David Hackett (TIQ) and Ann Ross (Hive Haven) at the 2018 Global Food Innovation in Agriculture Forum in Abu-Dhabi.
Six years ago a colony of bees made its home in the wall of Ann and Jeff Ross’s mechanical workshop at Beerburrum on the Sunshine Coast.
Instead of calling in pest control, Ann and Jeff coaxed the bees into a box and began a project that became Hive Haven, a producer of award-winning stingless native bee boxes, and stingless native bee honey.
Fast forward to 2018 and Hive Haven is a market leader in the production of both Apis and Australian native bee honey. Its hives are housed on farms throughout the Sunshine Coast region.
The couple has just returned from a trip to the Global Food Innovation in Agriculture forum in Abu Dhabi as guests of the Abu Dhabi Food Authority.
There they presented Hive Haven’s innovative hive-cooling technology to investors, scientists and industry leaders.
“The forum focused on innovative agriculture,” Ann Ross said. “It’s a huge boost to know what we are trying to achieve here in Australia has been noticed overseas.
“It was really interesting learning about the UAE honey industry and horticulture in general,” she said.
“Since returning home we have received feedback that the Hive Haven V9 native hive assembly was a ‘hit’.
“There was a lot of interest in the hives ability to maintain a stable temperature.”
Each year tens of thousands of packages of honey bees are flown into the UAE from Egypt to replace the hives that die every summer due to the weather conditions.
A few words with Hive Haven
Having lost her native bee hives during the heatwaves of 2013 and 2014 Ann realised that to ensure a commercial future for native honey, a hive would have to be designed that would stop overheating and enable the harvesting of bee products.
What makes Hive Haven unique and innovative?
The Hive Haven V9 hive design not only looks great – but is functional as well. The design enables a variety of insulation materials to be used depending on the temperature and geographical region. This ability to insulate the hive for both hot and cold climatic conditions means native bees can now survive in areas where previously they would have died.
At Hive Haven we value the stingless native bee and want to raise the awareness of a threatened species through the sustainable commercialisation of native bee products.
What is the Sunshine Coast like as a place to create a start-up?
The Sunshine Coast is the best place on the planet to found a start-up. Keeping it simple … I think we have a good mix of people and geographical regions (beaches, mountains and farming) which compliments the mix of people.
The native hives have been trialled over the last three years at various locations around the coast – placing our prototypes on public display was the best thing we could have done. People spotted the hive design and got on board with ideas and support. We’d like to thank all the people who contributed ideas including native bee keepers, scientists, engineers and the public. Every idea or suggestion helped.
What kind of support is available for start-ups and small business on the Sunshine Coast?
In 2014 we won the Innovation Centre Pitching Competition. We received 12 months membership from the Innovation Centre. The Entrepreneur in Residence helped us with our IP and business planning. This made a big difference.
We are still members of the Innovation Centre. We attend relevant workshops which are always affordable and good value. Mark and his team are always really helpful. The Innovation Centre is a great asset for the Coast.
Silicon Coast networking events are a great eco-system. I’ve made some really good connections and friends. It’s ever evolving and great to be part of – even though we are not ‘tech’. I received a lot of moral support in the early days. The opportunity to get together with other start-ups really helps because the early days/years are really tough.
We have taken advantage of free and low-cost Sunshine Coast Council workshops. The team from economic development are wonderful. They have rolled out some really valuable learning tools for start-up businesses. State Government often do workshops on the Coast as well.
The Sunshine Coast has some really innovative working spaces like The Hive and Spark Bureau. Along with the Innovation Centre they are great places for a start-up to connect with other start-ups.
Food and Agricultural Network FAN is an amazing group who have helped Hive Haven heaps. They are a hub of food producers, chefs, manufacturers, processor etc. They run industry focused workshops and are a great support network. FAN enabled us to attend Regional Flavours – Southbank and have Master Chef George Calombaris launch Hive Haven Native Honey ‘Native Gold’.
It was helpful to get support from Trade Investment Queensland. During our visit to Abu-Dhabi, a representative met us at the hotel etc and explained how ‘business’ works in the UAE etc.
I will borrow one of Mark Sowerby’s quotes… “Innovation – it’s not just tech!”, and my other favourite is “Don’t lose sight of the bee”.
Visit the Hive Haven website to learn more.