Flow turns 7!

by Flow Hive 18 min read

Today we celebrated 7 years of Flow! It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since our crowdfunding video kicked everything off. The Flow team had some delicious honey and propolis cake to celebrate. Cedar and his sister Mira talked about the initial design, the whirlwind launch and how Flow Hives have improved since then. 

 

 


Video Transcription

Cedar:

Hi, welcome to a special day at Flow HQ. Check out this cake, it's an extraordinary thing. It's actually got propolis and honey in it, and this cake's here because it's the anniversary of when we launched Flow Hive. So that's pretty exciting to think back about that time. And we're going to also have questions related to that time coming in. So if you've got questions, perhaps you were there, when we were originally doing the crowdfunding launch, it was a pretty amazing moment.

Mira:

Happy birthday, Flow Hive!.

Cedar:

We're here with my sister Mira. We've got Rose, Danika, and Frey. And you might have spoken to some of them on customer support. You might have seen Mirabai's amazingfootage of bees on our channels.

Mira:

It is a bit rainy here at the office today. So we haven't been able to harvest fresh honey directly onto the cake, which we usually do. But we're making up for it with drizzling multicoloured honeys on top.

Cedar:

We just had an amazing storm roll through. It's quieting down now, we could almost dash out there and harvest, but we've already got honey on the cake, so let's just roll with that. Now it's almost a shame to cut this. I don't know if I can cut this beautiful cake.

Mira:

We're not gonna eat and talk at the same time, you're not gonna make us do that.

Cedar:

No, that's poor form.

Mira:

You get to make Flow's wish.

Cedar:

Here we go.

Mira:

Maybe just see inside, because it sounds like there are so many ingredients.

Cedar:

I can't cut through the middle of the flowers. It's gonna be a big piece.

Mira:

Oh wow. That's right. Where's Jarli? He'd eat it!

Cedar:

That's right. My son was born in the middle of the crowdfunding campaign. If you remember, it was a pretty interesting time to have a crazy invention story.

Mira:

Wow. Wow.

Danika:

It's all flowers that bees love.

Mira:

Yeah, I think these are a type of asters actually these little ones. But yeah, they're all edible flowers that bees definitely love.

Cedar:

We're celebrating the seventh anniversary. Amazing, it's been seven years. Unbelievable. I don't know how that time has flown by, but here we are and we're celebrating today seven years. If you do have questions, put them in the comments below and especially if you were here in the beginning, when we kicked off in 2015 on this day, then let us know where you are in the world. If you want to ask questions about that time, then that's great.


Apparently, Lorenzo Langstroth, when he invented the Langstroth hive, the design came in a dream, and I was just wondering how Flow actually was born? Like how you conceived the design?

I guess there's a few key moments. The original one was born out of going through the conventional pathway of harvesting honey. I was selling buckets of honey to a local shop. I had 40 hives at home and I just found it was a really long labour intensive process. The bees weren't happy about it. It was very messy. I was terrible at cleaning up, the shed was a mess. And I thought there has to be a better way. Can't we just drain the honey straight out of the hive? So that was the initial idea.

But so for a while, I tried sucking honey out of honeycomb cells, it's a challenge to get honey with its viscosity to come out of a hexagon matrix. For me, it was just that moment when I woke up and I was thinking about it and I thought, Hey, it doesn't have to be hexagon cells all the time. Perhaps it could be hexagon cells when the bees are filling it and then change into something else when it's time to drain the honey out. And that was the start of a whole, I guess, an exploration into trying to create geometry that could do that. So I threw out all of the designs that were trying to suck honey out and then move to these intricate kind of designs that pulled together this way, basically in a sideways fashion.

And then there was another key moment. My father actually, after a couple of strong coffees, one morning went, hang on. How about, instead of going this way, we go this way. And I was like, ah, I dropped everything I was doing, rushed into the shed, started to create a new prototype. And that's closer to what we have here in the hive, which is that each cell line moves in a vertical fashion, creating channels with the comb for the honey to flow out and into your jar. So that's how it all began in terms of the inventing. It was a decade-long task. It was a lot of fun. I was working with my father and a real challenge to get to the point where the bees were happy with what we were doing. And it was actually something useful.


When the crowdfunding took off in 2015, it was really quite a thing. The anticipation was enormous. Can you describe what it was like for you?

It was this day, seven years ago and it was quite an incredible thing. We were set up in Canberra. We thought we would have to go to a big city, to get some media attention on our invention. So we went to my grandfather's and I have fond memories of harvesting, honey with my grandfather as a child. So we went to his place in Canberra, but his Flow Hive wasn't quite full enough to harvest yet. So what we did is we got a box off one of our hives and we put it in a case and we went to take it on the plane. When we got there, they said, no, that's too heavy to actually take on the plane. And we're like, what? Because honey can be so heavy when it's all full in a box, right? So we went, well, how about if we take the suitcase off? So we took the suitcase off that was around the box and stuck a whole super of honey, probably had a few bees still. We've got like honey dripping onto the carousel?

And we watched it go and went, oh my God, I hope this works. And sure enough, it turned up at the other end, Just a naked box. And so that allowed us to put that onto my grandfather's hive. And then we had the ABC TV lined up and they were filming us as we were harvesting honey live for the launch of the crowdfunding. But of course what had happened before that is we hadthis video we launched that my sister and I spent probably two years making.

Mira:

And I literally stayed up all weekend that weekend madly editing the final edit. And I hit upload, had a little nap and then I was driving to work when it launched.

Cedar:

Wow. Yeah, that was an amazing thing. Right? So that video, we had a pre-launch video and we actually didn't need to go to a big city to get media. It was off, we had a million views in the first day and a thousand questions coming in on email every day and

Mira:

75,000 people on our mailing list.

Cedar:

It was, it was like instant! But there we were, we had this whole thing lined up. So I was in Canberra with my dad at my grandfather's place doing the interview. And then at home was Kylie my other half who was just about to pop with a baby in her belly, and a crew of friends actually doing the things online to make the Indigogo page launch. And we swapped from Kickstarter to Indiegogo like the night before.

Mira:

Yeah it was mad. It was all mad.

Cedar:

It was totally mad. But it was this kind of anticipation. Just getting back to your question. It was like, I don't know, there's like a big footy game about to start. It was a pretty interesting, very exciting time. We hit our target in seven minutes. I just walked out of the interview with the ABC and, and was like, whoa!

Mira:

Stu was getting interviewed. It was his turn to speak. And Cedar walked into his interview saying we hit the target. Stu was like, what? Oh, we've actually hit our target?

Cedar:

And then we just kept breaking records, fastest to a million dollars, fastest to 2 million. And it just rolled from there. It was like a wave. And thanks to all of you out there that supported it. I don't know how that happened, but thank you all who got excited about our invention, who got interested in keeping bees or perhaps rekindled your interest or perhaps you were already a beekeeper, but there was a lot of you out there from 130 different countries. And that was what came next was pretty interesting. And that was, okay, now we have to make these hives, we've got 25,000 to make before Christmas - Go! So that was a very kind of abrupt start, a rocket ship start to, the world of business, the world of manufacturing, the world of looking after our customers. And I love it. We're still here every week answering questions and having all of you tune in. It's just like we started, we've got this direct connection with you and that's, I think, something that's really amazing and unusual.


Mira, you kept bees in Berlin. How was that?

Mira:

It was actually one of my favourite places to keep bees is in Berlin on my little balcony. Because I could actually see the bees flying from my bed out my window. And they did really well. In fact, in kind of urban environments, the bees get a lot of different sources of forage and pollen to keep them very healthy. I also got the chance to film a lot of bees and beekeeping with Flow Hives around Europe and America. Downtown LA, we had a rooftop beehive, in Washington, DC, we climbed up through the manhole to a beehive on the roof once for one of our customers that we were lucky enough to go and shoot videos with. I think it's such a lovely thing to do in a city. I had a beehive and I created a whole little garden and a little ecosystem system just on a balcony that was only about a metre and a half wide and a metre or two long.


Wow. How many hives did you have going there?

Mira:

The most I had was three. I regularly had two, but then there was a little hive that wasn't doing well. So I bought it home to my garden apiary, where I grew about 30 sunflowers in pots and a bunch of other flowers for the bees. And actually a lot of native bees came and were foraging on the balcony. I had bumblebees and little metallic bees and all sorts.

Cedar:

Plant the flowers and they shall come!

Mira:

Honestly. Plant them and they shall come. Everywhere I go, I build a garden and I always end up with all these beautiful bees.

Cedar:

Yeah, the unsung heroes of our world, thelittle pollinators that do their job and make the world go around. It's incredible to plant flowers and watch that happen and really tune in. And a great thing to do with your family as well. So I guess European honeybees are extraordinary for the incredible honey they make, but it's also really important to look after all of those native bees, about 20,000 in the world, native bees species. A lot of them don't create big colonies. They're just nesting in little hollows and in mud and things like that.


What's the difference between the Flow Hive Classic and the Flow Hive 2+? Which one should I get?

We do have a special on now. This is the Flow Hive 2+ and I guess I could talk a little bit about the process of how this came about. And it really came about from customers telling us to innovate and change from the original one. So the original one was similar, except it just had a flat bottom on here and a Corflute slider. And it didn't have as many observation windows and it didn't have the pest management tray down the bottom. So what we did is we took all the information from our direct connection to all of you wonderful beekeepers out there. And we said, okay, how can we do better? How can we create a hive that will be easier to keep bees in all of these different places in the world?

And one of the things was simply, it's hard to get the hive level. And we found out that from people that they thought it was level, and then they'd harvest and it would actually be sloping the other way. And honey would spill out of the hive everywhere. And we thought, oh, how about we just make it easy? We'll put levels in the hive. And so we've put levels there and we'll put levels in there in the back here to really help you in your setup. And then each leg you can just adjust just by spinning it like this and that adjusts your hive to get the bubble in the middle there and away you go. And then we thought, well, let's just take it a step up and give some pest management to the hive. And we were doing all of this, meanwhile setting up our own production.

And so our dream was let's do solar panels that turn into laser beams and cut out the hives and we've set up that. So we're pretty excited about that as well. Not a whole lot of solar today, but most days they'll be getting cut purely on solar power, because we've got an excess of electricity to do the cutting. So we've got this pest management tray here, which really does help to catch those pesky little small, hive beetles. And you can put some oil in there and the bees will chase them down through the screen bottom board. And then there's some ventilation control here, vents down, closes it off, vents up lets airflow up between here and the hive body up under the screen.

Or you can take the tray out altogether for a lot of ventilation. So that's been a really nice feature of the Flow Hive 2. And then moving up, we did these shelf brackets because all of these people around the world were harvesting honey with the jars stacked on top of bricks and it looked like the leaning tower of Pisa up here. And we thought, how can we do this? And I really love things that repurpose. So this door, which is your observation window for the back here, just turns into the shelf. And the shelf here can click on at all these different screw points. If you've got really big jars, you can click on down lower. And they're also a great frame rest to double it up.

Moving up in the hive, we've got more windows, we've got a roof lock to hold it down. We've got nice brass fixtures. We just improved from the Flow Hive Classic to the Flow Hive 2, and the Flow Hive 2+ came with these nice aluminium legs, because that was the bit that was closest to the ground, getting a lot of splashback off the mud and things. And we thought let's just make it more solid, increase the size of the bolt. And we put this ant guard on here to stop ants coming up and making nests in behind the door covers, which can get annoying at times.


I hear all the time that the honey from a Flow Hive tastes better. Why do you think that is?

That was a surprise. And there's been so many surprises along the way. Not only the launch, but all sorts of other things we didn't expect. One of them was this kind of report that kept coming, which was how come the honey tastes so good? How come it tastes different from conventional honey? There are a couple of factors and some universities have actuallydone studies around it as well. So one is you're harvesting single frames. So bees will typically start in the centre of the hive and fill out towards the extremities. And when they do that, the flowers will change, as they go, and you end up with the different colours and different flavours. Look at the different colour here of this one, compared to that one. And you'll often see that out of a single box, which was so different to conventionally harvesting, where you would go through that process of pulling out the frames and taking them to the extracting room and you'd decap them and you'd spin them in a centrifuge.

And you're not only mixing all of those flavours up in one hive, but you're mixing a whole apiary of flavours up typically. So you are then getting more of a mixed flavour, which is still good, but it's not as good as tasting the unique flavours that come in. The other one is there's zero processing. The only thing that's made the honey come out of the hive is gravity. We've turned this, it's made some channels flows down and out and that's it. So that has an effect. Oxidisation, where typically in a centrifuge spinning the honey out it's getting exposed to quite a lot of oxygen. And we do know that oxygen does destroy the flavour a little bit, especially those fine floral essences. And another one is when honey comes into contact with things like metal, it actually imparts flavour on the honey. So all of these things add up to people going, wow, this is an incredible flavour. John Gates was one of our early testers before the crowdfunding launch. He was in Canada and he said the honey tasted just like when you bite into fresh honeycomb. And there was this moment where we really realised that there was an amazing thing here and it's something we really didn't expect.

Mira:

I interviewed someone in Texas, Jeff, who talked about smelling the honey like a fine wine and the distinct single frames. And he was a conventional beekeeper. So he'd done a lot of beekeeping the conventional way. And he just said the difference in flavour and the nuances were incredible. And so he harvested a few frames all into one bucket and now he was like, no, I always harvest single frames to single jars so that you can tell that. And I've found even in my hives in Berlin where we had a very monofloral nectar of the Linden tree in the summer, even frame to frame, they looked the same colour, but they had a slight difference in flavour. So they might look like this, but one had a hint of citrus flavour and one had a hint of something else. And I would just never, ever mix the frames anymore. And I often want to give people always several jars of honey, so they can understand that honey isn't just this kind of golden thing that you get from the supermarket.

Cedar:

It's amazing. Isn't it? The story that comes to the table when you are sharing the different flavours of honey. All of a sudden, the whole world of discussion of bees pops up, and you're talking a whole evening about honey and bees. It's a wonderful thing to be able to share your flavours of honey.


My grandfather kept bees in Victoria. I can still remember the amazing smell of the honey shed, but I haven't kept bees before. And I'm, I'm sure there is a lot to learn. How do I start? And what do I need to know?

So people start in all different ways. Like some people will like to read every book they can find, go and do a bee course and go and visit somebody with bees and so on before taking the plunge. And other people just like to jump in there, get their equipment and learn as they go. I'm the latter, I'm the learn as you go type. I tend to bite off big pieces in life and that's a fun way for me to learn as well. So it doesn't matter which way you go, both are valid, but the important thing is that you do get education and you do learn. Now we're lucky these days with such an amazing ability to share information around. I think we're up to a hundred thousand hives now around the world, which is ridiculous.

But one thing we noticed was that about half people were pretty new to beekeeping. So it was really clear to us that we needed to educate. And that's why we started doing the weekly live Q & A, that's why we started making content really early on to help educate. And almost two years ago now we took a step up and we decided to create a really comprehensive online beekeeping course. So that's one, you can have a look as well atTheBeekeeper.org. And we did that by collaborating with experts from all over the world. And it's designed to take you from square one, right through to even a deep, scientific knowledge in beekeeping. So the whole idea is you can jump online and get this very well done video content with myself, my father and experts from all over the world, teaching you not only how to keep bees here in this location, but also around the world. And also we're really excited that that has taken off and with the funds from that, we've now got enough to plant a million trees this year. And that's what we're calling ourBillions of Blossoms programme, which is where we partner with organisations all around the world, Australia, USA, rest of the world, and create billions of safe blossoms for pollinators to forage on. And if there's one thing we need to keep our species, to keep our balance, it's more habitat. It's more trees, it's more flowers for our bees. We're pretty excited to have that all come to fruition and thank you to all of those that have supported that project as well atTheBeekeeper.org.


Can you explain a bit about the birthday special offer?

Danika:

So for the first time ever, we're gonna put the Flow hive 2+, which is our premium hive that you've just had the rundown for, in a bundle, including 10%, not just off the accessories and smoker like we normally do in the bundle deal, but also 10% off the Flow Hive 2+. So that's pretty exciting.

Cedar:

We're very busy keeping up with orders on this one, actually. So our focus has been really getting our production up and being able to get hives to all of the new people out there who have been getting into beekeeping, and for those that are increasing the size of their apiary as well. And of course there'll be new innovation and let us know what you'd like to see in our next hive as well, but it's not coming any time soon.


I'm going to introduce two new queens today. I haven't removed the existing queens yet. I'm in Southeast Queensland and the weather is rainy. What do you recommend?

Rainy is a bit of a hard time to do the requeening procedure. We've got some great videos to help you with requeening atTheBeekeeper.org. But it's a bit of a practice, so get some help if you're not used to spotting the queen. It's not something that you can suddenly pick up overnight, but once you've got your eye in, you can pretty reliably find her in amongst the 50,000 bees or so in your hive. And the idea is you take her away and you wait for say half a day or a day to let the hive realise that it doesn't have a queen.

And you go back and you put in the new queen that comes in the mail in a little cage with a block of candy at the end and five or so escort bees to feed her. You put in there, the bees then chew away at the candy and she's released into the hive. And by that time, the bees have gotten used to her pheromones and they're much less likely to kill her. So that's the process of requeening. When it's raining, if you can, I'm not sure how long your new queens have been in the little cage, keep them well watered just by rubbing a little bit of water on the outside of the cage. Don't pour it in there, but just wet your finger and just put a drop there.

And the escort bees that are with her, will drink that water and keep feeding her. Don't let them get too cold and they can stay for many days like that. However, on your next available opportunity, get in there and go through the process that we just talked about. My sister Mira's been breeding queens and it's been great because there's been a demand for them locally. And so she's had a lot to do with putting queens in little boxes and sending them off.


Where are you?

So we're here on the very easterly point of Australia, and it's a bit of a rainy day here. You can see the flowers down there are almost taking over our hives at the moment. We're getting so much rain at the moment that it's really growing very well. Normally you can see the ocean out there beyond the rolling hills. It's a good place to keep bees because there's usually something for them all year round.

You can see here, there's not a whole lot going on. We've harvested a lot of these frames recently. There's one here. That's still got some honey in it, but they've started to chew it away as they distribute the honey a little bit and consume it to feed to the babies below. Thank you very much for tuning in and helping us celebrate what's been the most incredible seven years. A huge thank you to our team of busy bees that have been making everything happen, getting the hives out to you all. And thank you so much for all of you that have been in support all around the world from the very beginning. Even from sharing the story to becoming beekeepers and the best of luck with the new beekeeping season. Thank you. We can eat cake now. Yes!



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