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Honey runs through Cedar Anderson’s veins. A third-generation beekeeper, the 44-year-old is at the forefront of a global movement championing bees and protecting their habitats in the face of a worldwide biodiversity crisis. In 2015, together with his father, Stuart, Cedar developed the Flow Hive, an innovative Aussie invention providing a non-invasive honey harvesting system that is gentle on bees and easy on beekeepers. Their company, Flow, has grown into a multimillion-dollar business with some 110,000 Flow Hives in use in more than 130 countries. Now it’s giving back.

As well as promoting backyard beekeeping, Flow now offers educational online courses for beekeepers and supports habitat regeneration projects worldwide. Through Flow, the Andersons have brought together a global community of like-minded people who support being kinder to bees and caring for local environments that support the flora bees need to thrive.

“Beekeeping is a gateway hobby and we’re finding people campaigning to turn neighbourhoods into safe havens where bees want to be,” Cedar says. Interest in beekeeping is growing, he adds, in part due to the influence of celebrities such as David Beckham. In the opening scene of his 2023 four-part Netflix documentary, Beckham, the soccer superstar proudly shows off honey harvested from one of his nine Flow Hives. 

“We were amazed to see our Flow Hives featured in one of the biggest documentaries the world is currently watching,” Cedar says. “That shows the connection we can have with bees on a global scale, and it helps spread the message about the importance of bees to our food chain.”

Flow Hive is a non-invasive honey harvesting system that is gentle on bees and easy on beekeepers.

Because pollinators help plants – including farm crops – reproduce, they play a crucial role in healthy food chains. But to be effective, bees and other pollinators need access to the right type of flora. So Flow has partnered with conservation and reforestation projects across the globe to protect and regenerate crucial bee habitat – helping to change the landscape for pollinating species worldwide.

“To protect the pollinators, we must protect the plants, and to protect the plants, we have to protect entire ecosystems,” Cedar says, acknowledging that all bees – not only European honeybees – are crucial for pollination and the future of healthy ecosystems.

Cedar has been beekeeping beekeeping since he was six, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He grew up in an intentional community in northern New South Wales, where there were no TVs or electronic gadgets, and he spent his childhood building things from spare parts, like go-karts, with his siblings and friends. His father actively encouraged creative thinking.

It’s no surprise, then, that during one honey harvest, Cedar wondered if there might be a way to retrieve honey from hives that would be gentler on the bees and also reduce his chance of being stung. In 2005 he and Stuart began working on an idea. It took the duo 10 years to refine their design and build their prototype. In 2015, when Flow Hive was ready to launch, they established a crowdfunding campaign to help set up the manufacturing supply chain. “It took us by surprise when we received US$12.2 million in presales within eight weeks,” Cedar says. With initial presale orders for 24,500 Flow Hive units from 130 countries, Flow became a global phenomenon overnight. “Life hasn’t been the same since,” Stuart says.

Stuart handles a frame of a honeybee brood filled with developing bee larvae, nectar and pollen stores.

A penchant for environmental activism runs in the Anderson family. In 1979 Cedar’s parents joined anti-logging protestors at Terania Creek, in northern NSW. “My parents were part of a landmark piece of activism – the first recorded successful rainforest blockade in the world – and I was there, in my mum’s belly,” Cedar says, smiling. During his 20s, Cedar worked for Greenpeace, flying across the Sumatran jungle in a paramotor (a powered paraglider) to document the illegal burning of orangutan habitat. Fast-forward to today, and Cedar is still an activist at heart. He recognises Flow’s potential to make a big impact on the world by tackling a pressing issue: the pollination crisis. 

In a 2023 paper in the journal Ecology and Evolution entitled “Pollination crisis Down-Under: Has Australasia dodged the bullet?”, Australian native-bee scientist Dr Kit Prendergast and others raised concerns about a human-induced “pollination crisis”. Kit and her colleagues identify the major threats to plant pollinators as habitat loss, climate change, pesticide use, pathogen spread and introduced species. “Any threat to pollinators has potentially damaging consequences for human wellbeing and other biota on earth,” Kit says. 

Cedar and his team are committed to tackling this by returning some of the profits from Flow Hive to support bee conservation. In 2020 the company launched, an online beekeeping course that funds habitat regeneration projects worldwide. “We identified a need for quality education for beekeepers and to bring the global beekeeping community together,” Cedar explains. The entry-level, self-paced course is designed to take new beekeepers to a stage where they’re confident in beekeeping and includes content contributed by experts from throughout the world. Members seeking a deeper scientific knowledge can opt in to further study. 

It took Cedar and Stuart 10 years to refine their design and build their prototype.

The creator of the training course was Flow’s strategy and key-projects manager, Niall Fahy. Originally from Ireland, Niall was an ecological activist in his youth. He moved to Byron Bay and approached Flow for work in 2016. “I like how Flow is a company using human ingenuity to solve problems to make the world a better place,” he says. Half the profits from the course are used to protect and create biodiverse habitats for pollinators. “We named the program Billions of Blossoms (BoB), because that’s what bees need to thrive,” Niall says. Through partnering with organisations across the globe, Flow supports projects doing quality regeneration work. “There are roughly 20,000 bee species in the world, and many may not be able to get to the next flowering space,” Cedar says. “If we plant flora to help the world’s pollinators, then we’re doing something to help save the planet.” 

Bees are crucial for pollination and the future of healthy ecosystems.

Cedar, Stuart, Niall and the Flow team have detailed in-depth discussions about where to disburse funds. “When carrying out reforestation, you have to ensure you’re working with good partners, that they’re planting the right species in the right places, and looking after them appropriately,” Niall says. BoB first began supporting projects in July 2021. “From the outset we chose to support a range of organisations both big and small, locally and internationally,” Niall says. “This diversity allows us to work in countries where our customers are based and also where we are likely to get more impact per dollar in regions where costs are lower.”

For example, in Madagascar, BoB works with an organisation called Eden: People+Planet, which supports planned reforestation and landscape restoration schemes. In Ecuador, in the foothills of the Andes, BoB supports the YAKUM Project, working with Indigenous communities to reforest land that was cleared for cattle. Another Ecuador-based project BoB supports, the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC), has a family connection – Stuart’s brother, Patrick, is on the board. This grassroots, volunteer-based, not-for-profit organisation partners with Indigenous and local communities battling to save the rare and beautiful cloud forests that are under constant threat from mining. By 2023 BoB had helped plant 1.5 million trees and protect thousands of hectares of biodiverse habitat, which translates to billions of blossoms for bees and other native foragers. 

Flow launched a new product in 2017 called the Pollinator House, a “cosy home” for solitary bees made from upcycled timber offcuts. “Unlike European honeybees, which build hives, native bees are solitary nesting bees that need a wild space, a hole in a piece of wood or a tube of bamboo,” Stuart says. “Creating habitat in your backyard gives these bees a stepping-stone through the urban landscape. Our pollinator house may be the difference between these native pollinators being on the brink of extinction and connecting them to another wild space.” All of the profits from pollinator house sales go towards organisations working to improve pollinator health. “The funds are used to support research, charity, education and conservation projects in Australia, the USA, the UK and Africa,” Niall says. “It’s a lot of work vetting these projects, but it’s important that Flow utilises business for positive change.”

Through partnering with organisations across the globe, Flow supports projects doing quality regeneration work.

While studying for her PhD between 2016 and 2022, Kit Prendergast applied to Flow for a Pollinator Community Group Grant. She was successful and used the grant to work on a project barcoding the DNA of Australian native bees. “Australia has an estimated 2000-plus species of native bees, yet only 1660 species have been described, and it’s likely many that are described need to be revised,” Kit says. “I was able to resolve the taxonomy of two species through DNA barcoding.” She’s concerned about the future of native bees, “our unsung heroes”, and it’s not only because of habitat loss. “Another threat is the lack of investment into studying native bees and advancing their taxonomy,” she says. “Without adequate funding, some of Australia’s unique native bees will disappear before they are even recognised.”

With celebrities such as David Beckham, Jamie Oliver, Chris Hemsworth and Johanna Griggs espousing beekeeping using Flow Hives, the message about the importance of bees is being elevated. While Cedar appreciates the celebrity affirmations, it’s not what drives him and his team. “What gets us out of bed in the morning is that we are more than a business selling a product,” he says. “Inspiring beekeepers is wonderful, but what we want is to join the global community in making a difference and to repair our world.

Related: A photographic guide to Australia’s bees