Calgary entrepreneur Paul Vickers, who turned Cowboys Dance Hall into an international sensation, is setting his sights on a new venture to bring awareness to the public about the plight of the bee.
Vickers is launching The Bee Project – a unique and innovative initiative that will collect data and information from bee hives placed atop buildings in 36 centres across Canada.
The goal, through his new venture High Rise Honey, is to help the colonization of a threatened species as well as gather information about the quality of honey in those cities taking into account each of their environmental influences. Vickers believes the analysis of the honey, to be done by a bee expert from the University of Calgary, will give some great insight about the health of Canadians in all those markets.
“How this kind of came about is I’m an amateur beekeeper and got some bees for my kids and went and got some beehives,” said Vickers, who has five beehives at this home. “Teaching my kids to be more environmentally friendly and teaching my kids to be green thumbs.”
After getting the beehives, a circle of his friends followed suit and joined him. From there, Vickers came across many articles about how the bee population was dwindling.
“I started thinking about how I could save the bees. And I thought why don’t we put bees on rooftops and bring them in closer.”
Vickers said the genesis of his Bee Project came from an article in Vancouver he read about a study by the University of British Columbia on bees and the quality of the honey which determined what environmental factors in a geographic location could impact that.
“There came back traces of coal, traces of heavy minerals,” said Vickers. “It was a really cool article and it got me thinking. Why don’t we test all of the honey across Canada in every city? It will be the largest geographical study in the history of bees.”
Vickers is a successful entrepreneur based in Calgary. He’s Chairman of the Board for the Penny Lane Entertainment Group which includes Cowboys Casino and Dance Hall, Melrose, Zen 8 Grill, and Barkley Sound Lodge.
Vickers is also Chairman of the Board of Callyo – the world leader in anti-child predator and human trafficking software.
And he also is Chairman of the Board of US Flood Control which is the supplier of the world’s number one flood protection and oil spill products, Tiger Dams.
Vickers said the idea for the Bee Project has been a couple of years in the making.
“We’re going to have a big report card on the bees from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s, Newfoundland. What will it tell me? It’s going to tell me what is the cleanest city in Canada ultimately,” he said. “The bees will be an interesting telltale sign of this.
“I’m going to put the bees up there on rooftops and I’m going to put them in a way of testing why the colony collapsed. And when I get the end results I’m going to post it and put it online in open source.”
Researchers use a technique called isotopic fingerprinting to determine the concentrations of minerals found in urban environments by analyzing honey from urban honey bees. Honey bees are biomonitors of the environment because the honey gives quantitative information about the environment as opposed to just qualitative information. Urban rooftop beekeeping creates alternatives: local honey, garden pollination throughout the city, and overall perennial greening.
Several other elements will support the Bee Project including a possible partnership with a Canadian grocery chain as well as Cowboys promoting events in support of bees including a special alcoholic beverage made out of honey.
“We want to inspire cities to plant wildflowers, indigenous flowers, instead of boulevards with grass that they have to mow with chemicals on them,” said Vickers.
“It’s not hard to get people to jump on board with this . . . I don’t think I’m going to solve the colony collapse disorder but if I can put some stuff online – some open source information from data collection and conversations – I think we’ll get a lot of interest.”
The focus will be on what the honey bees are eating and drinking and how they are adapting to the environment; results will be revealed by testing and analyzing urban honey hives across Canada.
The Bee Project seeks to address issues of sustainability of the food supply, it also aims to raise awareness of the importance of bees – while creating delicious honey, added Vickers.
Mario Toneguzzi is a business reporter in Calgary.
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