Save the bees! Food Revolution with Robin van Hontem and Bee Collective

The Kunstgewerbemuseum proclaims the Food Revolution. But how should it look like? Neila Kemmer talked to the Dutch designer Robin van Hontem from Bee Collective about urban bee keeping.

Interview: Neila Kemmer

The Bee Collective aims to enable urban bee keeping and supports the exchange and spreading of knowledge on bee keeping. Robin van Hontem, what makes bees so important for agriculture and food?
Bees are the most important pollinators, and are irreplaceable for the production of a big part of our vegetables and fruits. For example, if an apple blossom is not properly pollinated an apple might grow, but it will not develop to a full apple. Bees and their hairy body make sure the blossoms are fully pollinated.
Pesticides in our agriculture are a big threat for bees, which seem to be struggling more and more to survive. In some parts of China bees are having so much trouble with surviving that the pollination is done by hand, but this cannot be the way forward. Bees have developed for millions of years to be the best in what they do, so we should make sure they can thrive.

Bee Collective, Sky Hive Solar during Milano design week 2015, © Bee Collective
Bee Collective, Sky Hive Solar during Milano design week 2015, © Bee Collective

The exhibition states a revolutionary potential in design. Do you think so, too? Is the design of your Sky Hive, which you can see in the exhibition as a model, essential for its success?
The Sky Hive is an “awareness trough design” project, and provides a platform for transition of beekeeping knowledge. The Sky Hive brings beekeeping to public urban spaces, where next generation beekeepers can join to take care of the bees under the guidance of an experienced beekeeper. The challenge was how to keep bees in urban spaces without exposing them to vandalism. The result is a seven meter high pole with two beehives on top, that can be brought down using a solar powered lifting system. Besides the practical side of the height it also enhances the visibility of the project, turning it into an advertisement for bees. Design played a crucial part in the project by successfully combining practical solutions for both bees and humans.

Bee Collective, Sky Hive Solar during Milano design week 2015, © Bee Collective
Bee Collective, Sky Hive Solar during Milano design week 2015, © Bee Collective

The exhibition Food Revolution 5.0 touches critically on various subjects regarding the food system and our relation to food. What would you say, do we need a Food Revolution?
Yes, we definitely need one. And it starts with more awareness among the population about the problems in our food system, and on the other side we need innovative and creative ideas on how to improve it. The exhibition Food Revolution 5.0 shows exactly this, a mix of provocative awareness raising projects and new ideas for the future of our food system.

How do you join this food revolution?
In the last years I’ve been changing my own food system, and joined several food initiatives. One of them is a cooperative self-harvest field for organic vegetables, another is a cooperative grocery for organic and local products. As part of Bee Collective, which I initiated with Daniel Meier and Janicke Kernland, I’m searching for new ways to stimulate and enable beekeeping in a contemporary living environment.

Bee Collective, Bee Collective beekeepers taking care of bees at Frontenpark Maastricht (NL), © Bee Collective
Bee Collective, Bee Collective beekeepers taking care of bees at Frontenpark Maastricht (NL), © Bee Collective

What is your latest work about? Is it related to food, too?
Our latest work focusses on another species in the urban biotope: the bat. If buildings in European cities get demolished or renovated there is a big chance a habitat of bats is disrupted. The Batpole  offers a temporary home for displaced bats and helps to avoid delay in construction projects by offering an alternative accommodation for this protected species. At the same time the Batpole points out the presence of bats in the urban environment.

Robin van Hontem, Designer and one of the initiators of Bee Collective, © Lidiya Dineva
Robin van Hontem, Designer and one of the initiators of Bee Collective, © Lidiya Dineva

The exhibition Food Revolution 5.0 runs till  

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