Two Quebec entrepreneurs are turning the world of beekeeping on its head by marketing a protective cover for hives that reduces bee deaths in winter.
“We wanted a product that makes life easier for beekeepers, while having an environmental impact,” Olivier Lebrun, co-founder of Espace Abeille, said in an interview. He and his colleague Jimmy Riopel-Thibault are graduates of product design from Université Laval.
Concretely, the protective cover is attached to the hive, but leaves a space, an air layer, which allows condensation to be reduced inside the hive, providing better protection against moisture and frost, explained Mr. LeBron.
While beekeepers in Quebec recorded losses of about 33.8% of their bee colonies during the winter of 2019, according to the Canadian Association of Professional Beekeepers, the 36 beekeepers who tested the Espace Abeille cover suffered losses of only 20% on average. This is important data because in Canada, more than 20% of wild bee species are in a vulnerable state, hence the importance of protecting local colonies as much as possible.
In addition to increasing beekeeper production, cover is indirectly involved in environmental conservation, and the contribution of bees to the biodiversity game through pollination has been recognized for a long time.
University project and business partner
It all started in 2017, when the two companions finished second in an international university competition in packaging products. Their project in this competition: packaging honey. Since then, MM. Lebrun and Riopel-Thibault went on to acquaint themselves with the world of beekeeping.
In 2017, we spent a few months training with Alvéole in Quebec [une entreprise qui offre des services en apiculture urbaine] “This is where we saw a need for hives to wind up in the winter,” said Olivier Lebrun.
He said the protection of hives is traditionally done in an artisanal manner, using red “duct tape” and a structural coating made of aluminum.
Francois Lambert testifies
Former dragon investor François Lambert, who has devoted himself to beekeeping in the Ottaway region, is one of those who have tested the product. He is pleased with the practical side of the product sold by Espace Abeille. “It’s really easy to use and saves valuable time” when it comes time to protect your hives in the winter, he told us.
Mr. Lambert admitted he had a 50% mortality rate of his bee colonies covered by conventional protection last winter, compared to 10% for those who tested the Espace Abeille cover.
He plans to have caps for each of the 25 beehives once they are marketed in July.
Espace Abeille has just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, with the goal of facilitating the release of the product.
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