Urban beekeeping comes to the Halifax Shopping Centre
Posted on January 06, 2022 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 1 Comment
A beehive is expected to be installed this spring on the roof of the Halifax Shopping Centre. It’s not the only new hive coming to commercial properties in the Halifax area as Canadian beekeeping company Alvéole moves into Nova Scotia.
Alvéole is beginning with an office in Halifax, as part of a broader growth plan. It has planned the expansion of urban beekeeping services into a total of 12 new cities in North America and five cities in Europe beginning this year. Halifax is the only city in Atlantic Canada on their list.
“We actually learned about the company from some other properties that are working with them within our portfolio who are in the Ontario region,” said Halifax Shopping Centre marketing director Stephanie Schnare, also with Cushman & Wakefield asset services.
Schnare said the shopping centre will have just one hive on the roof to start. A local beekeeper will care for the hive and bees, with the potential for honeybee-related educational programming. There will also be some honey down the road.
“Alvéole will have their beekeeper harvest the honey. We are starting with one hive, but my understanding is usually companies that start with one hive then add another hive because their honey is so popular. What we’re planning to do with the honey is give it to Feed Nova Scotia, so that will be a great initiative, to give back to the community in that way,” Schnare said.
The beekeeping is the newest activity under Cushman & Wakefield’s ACT program (Always Consider Tomorrow), being an internal environmental program of the company ongoing for the past four years. Other activities include everything from gift card recycling to an E-waste disposal program.
For its part, Alvéole is focused on the preservation of bees, biodiversity and bee-related education. It comes from president and co-founder Alex McLean’s roots and formative years with his family of beekeepers.
“My uncle is actually the person who taught me beekeeping. He’s in Manitoba,” McLean told Atlantic Business Magazine. “Since the age of 15, I’ve been going out there pretty much every year to take care of the hives with him and kind of help with the operation and I just slowly started learning. Eight years ago, we started the business in Montreal where I’m from, with this idea of merging something that we’re really passionate about and something really important for us, which is beekeeping, the importance of bees, bringing it into cities and having that connection with people and sharing that passion with more people.”
As a business, Alvéole will introduce beehives onto commercial properties, from public buildings to malls to office towers. The company provides beekeeping services and checks on the health of the bees over time. In addition, staff will provide related programming targeted to the client’s interests. It could be programming and experiences for staff or customers. The honey produced from the bees on site is branded per the client’s direction, available then for promotional purposes. The entire service is sold at a flat, annual rate, with a variety of packages with different numbers of hives and workshops or educational programs. McLean said the rate typically runs $5,000 to $10,000 a year, depending on the selections.
The bees and bee-related experiences have proven popular. The company boasts a 97 per cent client retention rate. McLean said any customer losses are typically tied to locations changing hands and reassessment of use, rather than any dissatisfaction with the bees.
In its expansions to a new area, Alvéole looks to have a list of would-be clients and 30 to 40 clients in the first year when moving in, to properly cover costs for a new base of operations and assure staff have steady work. Apart from the shopping centre, other clients are signed on with Alvéole in Halifax with more expressing interest, he said. “Right now we’re just in the process of finding a location, hiring some local staff there and getting things moving,” McLean said.
“The way we work in terms of the Atlantic is we’re going to really start in Halifax, get things moving there, get a local team set up and have a strong system going in there and then gradually continue building outside of Halifax.”
McLean said the company tends to have a steep learning curve starting out, having to go back to the basics. “We go back to these are bees, they’re not dangerous, you can put them on a building. We have to create that credibility from scratch,” he said, comparing it to cities including Montreal and Toronto, where the company has been established for years.
“What usually happens — and I predict that’s what will happen in Halifax — is over two or three years, people start seeing it, seeing it in the news, seeing other projects that are happening, and it suddenly becomes something a bit more normal and people suddenly are reaching out more.”
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