A Far North electronics company is buzzing about a new business concept which will help apiarists care for their bee colonies during winter.
On2It Electronics is normally in the business of fixing agricultural machinery and industrial equipment like tractors, diggers and trucks but recently sidestepped into the beekeeping industry with an idea for an electronic hive monitoring and automation product.
The idea came about after a conversation between business owner Daniel Inglis and his wife's cousin, a beekeeper in Kaikohe, about 18 months ago.
"He was explaining how labour intensive it could be at certain times of the year, especially winter," Inglis said.
"He basically called the bees 'needy' because if the conditions aren't right, they'll leave the hive.
"We put our heads together and came up with AutoBee, an electronic way to save the beekeeper time in the field, bees from unnecessary stress and ultimately increase the amount of honey they produce."
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Though Inglis and his wife Kimberley are keeping mum about the details of their invention to protect their intellectual property rights, they said it's a small unit that will fit on to the hives to "automate some of the labour-intensive tasks of winter beekeeping".
On2it Electronics was this year's recipient of Top Energy's $30,000 Business Development Fund.
The fund will help the couple develop a working prototype into marketable units that will grow their market and generate employment in the region.
The Oromahoe residents hope to have the product on the market by May next year.
"It'll be a gamechanger," Kimberley said.
"This is an industry that's been fairly primitive with its technology so things like this are just pulling it into 2020."
Apiculture is an important part of the economy in the Far North. The upper North Island has the largest number of beekeeping enterprises in New Zealand and the second highest number of hives in the North Island.
Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw commends the innovation and commitment of local businesses and entrepreneurs to maximise the talent and potential of the Far North.
"On2it's business plan, vision for their product and the apiculture industry in the Far North, made their application stand out from the rest," he said.
"As a community owned business, it is a privilege to assist in supporting local businesses to achieve success and growth."
The business development fund was launched in 2014 and is designed to encourage and promote economic growth in the Far North. Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded twice a year for local business ideas or initiatives that have the potential to grow or diversify the Far North economy.