This is the story of an employee at the WDC who decided to learn about becoming a beekeeper in 2020. Two years later, the first beehive appeared at the datacentre and was soon creating local honey: Wall’Honey Datacenter. Where did this idea come from? And what part does it play in a Green approach to IT? We’ll explain everything to you in this article.
The WDC in Villers-le-Bouillet has always taken the approach of being a highly principled, eco-friendly datacentre. Currently, 1880 solar panels and 9 Ouessant sheep are located at the 3000 m² site. And now, since June of this year, the first beehive has been installed, with the aim of having a total of 3 hives in the years ahead. This is the story of quite an adventure.
From Office Manager to Chief Beekeeper
A few months before the first lockdown, Cédric Tilquin, an employee at the WDC, embarked on a beekeeping course in Wallonia. He didn’t know it at the time, but this passion would result in him taking the lead in a new project at his place of work, the Wallonia Data Center.
“Times were really complicated back then,” recalls the man who is now Chief Beekeeper at the datacentre in Villers-le-Bouillet. “We were a very small group, just a few of us, who were trained in the art of beekeeping during the pandemic. I’m what is called a recent graduate of the course, because it’s a year now since I completed my training. After that, what I needed was somewhere to put my new beekeeping skills into practice and the WDC was very receptive to the idea of this environmentally friendly project.”
Cédric diversifying his activities really came as no surprise to his work colleagues. As Gaëtan Defourny, Head of Data Centre, says: “The path Cédric has taken is somewhat unusual! He studied as an electro-mechanic and now he’s has trained to become a certified beekeeper. Cédric was already something of a Swiss army knife for us, handling the day-to-day management of our operations. When he came to pitch his bee project to us, we looked at it with a great deal of interest and have been fully on board with him in bringing it to fruition. A datacentre by its very nature is energy-intensive, so all of the combined efforts made are focused on our Green approach.”
During the set-up phase, Cédric Tilquin was assisted and guided by his former teacher. The process followed a number of very methodical stages: locate some hives and swarms to go with them, find the right season, create a dedicated area and ensure the presence of honey-bearing plants.
The idea was to set up a first hive in complete safety, with the aim of having three hives in the short term. It’s a challenge that has paid off handsomely! “There’s no risk involved. We only open up the hives outside the datacentre’s business hours. On the other hand, though, the project has created great interest in-house and our aim, over time, is even to allow supervised visitors to go and see the hives.”
Beekeeping in the workplace: what’s it for?
Beekeeping is very much within the aims set for the WDC’s corporate social responsibility (CSR). But why would an organisation do it?
1. Protection of the environment: Beekeeping promotes the pollination of plants, contributing to biodiversity and preserving the ecosystem. Committed companies like the WDC are working to ensure the health of bees and other pollinators, all of which play a crucial role in plant reproduction. And bees play an essential role in food production.
2. Awareness of biodiversity: creating beehives within the company can raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity among employees, customers and the general public – all of which creates a form of community involvement.
3. In Wallonia, this also tends to promote sustainable development at a local level. It may also meet growing consumer demand for sustainable and natural products.
Gaëtan Defourny adds: "At the WDC, our aim has been to adopt practices that respect bees by having a genuinely qualified beekeeper in charge in the form of Cédric Tilquin and also by complying with bee welfare standards. Our commitment to beekeeping is genuine and it benefits our wider community.”
WDC honey is just around the corner
Our short-term objective: the production of honey intended for customers. Gaëtan Defourny explains: “Wall’Honey Datacenter is the name of the honey that we will be producing. This all sounds a bit cutesy when you put it like that, but in fact this initiative is fully in line with our Green approach and it sits alongside the other efforts that we have already been making for many years. These include our photovoltaic panels (the number of which we intend to double), the use of eco-friendly cleaning products and our grazing land, which has been home to ten or so sheep for 8 years now.”