Peter Awram of the Worker Bee Honey Company shows agriculture minister Lana Popham the new nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Automated honey extraction system to help B.C.’s beekeeping industry

The B.C. agri-tech project will receive $170,320 in funding to build prototype

It’s a high-tech project to help beekeepers monitor their hives better and improve honey yields.

The Worker Bee Honey Company of Chilliwack has partnered with University of the Fraser Valley to develop an automated honey extraction information system.

“We’ve been working on this project for three years,” said Peter Awram, owner of Worker Bee Honey Co., said about the machines that will streamline the extraction.

The industry has been struggling for decades, Awram noted, and the technology has been extremely slow to evolve.

“Beekeeping has not changed much in a century,” he said. “That got me thinking of big changes that could help.”

The honey extraction information system is one of 28 projects to be awarded funding from the Canada-British Columbia Agri-Innovation Program (CAP). The project will receive $170,320 in CAP funding to create the automated harvest system.

“The funding is well-appreciated,” Awram said, as it directly addresses one of the beekeeper’s central challenges: “We can’t find workers. No one wants these jobs.”

Typically the honey operation that he runs needs seven workers during harvest time, which occurs over seven very specific weeks in June, as well as in July and August.

“The faster you pull the honey off, the more efficient your use of capital. That was the impetus for the project. You need a lot of labour for a short period of time.”

Lin Long, associate professor of engineering and physics at UFV, is designing the automated system.

The funding is going into producing a prototype with the help of UFV engineering students who will get field experience. These machines will ultimately replace the work of one person and they are under construction in Chilliwack right now.

“By reducing costs to beekeepers, this will help to ensure a sustainable bee/honey sector, which is essential for the long-term success of B.C. and Canadian agriculture,” said Long.

The proposed system will increase efficiency, cut processing time and address the shortage of skilled labour in the honey industry by automating harvesting through technology.

READ MORE: Worker Bee Honey Co. opens fraud detecting lab

“The system will be able to monitor each hive’s honey yield and provide insight into superior breeding stock of male and queen bees, hive diseases and the impact of environmental variables, such as climate and weather on each hive,” according to the release from CAP.

The results of this project will help beekeepers better care for their hives and improve honey yield.

“Time and again, producers prove their ingenuity in finding solutions to the challenges they face,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said in the news release. “Our government is very excited to collaborate with industry and the Province of B.C. on the introduction of these innovations, which help our British Columbian agriculture industry grow in sustainable ways.”

Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture agreed with the ingenuity comment. She had been present last year in Chilliwack when the Worker Bee Honey Co. opened up its specialized lab to detect fraudulent honey.

“The innovative projects coming out of B.C. are impressive,” Minister Popham added.

READ MORE: Blueberry honey heading to Japan


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