Press releases

Smartphone app to help protect our bees

Thursday 20 June 2013

'Citizen Science' project will collect vital data to support endangered species

Waitrose is asking people to get involved in a fun but important project to help protect bees and other pollinating insects.

The retailer has worked with international environment charity Earthwatch to develop a free app, through which smartphone users can help collect vital data about the pollinators in their gardens and which plants bees and other pollinating insects prefer to visit the most.

Users simply take a picture when they see the insects visiting flowers and bushes in the garden - and then click to upload to a research project database.

The data will be fed in to a University of Sussex research project, in conjunction with The Crown Estate, which has the aim of strengthening the picture on pollinator activity and helping secure a future for bees by creating a stronger list of the plants and flowers that encourage them into our gardens.

And longer term, Waitrose will use the findings to tell its customers which of the plants it sells are particularly bee-friendly.

The app

The app can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices from today (Thursday 20 June) - by visiting the Waitrose website (www.waitrose.com/bees).

The app, called 'Bee-Friend Your Garden', is easy to use and doesn't need any wildlife knowledge.   It will run throughout the summer, aiming to generate hundreds of thousands of pollinator observations.

Under threat

Pollinating insects such as bees, birds, butterflies and moths are increasingly under threat, but vital for food production.

Said Waitrose Director of Quality & Technical David Croft: 'Much of the food we eat relies on insect pollination, so bees are crucial to sustaining agriculture in the long term and their survival directly affects us all.

'We had such a strong and positive reaction to our decision to stop using three types of neonicotinoid pesticides earlier this year*.  Through this app we're aiming to significantly further influence this important issue, hopefully generating hundreds of thousands of insect observations to show which plants bees like to visit the most.'

Alan Titchmarsh, gardening expert, added:  'The plight of the honey bee is a global issue which should concern us all.   This new app is a simple way that people can make a difference in their own back gardens, or even with their own window boxes.

Simon Barnes of Earthwatch added: 'Citizen science is a powerful tool as data is collected on a large scale - once we understand more about bee-friendly plants in people's gardens we can look at how to optimise that number, which will ease some of the pressure on pollinators. Earthwatch has a long tradition of practicing citizen science through participation on its global research expeditions; this model is equally effective in your own back garden.'


Notes to editors

The app is available for iOS and Android devices, at www.waitrose.com/bees.

*The Waitrose Seven point plan for pollinators

Waitrose announced earlier this year that it has removed the use of three key neonicotinoids from its supply chain.  That and this latest announcement both form part of the Waitrose Seven point plan for pollinators:

1. Supporting the EU's review into the use of three key neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam), on crops attractive to bees.

2. Avoiding the use of these three neonicotinoids in our fruit, vegetable and flower supply chains for Waitrose products. This will focus on flowering plants attractive to pollinators and see these pesticides being phased out worldwide, beginning immediately and working over the next two seasons.

3. Supporting further research into pollinators through the University of Exeter. The work will look at the impact of neonicotinoids, other pesticides and the combination of both on pollinators. The results will contribute to the development of alternative methods of pest control if the chemicals are found to have long term adverse effects. This will be a three year programme of work.

4. Ensuring, through our farm engagement and supply chain development work via the Waitrose Farm Assessment that all fresh produce farms initially (and arable farms subsequently) monitor and develop bee/pollinator activity. This is based on our previous work with the University of Sussex, via our Agronomy Group, where Waitrose and our fresh produce suppliers work closely together to strengthen standards.

5. Strengthening control frameworks for our commodity crop ingredients such as wheat and oil seed rape, adopting the LEAF standard in these sectors as a proven platform for future environmental development. This will support the delivery of learnings from our produce agronomy and CEUKF activity in the arable sector. Our own Waitrose farm at Leckford is already LEAF certified for these crops.

6. Engaging our consumers including Waitrose Partners (who are co-owners of our business, as well as working in our business) to gather more data on pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, through their own observations. Customers will be asked to share their observations via web developments and apps that are being developed jointly with Earthwatch and the University of Sussex, to contribute to the growing fact base on pollinators and so help to frame future developments that support pollinators.

7. Investing in the development of organic farming to support a wide range of crops that enable choice for consumers. Our support for organic farming also extends to funding from the sale of Duchy Originals from Waitrose that, via the Prince of Wales Charitable Trust, is enabling the Soil Association to develop and share learnings from organic farming across all farming areas to support and strengthen sustainability for the future.

Waitrose values are defined in the four pillars of the Waitrose way which sets out its brand policy in these key areas: Championing British, Treading Lightly, Treating People Fairly and Living Well.

Through the Waitrose Agronomy Group, a team of technical experts from the retailer’s supplier and grower base, Waitrose has since 1999 worked with Waitrose on issues affecting horticulture to ensure the retailer’s supply decisions are science based and appropriate. Currently there are 12 supplier members, one pure science member and four Waitrose technical experts.

Waitrose - Waitrose, Britain's favourite supermarket*, has 292 shops in the UK and Channel Islands and is consistently achieving sales growth significantly ahead of the market**.  Its strong performance has been driven by the success of the essential Waitrose range, Brand Price Match, an unmatchable top tier of products and free delivery for online shopping, as well as a long term commitment to sourcing the UK's finest local and regional foods.  Waitrose combines the convenience of a supermarket with the expertise and service of a specialist shop - dedicated to offering quality food that has been responsibly sourced combined with high standards of customer service. (www.waitrose.com)

* Which? Annual Supermarket Satisfaction Survey 2013, Favourite Food & Grocery Retailer at Verdict's annual Consumer Satisfaction Awards; Favourite Supermarket at Good Housekeeping Awards
** Kantar World panel


Enquiries

For further information please contact:

Jess Hughes
Corporate Communications Manager
Telephone: 01344 824294
Mobile: 07764 676850
Email: jess_hughes@waitrose.co.uk