faces. One such face is that of an agripreneur. Though not much heard of, there are quite a few startups working in the field of agriculture in Pakistan including Smart Kisaan, Pak Zar Zameen, Good Earth and Pak-Agri Market to name a few. Organic Rerhi is yet another example of agribusiness – connecting farmers to the consumers. Qasim Tareen, the man behind the idea, runs a farmer’s market every Saturday in Islamabad and Karachi, where not only he but many other farmers also bring their organic produce for sale.
Bee Farming is an Eco-positive yet lucrative opportunity
Ever wondered how one of the tiniest creatures on Earth can be the reason why we humans and most other herbivores are alive? Well, its not a very usual thought that crosses our minds in this technology driven age. Today we have almost forgotten that back in the days when this entire universe was being made, on one of those days when insects were given life, the creator created one of the most significant insects – Bee. Yes, bees! Bees are the reason for one-third of our annual crop production. It is because of the bees that 90% of plant pollination happens and flowers and certain other plants in return are the cause of bees’ survival. Why are we talking about bees today? Well because bees have been producing a high value commodity since past 150 years and we can learn a thing or two from them about soft skills and entrepreneurship. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century, that honey was commercially extracted.
It was then that movable frame hives, the smoker, the comb foundation maker and the honey extractor were invented. The art of beekeeping gained popularity as a serious business proposition. Bees produce honey and bees wax which are high in their value. People are becoming fond of beekeeping and are actively learning the skill. One might wonder if beekeeping is rocket science for it seems so complex. Well for one, going near the bees is a scary business. As far as rocket science is considered, it isn’t. All it requires is a passion for it and the drive to plunge into the field of agribusiness.
Beekeeping is one of the areas young entrepreneurs can explore because of its centuries old and proven business viability. Essentially a bee farm doesn’t require much besides some bees, bee hives and trained personnel who would regularly monitor the hives. And what’s more, you can have your very own honey which is a sellable product besides bee wax and propolis. Propolis is another by product of bees which has medicinal value and as suggested by a research can be a cure for oral cavity diseases and other diseases.
Beekeeping and entrepreneurship
Beekeeping as we said is a centuries old practice. Bees are enterprising and entrepreneurial by nature. They produce honey, beeswax and propolis and man can be their co-founder in the bee enterprise. All over the world, honey is harvested for commercial purposes. This offers a prospect for business in the developing countries as well where young entrepreneurs can learn the skill and start small to eventually grow big. Though all over the world, beekeeping is done traditionally, there are entrepreneurs who have introduced new techniques of beekeeping through technology as a tool for improving methods. One such startup is called Flow Hive. Based in Australia, this father and son came up with a unique idea of honey extraction that doesn’t harm the bees during the process, unlike the traditional process in which bees are squashed. OS Beehives is another startup which uses machine learning to analyze hive health in response to different factors like temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. A few other innovative bee businesses around the world include BeeFlow, BEEsharing, NearBees, The Bee Corp and Bee Smart Technologies. Read more here.
Beekeeping in Pakistan
The Honeybee Research Institute (HBRI) was established in 1989 in Islamabad as a sister concern of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC). The institute has trained 9000 beekeepers till date including women. Bee keeping is happening in Pakistan on a commercial scale. Having a fully equipped institute that provides free of charge trainings is a great avenue for starting your business in beekeeping and honey production. A standard Langstroth beehive with 5 bee colonies of Apis mellifera costs about PKR 4500/-. Young agripreneurs are making their headway in the bee farming industry. Recently a batch of young graduates from the KP Impact Challenge Programme attended a five days training at HBRI Likewise, Knowledge Platform, a private limited firm working on digital learning solutions, has introduced a new programme to teach the 21st century skills to school children through beekeeping. Such initiatives are in the right direction to encourage entrepreneurial skill set through Agri-farming from a young age.
Bee farming is not only a promising business but is also need of the hour to protect our ecological communities and ensure ecological sustainability in Pakistan. One sees beauty, order and purpose that lies within the chaos one finds in nature.
Learning from Bees
Bees are magnificent creatures. They not only produce honey and wax for us but also play a key role in pollination. They are identified into three classes i.e. queen bee, worker bee and the drone. Besides the queen bee, the worker bees are also all females and the drones are all males. The life of bees is exemplary and there are multiple lessons one can learn from them. Let’s have a look at what bees teach us about life and soft skills.
If there was one thing to learn from bees, one would learn about their discipline. Their entire life follows a discipline. They know what to do and when to do it. Right after they are of the age, the worker bees start looking out for food to bring back to the hive. Every worker bee is naturally trained to do so, without a complain. The queen bee goes out for mating and can mate almost 80 drones in one mating flight. She does that only when the mating season arrives and is capable of storing the sperms for 5-6 years inside herself and then lays eggs. It is said that honey bees are the only insects that hoard food in excess. Doesn’t that tell us about their long-term approach? Something we as humans must practice as well especially when we make our business plans.
Team work and Co-dependence
If we look at the bees closely, we will see that they are super organized creatures and enjoy team work. They live in colonies as groups and not as individuals. For instance, during spring season which is their favourite season as new flowers are blossoming, they leave in the wee hours of the day in groups to collect enough pollen and bring it back to their hives. Once they are back with their pollen baskets which are clearly visible to the naked eyes, they work together to store it and make honey. They stick together during their flights and even when they feel the hive is at risk – a classic example of team work.
Isn’t it like finding your co-founder or team members for your enterprise? You choose who you feel shares your passion with you toward achieving a common goal. In their case, its to look after the brood, make honey and produce bee wax.
Bees believe in strong communication. They communicate through releasing pheromones – chemical substances released by their exocrine glands to communicate with the fellow members. Bees release different types of pheromones for different communication purposes. For instance, when alarmed, they release ‘alarm pheromone’ especially when they sense danger. Another form of communication is through dancing. Bees dance to communicate pieces of information with their fellow colony bees. For instance, if the food source is nearby, the ‘round’ dance is performed while the famous ‘waggle’ dance indicates that the food is as far as 80 meters. The bee shows the route of the food in relation to sun/sunlight. During this dance if the bee moves upwards toward the sun, that indicates that the food is in the direction of the sun. If the food is 80 degrees on the left or right of the sun, she moves in that direction and the path is followed by other foragers. This communication pattern is understood by all bees. Unless there is any interruption say the disruption caused due to mobile towers which affects their navigation, the bees follow the same route to and from the source of food.
Such comprehensive communication skills are to have well knitted teams for startups as well.
Living with purpose
In a lifetime of a bee, whatever role a bee has, has a purpose to it. The queen is there to reproduce more bees, supervise the hive and maintain the social order in the hive. The worker bee does the work on ground including foraging for nectar, pollen, water and propolis; cleaning the hive, protecting the queen bee and take on riskier roles as they age, for the betterment of the hive. The drones are meant to mate with the bee in their approximately 8 weeks of lifetime and then die successful drones. The stinger is a part of the reproductive organ of a bee (females) and once when a bee stings, it dies – fulfilling the purpose of the stinger. Throughout their life, bees focus on the purpose of their life, after which, they die happy.
This example from bees teaches us to focus on what to aim for as an entrepreneurs. Every startup should be born with a clear purpose or objective as we speak. Fulfilling that objective should be the mission of an entrepreneur and the entire team.