2015-2017 – Beegin Urban Beehive

urban ag / beekeeping / appropriate technology / industrial design / Human-Centred Design

An Improved Beehive Design to Support Local Urban Agriculture (BTech) & An Appropriate Technology System for Emergent Beekeepers: Field Testing and Development Towards Implementation (MTech)

Ivan Brown, BTech Industrial Design, 2015 & MTech Industrial Design, 2016-2017
Supervised by Angus D. Campbell & Dr. Naudé Malan

BTech Abstract: Honeybees provide the irreplaceable service of pollination for many of our food-crops and as such their survival is directly linked to food security. In South Africa there has been a recent movement towards localised food production through urban agriculture for socioeconomic development and access to healthy food in marginalised communities. Due to modern agricultural practices the annual survival rate of honeybees globally is in a severe decline, whilst the success of urban agriculture initiatives has been limited by low income generation. This Design Research study aimed to find solutions that would help urban farmers adopt beekeeping to increase their economic capabilities and protect their pollinators. The study borrows from Appropriate Technology Development whilst adopting Human-Centred Design methods to developing accessible beekeeping technology for local urban agriculture. Through participatory research with expert beekeepers and urban farmers the design approach to beehives was improved through the creation of a beehive design toolkit. The product outcomes were: an entry-level cardboard beehive, a permanent cement beehive and moulds to produce multiples of the cement beehive. All of these catered to an intervention framework intended to facilitate the development of sustainable beekeeping businesses through community driven manufacture and staggered implementation. The revised approach to beehive production resulted in reduced costs and presented further opportunities for sustainable beekeeping and social development. Initial testing confirmed the products technical performance, however testing through implementation would need to be undertaken to determine the further success of the intervention.

MTech Abstract: The importance of socially responsible design and participatory research methods for problem solving in developing nations is unquestionable. The aim of this design research project has been to develop a system that can contributes directly and indirectly to food security. In 2015, the author began developing appropriate beekeeping technology for local urban farmers as a final BTech Industrial Design mini-dissertation project. The beekeeping technology system that emerged was intended to benefit low-income, small-scale farming communities, as well as promote sustainability in troubled beekeeping and agricultural industries. However, the outcome represented only an initial solution that needed to be field tested and further developed into a system ready for implementation, potentially including additional devices and resources, to create a system that could be scaled to provide different markets with access to the technology. As such, this MTech research project intended to further develop the appropriate beekeeping technology towards an implementable state through field testing – providing a small group of urban farmers and expert beekeepers with the beekeeping technology and documenting their use of the beehives, production tools and other components over one season (spring to winter). Through an iterative Human-Centered Design (desirability, feasibility and viability) approach, testing, user participation and design refinement the appropriateness (sustainability and accessibility) of the appropriate beekeeping technology was improved and evaluated. The study identified a gap in research on the field testing and development stages of appropriate technology leading to an implementation ready system – an area lacking in academic design research and Industrial Design. Appropriate Technology theories, the Capabilities Approach and Designing for Outcomes were used to create a theoretical framework to position the problem philosophically but also encourage the delivery of tangible benefits through the research. In this way the study was able to simultaneously address the central problem and affect meaningful change in the lives of the participants.


This work is based on research supported in part by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa for the Thuthuka, unique grant number 88030 held by Angus D. Campbell and titled, Designing Development: An Exploration of Technology Innovation by Small-Scale Urban Farmers in Johannesburg. Any opinion, finding, and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material are that of the authors, and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard.


Beegin website. 2018: http://www.beegin.co.za/

Beegin facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/beeginSA/

Campbell, A.D. & Brown, I.L. 2017 (forthcoming). A Potential Difference Model for Educating Critical Citizen Designers: The Case Study of the Beegin Appropriate Beekeeping Technology System. In, Costandius, E. & Botes, H. (Eds.) Educating Citizen Designers in Southern Africa. Stellenbosch: SUNMeDIA.

Brown, I.L. & Campbell, A.D. 2017. Beegin: Redoing Beekeeping in Southern Africa by Designing for Outcomes. Proceedings of the Cumulus REDO Conference. Kolding, Denmark: Design School Kolding, pp. 169- 178. ISBN: 978-87-93416-15-4 (Peer Reviewed).

Brown, I.L. An Improved Beehive Design to Support Local Urban Agriculture. BTech Industrial Design Mini-Dissertation. University of Johannesburg. (12Mb)

Ivan’s Beegin concrete hive featured on Deutsche Welle on the 13 July 2017: http://www.dw.com/en/a-beehive-with-air-conditioning/av-39677845

Ivan interviewed by Spaghetti.tv for PPC on 11 June 2017. The Beegin beehive was awarded runner-up in Industrial Design category of the PPC Imaginarium awards in 2015/16:

Ivan’s presentation for the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Annual General Meeting in Hong Kong on 26 November 2016:

Ivan interviewed about the Beegin beehive on CCTV news 5 November 2016:

Ivan interviewed about his Beegin beehive for “Die Groot Ontbyt” on 13 July 2016: