Business: Urban Bee Company
Founder: Bob Redmond
If a worker bee were a human bicyclist, its days would be spent bicycling 1440 miles a day, carrying 72 pounds of nectar for half the distance while maintaining a speed of 60 mph. The fittest human being in the world couldn’t do that for even one hour, let alone for weeks on end.
Out of respect for this incredible feat, Bob Redmond and his bicycle-centered Urban Bee Company delivers honey by bicycle –or “beecycle” as Bob calls it–a simple hybrid Bianchi with at least 5,000 miles on it.
Arguably the nation’s first bicycle-centered honey producer, Bob started backyard beekeeping in 2009 as a hobby. Living in an apartment, Bob kept bees in a friend’s backyard, transporting the harvested honey by bicycle simply because he owned no other vehicle.
When the interest in his honey and hives grew, Bob had to start transporting his bees and five or six hundred pounds worth of equipment by a borrowed truck or Zipcar rental, but he continued to deliver honey to retail shops and buyers by bike.
“It started purely by accident,” said Bob. “Now, we deliver all our honey by bicycle to really drive home the message of sustainable transportation. The impacts of using fossil fuel as the basis for food production are extreme. We try to do as much as possible with human power.”
Since Urban Bee Company was founded, it has grown to maintaining numerous hives on 16 carefully selected locations –including five community gardens. And with a goal to change the way people think about food, to create a local food system and to be a model for other producers, Urban Bee Co. offers educational programs and fosters collaborative partnerships.
Bob and the Common Acre nonprofit even convinced the Port of Seattle to allow them to put hives on the Sea-Tac Airport property, turning some of the wasted flight path and into a nesting habitat for native pollinators.
World-wide, whole colonies of bees are dying because of loss of habitat, the use of pesticides, and disease. Seattle is no exception. Project Flight path will turn 50 acres into a native bee habitat to raise local, disease-resistant and pesticide-free bees to be distributed to local beekeepers while educating surrounding communities at the same time.
“Bees are the ultimate example of sustainable food transportation,” said Bob. “I like the juxtaposition of the airport –this fuel-based human transportation –versus the bees –model operators of sustainable transportation.”
Sixteen hives have already been installed on the property with many more to come.
“If we inspire and educate people about pollinators and the need for locally-grown food, that will help the local food system grow. If we rehabilitate land right here in the city, that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuel and support our local economies,” Bob explained, adding that this project will serve as a model for many projects to come.
As part of Project Flight Path, the airport will open a bee-themed art and education exhibit in early 2014 to illustrate this connection between food and transportation.
“The conclusion I have reached after years of beekeeping is that the future of beekeeping is in native bees and trying to create habitats for native bees,” said Bob. “I encourage people to look at the big picture and support pollinators of all kinds not just the honey bees. Of course, the honey bees made this business possible because I’ve been able to sell their honey.”
Learn more and sign up for honey delivery by beecycle at www.urbanbee.com.
Bikenomics is a feature series to spotlight the greater Seattle area’s growing bike businesses. Know a business that should be featured? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.