Honey and bees win Estonian students a prize in China

The students from the University of Tartu (UT) won the first place at the international innovation competition in China with their idea about creating an innovative environmental indicator based on the analysis of the chemical composition of honey; their idea also promoted keeping bees in urban environments.

The doctoral students of the School of Economics and Business Administration, Tõnis Tänav, Kristian Pentus and Tarmo Puolokainen, participated in the Youth Innovation Competition on Global Governance in Shanghai, with sustainable development as the main topic.

“The idea had to contribute to the achievement of the UN’s objectives of sustainable development, such as reducing poverty, access to education, environmental conditions etc,” Pentus told the UT press department.

The team created a novel and complex environmental indicator, which is based on the analysis of the chemical composition of honey, death rate of bees, productivity of honey and other indicators. This makes it possible to map and compare the environmental problems of different urban areas, cities and countries. The system would work on the data of urban beehives kept by people themselves and would also promote beekeeping in cities.

The idea to link the project with bees and honey came from life itself. “Our team member Tõnis Tänav has worked briefly with bees and he knows some beekeepers, which is where the initial idea came from. From there on we started thinking as a team how to form the raw idea into a project,” Pentus said.

Hive monitoring programmes have exploded in recent years around the world – the aim is to measure the healthiness of surrounding environment. The chemical composition of the honey could indicate, for example, how polluted are the air and water in the area.

The competition involved more than 700 participants from 40 countries.


Cover: a honey bee in action (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

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About the author: Silver Tambur

Silver Tambur is the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Estonian World. He has previously studied journalism at the University of Tartu, and politics and society at the Birkbeck College, University of London. Silver has been the editor at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s news service in English, as well as contributing for the Business Sense magazine in the UK, Deutsche Welle and Radio New Zealand. You can also follow him on Twitter and like his page on Facebook. You can write to Silver at silver@estonianworld.com.