Hivemind, a firm focused on technology products for remote monitoring of bees, is looking to bring on a distribution partner to focus on Australia soon.
“We are in conversations with a couple of potential partners now. We are currently running a campaign on Kickstarter and the timing on that has an influence on when we bring on a partner. We don’t want to finalise a partnership while we are still on Kickstarter; it becomes a little tricky with a distributor to be involved in that. So essentially once the Kickstarter campaign is over, then we will be in place to put some distribution agreements in place,” says Christian Walsh, CEO of Hivemind.
With four full time staff members in Christchurch, Hivemind is running the Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make modifications and additions to the firm’s existing product.
“The existing product measures weight inside the bee hive and it does that with scales that are connected via wires to our satellite communications hub. We have had issues with the reliability of wires and connectors in the field, with the likes of cows standing on the cables.
“The Kickstarter campaign will help fund a wireless set of scales that will make it much easier to install from a user’s standpoint, and it also becomes much more reliable. That’s one key part of the next-generation product that the Kickstarter campaign will support,” says Walsh.
The second part involves removing unnecessary functionality from the satellite hub in order to make it available at a better price point to potential customers.
“The current hub has a lot more capability and intelligence in it than we need it to have. We are planning on making a simpler hub, with just one-way communication, that will bring the cost down by almost 50 per cent,” says Walsh.
The team at Hivemind hopes to have the modifications done and the product out in the market by October, in time for the season in New Zealand and Australia, and plans to have a distributor finalised around the same time to promote the solution.
“The Manukau produced in NZ is a high-value honey. However, the hives don’t necessarily tend to be too remote from the owners. In NZ the bee keepers tend to be able to get to their hives within a day. In Australia the distances they travel are much greater. Knowing what the yield is when the site is kilometres away can become quite compelling for them. So there are different drivers in countries and markets. We are aiming for balance of growth in both markets. And potentially the next generation of next growth will come from the US or Canada,” says Walsh.
Meanwhile, the team will continue to work on product improvements, according to Walsh.
“The stretch goals are related to the product roadmap that we can see in the future and there is a lot of interest in monitoring a lot of other things than just the weight. So one of the stretch goals is an activity sensor. At the moment we are measuring only the weight, which is hopefully the honey coming in. The activity sensor will monitor the actual bee activity
“This will give the beekeeper an indication of the health of the hives. And it can also be important for pollination services which is a large proportion of what some bee keepers do.
“Ultimately we are hoping to get to a hive health system in place, which would bring together different bits of information, like temperature inside the hive, UV, weight etc, to give bee keepers an indication of the overall health of the hive,” says Walsh.
Christchurch-based Hivemind is currently funded by the shareholders of Brush Technology, its parent company.
“Once we get a little more market acceptance we will be looking for investors to help us scale up and broaden the system,” concludes Walsh.