Recent declines in bee populations have raised concerns about the future of world food supplies. A group of rookie beekeepers – employees at Cisco’s Paris office – established a thriving rooftop bee colony and, along the way, raised money by producing some of the best honey in town. The Connected Bee model has expanded to Great Britain and the Netherlands, showing how human and technology networks can multiply our impact on people and the planet.
According to the United Nations, bees pollinate more than 70 of the top 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food. But the bee population has declined worldwide, whether due to food source loss, stress, mites, fungus, or the effects of pesticides. Without cross-pollination by bees, many plants – including food crops – would die off.
In 2010, inspired by a presentation given by their colleague, Technical Marketing Engineer Giles Clugnac, 17 Cisco employees in Paris formed a new Cisco network called Connected Bees. They took beekeeping training on weekends and ordered equipment, 3 hives, and 90,000 bees.
The Connected Bees team is incorporating Cisco technologies to create high-tech, network-connected housing for their new rooftop residents – this includes sensors to measure temperature and humidity inside the hive, video cameras to facilitate remote monitoring, and IP sensors to weigh the hives. Close monitoring of the colonies helped ensure success. In its first season, the Paris colony produced 220 pounds of gold-medal-winning honey.
Beyond the immediate benefit of fostering the local bee population, the Connected Bees program has raised funds for charity and prompted new ideas for using Cisco technology to help scientific research on bees. Also, through the use of collaboration tools, the Connected Bees idea has spread to other Cisco locations and produced a growing online community.