Our office side project also had its own side project during the year, in collaboration with an international bee conservation and research initiative known as the Open Source Beehive Project. This project produces low-cost 3D designs for beehives that are then digitised to allow hives to be cut using Computer Numeric Control (CNC) routers. Essentially, several different beehive designs can now be ‘printed out’ using a global network of fabrication laboratories (a.k.a. Fab labs).
The next phase of the project is to produce electronic sensors that monitor conditions inside the hives and link these via the Web, to create a global database of bee health. Bees use sound and vibration to communicate. To establish a baseline, we collected high-definition audio data over the course of several months. We can easily observe our hives through the balcony windows, and we have several beehive systems in the one apiary, making our site ideal for this monitoring.
We devised a system for monitoring inside the hive that took around 10 minutes per week, and we were able to collect over 220 GB of audio data, which is now being shared globally to assist in sensor development.
The sensor kits are under development now, and we look forward to installing them into the office hives as part of the beta testing for the global system.