17 February 2020

In February 2015, an Australian father-son inventing team launched the most successful crowdfunding campaign outside the United States. Their target of $72,000 US dollars was reached within eight minutes and after just one day, their campaign become the fastest to reach two million dollars. Touted as the ‘most significant beekeeping invention since the ‘Langstroth bee hive’ patented in 1852, Flow Hive was a world-first and the result of almost a decade of work and the dreams and passions of two men from northern New South Wales.

The idea was simple enough - to develop a system to harvest honey directly from the hive without opening it and disrupting the bees. It was a dream Cedar Anderson had since he was a little boy, when he started beekeeping at the age of six and ‘felt bad about bees being crushed during the honey harvest’. He and his father, Stuart Anderson, would draw sketches and exchange ideas developing prototypes along the way until, one day, Cedar and Stuart developed an idea to ‘split the cells’. And that, in their words, was their ‘“Eureka” moment’.

The Andersons registered their patent for their unique split cell technology, which is a plastic ‘honeycomb matrix’ which the bees complete with their own wax. Once the cells are filled with honey, the lever is turned and the cells split so the honey can drain down through the channels and flow into a tube out of the hive. They had effectively created a structure which could produce pure, unprocessed honey ‘on tap’ without disturbing the bees and utilising smokers and protective suits. What was a painstaking process which could take beekeepers hours, had turned into a simple turning of a lever.

Cedar described the moment their prototype worked and the first flow of honey poured into the jar: ‘People say inventors forget everything when they see their invention work for the first time, they forget the whole world around them. I just remember lying back on the grass and going, “We’ve done it”.

Once the Andersons patented their technology, they launched their crowdfunding campaign. The pre-sales by the end of their campaign amounted to 24,500 orders from 140 different countries and a total $12.2 million US dollars. They met the demand with the last of the Flow Hives delivered in April 2016, and on 27 May 2016, the Andersons won Australia’s top design award at the Good Design Awards.

The innovation displayed by the Andersons has sprung from a passion for beekeeping and a deep-rooted understanding of the role bees play in the world. On their achievement, Stuart had the following to say: ’To have very experienced people look at what we've done and say, 'Wow, that is a very significant piece of technology', even though it's agricultural equipment, that's really pleasing and very, very deeply affirming of what we've done.