Bringing the Buzz to the People
The concepts of Ecosystem Hacking and Organismic Augmentation will be useless if no stakeholders pick it up. Thus it is an important aspect of my work to look for ways how the systems can be actually useful for the involved people. As an example, smart beehives alone are today still ordinary boxes with a bunch of sensors inside. But the beehive of the future, that may have a positive ecological effect needs to be radically different to the conventional 'boxes' that are the state of the art in most modern beekeeping worldwide. However, the alternative hive shapes and topologies need to be accepted by bee-keepers and bee-breeders in order to enter the markets. Only then the technology and novel methods can have an impact. Thus, the question how we can get our bio-hybrids into our society is the core research question in Biohybrid Socialization.
On the one hand, one needs to rethink the beehive in order to make it more suitable for the artificial devices to interact for the bees. E.g., sensors need to have access to the animals they sense. These electronics need space and they produce heat, both of which needs to be considered in the hive design. On the other hand, such a "rethinking of topologies" allows in parallel to bring back natural aspects of the natural housings of bees, which mostly are cavities in hollow trees. This can make the microclimate in the colony more natural and more healthy. These two aspects can go hand in hand and even support each other, for example the excess heat of electronics might heat the brood and the winter cluster, lowering strength of the energetic pressures that can affect the bees' wellbeing.
Such efforts are supported by testing novel materials, that make a hive not only healthier but also cheaper and more sustainable. For example, in the EU project Hiveopolis, the "beehive of the future" is grown from fungus based on a substrate which is organic waste. This material has good stability while being very well insulated, it is easy decomposable and thus sustainable.
To further make the technology accessible for the broader public, esthetics and design play a key role. Also other aspects for example accessibility and inclusiveness are factors that are considered with aim to make beekeeping more diverse and thus more ubiquitous, what ultimately supports the ecosystems in general. This means that the hive design needs to support modularity, to be lightweight and to be designed in a way that it can be operated with the desired accessibility functionalities like the fractional honey harvesting and the modular and automatic bee evacuation system. These functionalities make beekeeping doable without the need for heavy lifting, without frequent opening of the hive and also accessible for people with bee allergies.
A 3D printed skeleton for growing a beehive
Sharing the "mitochondia"-inspired topology design with stakeholders
Conducting a comparative study with multiple internal topology designs (Pollenity.com)
Seeding a "mitochondria"-inspired hive topology with a bee colony
Sharing the "star shape"-inspired topology design with stakeholders
Assembling a HIVEOPOLIS community hive
The HIVEOPOLIS community hive is a special design allowing the interested community to observe the hive from inside and outside through HIVEOPOLIS technology
Towards a Sustainable New Bee Hive
Fungus hive in first tests
3D printed matrix with chambers for fungus growth that will be later building up a hive
Fungus hive in first tests
Chambers filled with organic materials to allow the fungus to grow in the chambers
Final fungus-based hive modules (prototypes)