June 26, 2020
After our meeting with Steve and Jody from the USDA, we were a little shell-shocked. Everything we do is in service of the bees and their future… The realization that our brilliant product could be lethal to bees was an incredible blow.
Chabudai gaeshi! Translated: tea table, upended. In other words, our entire design needs to be scrapped!
We don't for a minute think it isn’t possible to solve this problem—as Dick mentioned in our last meeting, oil in liquid form isn’t the only option—but correcting this course requires refactoring the entire product.
So, we called Dick again. And it’s fixable.
Or, at least, it’s theoretically fixable. Maybe. We hope.
Dick had mentioned powder essential oil formulations as a possible alternative to liquid oil. Specifically, and super excitingly (if you’re us), we could suspend the essential oil in carnauba wax, which is extracted from palm fronds.
There are certainly unknowns using carnauba wax, because very few tests have been done with it in this capacity. In this aspect, as in so many others, we’re really forging our own path. Dick has some familiarity with using carnauba in conjunction with thymol, but the formulation he tested was so toxic to bees it obfuscated any useful data about the wax itself.
We’ll figure it out, because failure is not an option.
The plan from here is twofold: First, we need to formulate the right dosage. That means we need a chemist. Second, we need to test that the solution works the way we intend it to. The results of those tests determine if this brave, new idea is chemically possible.
But is it technically possible?
Changing from a wick-based, gravity-based oil delivery system to a more bee friendly, powder-based solution is a complete reimagining of how the Everbee will work. And requires a complete rebuild.
We know a wick won’t work for powder, so how do we coat the bees? Some sort of low-tech solution where the bees are forced to walk over powder containing the oils? Dispensing a pre-measured amount of powder onto the bees?
The latter seems most promising but requires a new container for the powder, a powder dispenser, and a way to power it. And suddenly, the relatively elegant simplicity of our initial design needs new containers, motors, and batteries and solar. That means completely different internal workings. A whole different ball of wax (sorry). But with power comes a host of new potential ideas and possibilities. More on that later. We need to figure out if we can even make this work.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you that this was a complete teardown, more questions keep popping up — does the change in formulation change how the EPA will view our product? Dick doesn’t foresee any issues with EPA regulations but suggests we look at FDA requirements and reach out to them again.
So in the coming week, we’ll need to find a chemist and get a feasibility and cost assessment from Mitch and update our formulations and find a carnauba wax vendor, talk to the FDA and… probably about 3-12 other things we’re forgetting right now. But if any one of these fall through… we’re cooked.
A place on the path we thought was so close to the end was really just the beginning.