There was a buzz in the air on the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Langley campus last week, as Langley MP Mark Warawa was in town to announce that the federal government will provide $140,000 in funding through the Western Diversification Program.
The money will be used to help establish a new commercial beekeeping program at the university.
“Our government’s top priority is the economy,” Warawa said in making the announcement on April 10.
“More jobs equal a stronger economy, which is the goal for us.”
Honeybee pollination in B.C. is responsible for more than $200 million per year in agricultural production, with $65 million coming from the pollination-dependent blueberry industry.
Based on three hives per acre, the province’s 20,000 acres of blueberry farms alone require 60,000 bee colonies for pollination. With only 45,000 commercial bee colonies in B.C., these farms import colonies from Alberta to meet demand. The new KPU program begins in January and the first class is expected to have 16 students. But more than 90 potential applicants have requested more information on the program, said Dr. Salvador Ferreras, KPU’s provost and vice-president of academics.
“Agriculture is very close to the heart of the Township and the neighbouring committees,” he said.
“As agriculture grows, we need beekeeping.”
The students will complete 350 hours of instruction as well as 300 mentored hours of beekeeping, plus a five-month paid practicum.
Students in the KPU program will receive instruction in beehive care, bee disease management, bee botany, integrated pest management, livestock production and colony management, food safety, processing, packaging and marketing, and bee business planning, management and growth.
The first batch of students will complete their studies in November 2016.
After the first three years, the program is expected to grow to 24 students.
The program was announced in March with $350,000 in funding from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture through programs delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.
The idea was brought forward by John Gibeau, the president of the Honeybee Centre in Cloverdale. He helped develop the program outline and will be part of the advisory committee creating the curriculum.
He has 45 years experience as a beekeeper.
“This program will not only satisfy the need for local small scale family farms … but it will also satisfy this tremendous demand for local honey,” he said.
“And that demand is all over the world.”
Gibeau estimates the profession can bring a family revenue about $100,000 a year until retirement.
“There is absolutely no doubt there is a need for this program,” added Jim Pelton, KPU’s executive director of continuing and professional studies.
“Our aim is to bolster B.C.’s beekeeping industry by providing the training that will allow our students to meet the province’s growing pollination demands.”
“We are going to produce the entrepreneurs and managers we need,” Pelton said.
• Honeybees play a critical role in the production of many crops, representing a value of over $14 billion per year for Canada and the U.S.
• Bee health is influenced by weather; pests and diseases; and the effects of management tools and practices across agricultural sectors.
• About one-third of annual global food production is derived from crops which benefit from pollinators, much of which is accomplished by honeybees.
• Some fruits do not develop without pollination from honeybees. Other fruits may develop but will be of poorer quality and in smaller amounts.
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Cloverdale Honeybee Centre president John Gibeau is playing a big role in the new beekeeping program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He has 45 years experience with beekeeping.