Irish farmer and top restaurant team up for beekeeping project
In Myrtleville, Co Cork, Mark Riordan has come up with a novel way of operating the beehives that he keeps on his family farm.
Mark's background is in tech, but as part of a master’s degree in organic horticulture at UCC, he wrote a thesis on commercial beekeeping and genetics, and became hooked.
“I had been keeping bees myself for five years and worked with a bee breeder helping to breed queen bees,” he says. “After I completed the thesis, I had surplus bees. I’d been involved in community-supported agriculture projects such as the allotments in Myrtleville, and I wanted to apply the same principles to the bee realm.”
And so Hive Mind — “We keep the hives, you keep the honey” — was born.
Mark set about getting his hives sponsored by different companies and individuals. In exchange for an annual fee — currently around €300 per hive, and customers can sign up for one-third of a hive — he manages the hive and, at harvest time, the sponsor gets the honey. The price works out at about €7.50 per jar.
Currently, Mark has around 50 hives and, after a few bad winters, is focused on increasing this number. The good summer will help the process, and yields are likely to be high this year.
“Many of my corporate customers have got involved in sponsoring hives through their CSR programmes; I had corporate greening in mind when I started out. One of our biggest corporate customers is Airbnb; the company uses the honey in its canteens.”
Late last year, Aishling Moore, a chef at Elbow Lane in Cork, part of the Market Lane Group, spotted an Instagram post from Hive Mind and was intrigued.