When I introduce BroodMinder to professional beekeepers, I often get a question along the lines of: "what do you do with my data?" As well as all its possible variations: "is my data secure?" "who owns my data?"

We at BroodMinder are very clear on this point: The data is 100% yours and you keep it indefinitely. The best proof of this is that you can delete your account and everything in it at any time (try to find the same feature from other vendors).

You can of course share your apiary records with others, but each time you decide what and with whom (in a few weeks we will write a post about the available sharing solutions in MyBroodminder)

But in your business the real question to ask is first and foremost "What am I going to do with my data?"
Ask yourself this question and you will very quickly hit the nail on the head when designing a professional beekeeping operation beyond 2023.

Assess your use-case

Let's say you've decided to purchase equipment to monitor your apiary remotely. That's it, you're going to make the commitment. But there are many ways to do it. Buying a hive scale doesn't reveal anything about what your strategy is.

To make explicit the vision you are building around this business, lets take the following survey:

Check sentences you agree with:

Now, let's take a look to your answers.

Without judging what you have checked or not (this form is for your own thinking and we are not saving any data on it), you shall be able to distinguish several attitudes that might be summarized in two scenarios:

Scenario A: "I just need a hive scale to track nectar-flows"

If you are aligning with scenario A, a scale will be sufficient for you, and you can choose any model from the large market offer available. Consult the ITSAP site for a list of available vendors. Without fear of being very wrong I bet that with a budget of 250€ (government subvention deducted) you will have your scale. It's not a big deal.

Scenario B: "I have a strategy to deploy"

If you are more aligned with scenario B, not only will you have to take care of the choice of the scale, but you will also have to check availability for other measuring devices (brood probes, weather stations...) and also check the whole features of the software. This may seem a lot more work than on Scenario A, but at the same time your vendor's choice will be much narrow. Overall, the time spent choosing will be similar although the approach is completely orthogonal.

Make a list of what you would need in the long run, on a 3 to 4 year horizon and compare the solutions between them.

With this exercise, you will learn that no solution is perfect. This is normal, there is no one-fits-all solution. And what's more, you should know that all market offers are on average between 4 and 7 years old. The solutions are built up as they go along, too. The question is to know which ones will continue to grow and therefore be able to progressively meet your needs over time.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • Who is the team involved in developing this product?
  • What is their current organization?
  • Do they have the critical mass of people and skills?
  • What other activities are they engaged in?
  • Are they credible in achieving the desired goals?

Congratulations, you have done a good job 🚀

You have certainly come up with a short list of 2 or 3 market offers.

Now you have to decide. You will lean towards one or the other solution for your own reasons. Often well beyond the physical product itself.

The first phase of thinking is therefore over. Without having committed a penny yet, you have already decided on 80% of the case.

Now that your strategy is clear, it’s time for action

The next step is to get to grips with the solution and implement it. My advice is to equip yourself simply. The first year, equip two apiaries with the necessary equipment, not more. But be sure to manage the system and monitor it regularly. You should also continue to document yourself: interact with the resources made available by the vendor, ask the technical support with your questions. The objective is to assimilate your new tool as accurately as possible in your real-life conditions of use.

Experience shows me that our most invested customers have many questions at the beginning (before and after the purchase) and that after 6 to 12 months they take off in the use of the system. They will then have more technical questions and feedback that we can discuss together and that can often result into new features to the solution that benefit the entire user community.

At the end of the first season of use you will have acquired a good perspective of what the solution can do for you. Do not expect a revolution, you will be disappointed. You have to go one step at a time. With this first feedback, you will be able to ask yourself during the off-season "Ok, after this first season, how should I go about it next year to engage the second gear?"

Success never happens overnight

And this is how, slowly but surely, you will develop knowledge over the years that you would not have achieved otherwise. And after a few years, the difference will become clearly visible. Compared to your peers, you will perceive a better control, a better performance of your operation, and in general a stronger assurance and serenity than those who have not deployed a strategy.

The day you pass on your farm to your children or to a new owner, your old dadant or langstroth boxes will not be worth much. On the other hand, the capitalization of your data will be a major asset of your farm. An asset for your successor to succeed in his turn.

You will have won your bet.

End note

This post is not a theoretical view of things. It is the result of more than 20 years of experience in a completely different field, highly digitalized, which is the aeronautics. I’ve been a developer, a manager and also buyer of DSTs and engineering. Having gone through many supplier selection processes, I know that the most satisfactory final choices are not made on the basis of a price or a feature approach. They are made on an overall perception of the suppliers and the credibility you grant them.

Often we knew we had made the right choice several years later. Or to be more precise, I should say that the whole thing was well executed over a long enough period of time for the results to be clearly visible. In aeronautics, these tools are major assets to face a fierce competition.

Beekeeping is not aeronautics, but in this case the underlying processes and issues are the same.
I am hearing you thinking now "but I work with nature, I have no competitor and my beekeeping fellows are my friends". Indeed you are right about fellows, but you do have competitors in nature: climate change, CO2 emissions, the cost of energy and inputs, threats to the health of the hive. These are things that compete every day against the sustainability of your operations. They evolve and unfold on their own. Contemplating and complaining about them are two attitudes that always work in their favor.

So what are you going to do with your data now?

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