Bees are smart. How is tech making them “smarter”?

MAY 24, 2023 • Q&A

           

HPE’s Houston headquarters is home to tens of thousands of workers. Worker bees, that is. 

Busy at work, atop HPE’s headquarters, is a workforce unknown to many who work in the same building. A workforce made up of six beehives, producing honey, for good. In the same building that leads tech, for good. 

Amanda Pena, Houston Customer Innovation Center Manager, shares more on the bees purpose, and how tech helps keep the them thriving.

How did this project come about? What was the inspiration?

I have always been passionate about the environment but never thought of how I could make a difference beyond my home. When we opened the new global headquarters in Houston, I noticed we were getting a variety of bees visiting the plants on our terrace. Another HPE employee asked, “What do you plan to do about those?” and I jokingly replied, “Bring in more!”

Our regional catering director told me about Hives for Heroes, a national military veteran non-profit organization, focusing on honeybee conservation and a providing veterans a healthy transition from military service.  As the wife of a Marine veteran, their mission is very near and dear to me. This project is sponsored by Dr. Renee Pizarro, Digital and Commercial Sales Sr. Director, and HPE’s Veterans Resource Group. We all partnered together with Hives for Heroes to make this project come to life.

 

What is the purpose of having a bee apiary atop HPE’s Headquarters?

At HPE we often hear messaging about being a force for good. I felt this would be a great way to demonstrate our culture and caring while introducing more pollinators to our ecosystem. You don’t normally think corporate and bee keeping or technology and bee keeping - but why couldn’t I change that point of view?

HPE is utilizing technology to make the bees “smarter,” how?

This became an urgent pursuit for me when two of our hives lost their queens. The queen is a vital part of the hive and despite the workers and all the extra eggs, the colony could still die if the queen is lost. At this time of the year, there are no options for us to purchase a queen so I kept asking myself, “If I could have detected those queens were in distress, could I have changed my current situation?” What we know is the queen buzzes at a different pitch than the rest of the hive. Audio sensors with AI could have picked up on her stress or detected her absence much sooner.

Being a tech company, I wanted to tap into what we do best. We have been working with the HPE Ezmeral team and using data to upgrade our hives to “smart hives.” Sensors and data allow for remote assessment to monitor the health of the hives between beekeeper visits. We also share our data with universities that offer master beekeeping programs to continue mind sharing on the topic.


How do we connect with the community and team members in this initiative? What are some of the ways we give back through this project?

Houston team members can sign up to participate and meet our master beekeeper and a “newbee,” a veteran from our community learning about beekeeping. This project also provides an opportunity to uniquely engage in a safe setting with our bees, each other, and our team member families.

A portion of honey harvested will be donated to Goodr (a local food kitchen), and a portion sold at Bayou Brew.  A percentage of those proceeds will be then donated to local charities nominated by the Houston employee resource groups.  

 

What’s next – are there any plans to expand, or other projects in the works?

Yes! More hives, fingers crossed, and possibly scoping how we can help other sites maintain their own hives. We have even had customers express interest in having their own hives after visiting our site.  

 

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