Rev­o­lu­tion launched at Fiel­d­ays

Waipa Post - - The Country -

Grow­ing up on a dairy farm in the Wairarapa, bees were the fur­thest things from Grant En­gel’s mind. Now, they’re his liveli­hood and the in­spi­ra­tion for his busi­ness.

En­gel is the brains be­hind Revo­lu­tion­ary Bee­keep­ing, a mo­bile stain­less steel har­vester that en­ables bee­keep­ers to ex­tract honey straight from the hive, in­stead of the more tra­di­tional method of trans­port­ing frames from hives to an off-site pro­ces­sor.

As a child, Grant vis­ited Fiel­d­ays and was in­spired by the agri­cul­tural in­ven­tions and new tech­nol­ogy on show. He de­cided that when he grew up he’d some­day re­turn with an in­ven­tion of his own.

Years later, af­ter mov­ing from Wairarapa to a dairy farm in sunny Kerik­eri, Grant couldn’t help but no­tice the re­gion’s fo­cus on bees and honey.

“I re­alised that tak­ing honey away from the hive and pro­cess­ing it was much like get­ting a dairy cow and driv­ing it to a shared fa­cil­ity where it was milked and then tak­ing it back to site — it didn’t make a lot of sense. I thought I could come up with some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Grant did come up with some­thing — an idea for a de­vice for bee­keep­ers that en­abled them to har­vest honey by putting each hive frame through a ma­chine quickly to ex­tract honey, right next to the hive.

Har­vest­ing honey on-site also re­moves the risk of spread­ing disease be­tween hives, some­thing that has been a risk for honey har­vesters over the years.

With a pro­to­type un­der his arm, Grant en­tered the Fiel­d­ays In­no­va­tion Awards in 2013, in the Launch NZ cat­e­gory for prod­ucts ready for com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion and launch to the New Zealand mar­ket.

“I’d been fol­low­ing Fiel­d­ays’ in­no­va­tions for a long time; the In­no­va­tions Cen­tre was al­ways my first stop when I went to Fiel­d­ays, and I wanted to en­ter some­thing so I could be on stage along­side all the other in­no­va­tions that had in­spired me. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of my child­hood dream.”

“A lot of the in­no­va­tions I had been see­ing were gen­er­ally fo­cused on tra­di­tional agri­cul­ture, so I thought some­thing to do with bee­keep­ing would be a bit left-field and new. There wasn’t much out there at the time that re­ally looked at time-sav­ing tech­nol­ogy or in­no­va­tion for bee­keep­ing and honey.”

The mar­ket must have been ready, be­cause Grant’s in­no­va­tion went on to win the Launch NZ cat­e­gory.

Grant reck­ons the key to suc­cess with in­no­va­tion is be­ing pas­sion­ate about what you do.

“I wanted to find a so­lu­tion to a com­mon prob­lem — I knew we couldn’t keep do­ing things the way we were just be­cause that was the way it had al­ways been done.

“Even look­ing at the last 10 years, so much has changed in the honey in­dus­try. Our hives have just about dou­bled and biose­cu­rity is much more of an is­sue. As an in­dus­try, we need to be con­stantly re­vis­it­ing and reeval­u­at­ing what we’re do­ing to make sure we’re pro­tect­ing our food pro­duc­ers and the sus­tain­abil­ity of our prod­ucts for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

This is an ap­proach that’s worked well for Grant, and since 2015 Revo­lu­tion­ary Bee­keep­ing has taken off. The busi­ness has hives and bee­keep­ers across the coun­try, with sup­port from big agribusi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing Land­corp and sus­tain­able dairy farm­ing fund South­ern Pas­tures. It has also ex­panded into col­lect­ing and bro­ker­ing honey di­rectly from com­mer­cial bee­keep­ers, en­abling them to make profit from their honey.

Grant says the suc­cess of Revo­lu­tion­ary Bee­keep­ing is largely down to the fact that they’re on the same wave­length as their cus­tomers.

“They want bee­keep­ing that pro­tects the health and sus­tain­abil­ity of bees, and so do we. That’s re­ally im­por­tant to us.”

Grant is also pass­ing his pas­sion on to the next gen­er­a­tion of sus­tain­able bee­keeper, to daugh­ters Isla, 8, and Belle, 5.

“They’re re­ally cu­ri­ous and in­ter­ested. They have a hive each and lit­tle bee­keep­ing suits, and they’re al­ways sav­ing bees in­side and let­ting them out.

“Their favourite break­fast is honey on toast, that’s our daily rit­ual. It’s re­ally nice they have that ap­pre­ci­a­tion of where honey comes from.”

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