Removing barriers to beekeeping

03.02.21

Winning the 2019 QLD AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award has given Natasha Roebig an even greater opportunity to pursue her passion for providing education about sustainable beekeeping and raising awareness about ethical apiary practices. Natasha’s latest focus is on developing interactive resources for schools that will give students a ‘bee’s eye view’ of the hive system using technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality.

“Removing the barriers to education around beekeeping is one of my passions, and it’s crucial to future proofing our industry,” said Natasha.

“We want to encourage young people, women and families to enter our industry and learn sustainable beekeeping trade skills.”

Natasha is the Co Founder and Owner of Bee All Natural, a multi award winning bee conservation business that produces raw honey, infused honey and innovative products using native bush foods, repurposed fruit and ethically sourced spices to create creamed honey.

The business is based in Jimboomba, in South East Queensland, and includes an interactive training facility that promotes innovative research and ethical beekeeping practices.

Natasha said, “We want the art of beekeeping to go on, not die out. We want to be able to use the traditional techniques our mentor beekeepers know alongside smart farming practices so the industry can continue and thrive.

“It’s really important to us that we provide a safe learning environment where this knowledge can be shared. We want beekeeping to be an industry that all cultures and people from any background can come into and learn about. Making beekeeping a real family experience is one of our goals.”

The training facility at Jimboomba run by Bee All Natural includes state of the art classroom and is aligned with the Australian Technology and Agricultural College (ATAC). Through this connection there is now an education platform to teach people about sustainable beekeeping.

Natasha said, “We’re becoming a credible source for relevant regulatory updates and we work closely with Queensland and Australian biosecurity agencies as well as AgriFutures to help ensure all beekeepers are well informed and on board with securing our future.

“Beekeeping is a primary industry and if there are happy and healthy bees then the environment gets the pollination it needs, which helps agricultural industries of all kinds.”

Natasha explained, “At the moment it’s hard for backyard and budding beekeepers to get the right information about setting up and managing their hives, and the information they can find is often conflicting and confusing which poses a real risk to commercial honey production and pollination.”

It was this difficulty finding reliable information when Natasha and her husband Jason started their own beekeeping journey, that inspired them to start an inclusive training facility. What started as a hobby to help manage their daughter Miranda’s eczema has turned into a successful business with a number of products and hives located across South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

Natasha said, “On advice from our doctor and naturopath we wanted to try raw honey and beeswax as a treatment for Miranda’s eczema and so we stumbled into the world of honey and bees in 2013”.

“We struggled at that time to find someone to help us learn how to keep bees and so we recognised that there’s a real need for structured education and a framework to help people learn about beekeeping.”

Over the past few years as they have been impacted by drought Natasha and Jason have had to reduce their hive numbers and have used the time as an opportunity to upscale the education aspect of the business.

“We’ve been maintaining 150 hives, down from a peak of 300, for disease biosecurity but we haven’t harvested any honey in the last year,” Natasha said.

“Through the Rural Women’s Award I’ve been able to connect with other industries and now our education focus goes beyond in person training and now we’re working on developing some augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) programs so we can introduce beekeeping into schools.”

“We aim to remove learning barriers and provide students with equal learning opportunities. We want students to be able to experience life as a bee, learn about the hives and explore their way through it, all from the comfort of their classrooms across Australia”.

Natasha-Roebig-Rural-Womens-Award

“This kind of technology development is an expensive enterprise though so we’re only in the early stages.”

Natasha said winning the Queensland Rural Women’s Award in 2019 put their business and their training facility on a big public platform. “It’s allowed us to team up with other industries, learn from them the tools for expanding our education program and taught us how to work more effectively with communities and different levels of governments.”

“With the award bursary, the investment from Westpac, we’ve been able to improve our website for marketing, procure tools and equipment, and most importantly education.”

For Natasha and Jason, developing the training facility was just the first step. She says, “It’s time to establish a real platform for education about ethical and sustainable beekeeping”.

“Innovation and education are how we will secure the future of this industry. So many people now know that bees are essential to pollination and helping to grow our fruit and vegetables, and if people are keen to get involved there should be no barriers to beekeeping.”

Natasha said, “An education program for backyard beekeeping should be a priority for Australia’s biosecurity agencies.

“We’ll keep providing inclusive training at our facility and work on developing education programs for youth and the community so even more people can learn about our amazing honey bees and sustainable beekeeping.”