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Meet Noah Wilson-Rich of The Best Bees Company in Roxbury

Today we’d like to introduce you to Noah Wilson-Rich.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Noah. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I founded The Best Bees Company while still a graduate student, finishing up my Ph.D. in biology at Tufts University. My research to improve bee health was progressing nicely, despite the complete lack of research funding. The economy was terrible in 2009, so I needed to think outside the box for not only how to fund my research, but for how to get access to more honey beehives as data points, despite my living situation in a Boston (South End) apartment.

In early 2010, I started a Facebook page called Boston’s Best Bees, offering to sell beehives in exchange for research funding. I offered to volunteer my time to manage the beehives, a benefit that allowed Best Bees clients to enjoy the bees, pollination, and 100% of the honey, while providing my research with valuable data points.

Eight years later, The Best Bees Company is now a national operation, America’s local beekeeping service, hiring local beekeepers in and around nine cities nationwide. Our headquarters moved from my W. Concord St. apartment, to a warehouse on Albany St. nearby, where our national headquarters have now expanded to oversee 65 employees nationwide. We have raised over $1 million for our research to improve bee health. We report our research findings in a variety of ways, including two talks at TEDxBoston, a book through Princeton University Press, articles in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and National Geographic, as well as research and teaching relationships with the MIT Media Lab, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and Simmons College.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Bootstrapping a national business is challenging, to put it mildly. Overall, it’s been a smooth road, looking back, because we’ve been successful. I couldn’t have done it alone.

My business partner, Sean Cahill, our Chief Operating Officer is an incredibly smart and talented operations man. Cahill keeps the machine running, while I provide ideas, direction, and present the face of the company. Financing the growing operation, from out of one apartment to across 16 states, has been a major challenge, especially with regard to cash flow.

The Best Bees Company – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Best Bees Company is a full-service beekeeping operation. We deliver hand-built wooden beehives to our client sites, whether they be residential gardens or decks, or commercial rooftops and amenity decks. We install vegan, Italian honey bees, which are great garden pollinators and good honey producers of gentle demeanor. We fully manage all beehives with visits about once/month. All of the honey belongs to our clients, while our research team collects valuable data for our research to improve bee health.

Our beekeeping services are similar to other install and maintenance services, with our clients purchasing annual subscriptions. We have no competition on a national level for beekeeping, and so deem ourselves as, “America’s local beekeepers.” We have multiple Ph.D. scientists on staff to oversee a skilled research team of professional and student analysts.

We record data on all 1,000 or so client beehives nationwide using a proprietary software app that we wrote the code for in house, called Bzzz. This technology enables our beekeeping operation to know how each and every one of our beehives are doing at any given time by simply pulling out our smartphones. This software also auto-creates graphs of bee health metrics, including honey production, population, and reproduction.

Our advanced research innovation pipeline adds value to our customer experience by offering products such as SmartHives with data sensors, and honeyDNA.

HoneyDNA uses molecular biology techniques to sequence the plant DNA genomes, informing us as to precisely which flower type each honey is. These data also provide us with critical data measuring habitat plant diversity. Results from this ‘citizen science’ project indicate that areas with the highest plant diversity also have the highest bee health. Remarkably, these areas seem to be in urban areas, such as Boston and Cambridge. So go plant a flower to help save the bees!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My 2012 talk at TEDxBoston was an incredible experience. At the time, I didn’t realize how impactful that opportunity would be. TED and TEDx are remarkable platforms to convey ideas, problems, and solutions, to audiences who are looking to open their minds.

Our work at The Best Bees Company is vitally important to anyone who eats food.

As pollinators of over 70 fruit and vegetable crops that we rely upon, we need to pay attention to bee health. If we don’t, then food prices go up, and food availability goes down. And yet, bees are dying nationwide at an alarming rate.

I was given the opportunity to speak about why this is a problem, and how my team at The Best Bees Company works to engage homeowners and businesses to solve it.

I presented data showing that urban beekeeping seems to be good for bees, and not just some trendy practice amongst hipster millennials.

The full TED organization picked up the talk, put it on their main site, and it took off around the world. I still receive messages from people who see clips of it on Netflix, CNN, and other media. It’s been a vitally important tool to raise awareness of our work, and to help rally the support needed to continue to improve bee health.

Pricing:

  • $27.95 The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich (Princeton University Press)
  • $1250+ Beekeeping services: Installation and Maintenance per calendar year, all-inclusive
  • $2500 Sponsor-a-Beehive through our Bee Sanctuary nonprofit program

Contact Info:

Best Bees, Wayland, MA hives

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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