So I may come across as an idiot, dreamer, etc, but I want to become a commercial beekeeper.
Currently, I have three hives, and one is about to split (It has done ridiculously well, at a separate location, we did not know that they were going to plant 100+ acres of sunflowers next to us this year ) I am using 8 frame hives, in cedar boxes. I currently run one deep, and medium supers, with a queen excluder above the first medium. I use propolis traps for personal and familial use, ventilated inner covers upside down on top of that, and ventilated bottom board, that I'll probably slide an IPM insert in during winter. I live in rural (agricultural district, but not much going on in that respect) area of North Carolina, on a 16 acre hobby farm, with a brook running through the middle. I go to meetings once a month, and every field day that I find or hear about, and hope to start attending the next county over's meetings as well, in other words, I don't just sit around reading, I actively pursue knowledge and experience in this hobby. Probably mostly useless information, but that's a bit about me.
All current questions about my operation aside, I would like to ask some questions about the "next step." Of course I understand I will have to see how the bees overwinter to get a better idea of where I stand, but I hope to make spring splits, as well as buy between 15-30 nucs next year. I was going to buy the hives, but decided to build my own, just waiting on the books to come in the mail for further direction. I have also ordered some to add to my meager 5 book collection, on more specific aspects such as queen production, splits, etc, etc.
I would like (in theory, aside from the horror stories) to be partly pollinator, but more focus on selling queens and nucs. Looking into other hives around here, I believe I have pretty good stock to choose from, and have the basic concepts down to start "locking down" desirable traits, as I am a biology major, and have had practice in breeding plants (as a hobby), though I understand plant genetics and insect genetics are quite different.
My first question is, is there a book, or series of books that is aimed more towards specifically becoming a commercial operation? I already have Kim Flotum's full line of books, except his most recent, the "honey connoisseur." Or is this the kind of thing one just learns by volunteering at local apiaries (2 around here I frequent, particularly on field days) and experience?
Secondly, what kind of time am I looking at to become a serious sideliner, at the least? I would like to get to 100 hives, and start looking into early pollination contracts, and making splits from those to bring back and sell, as well as cover my losses, in theory. I think I am a few years off from making any sort of real profit from almonds, and have heard it is quite difficult to get into citrus contracts, so I am researching other venues.
Where do I start? I know I start with bees, but what is a reasonable expectation for a 3-5 year goal? My theory is, if I start out, say, 20 additional hives next year, overwintering goes well, and I am able to make splits, that should provide me plenty of hives to start pursuing some sort of pollination contract the following year, if all goes well of course.
I will ask more specific question as the conversation develops, but mainly, they are probably rather common questions that are going to be answered through reading, reading, reading, and talking to other keepers. Like how do I get enough bees to fill a contract, by overwintering a nuc and putting them into a hive? Are 8 frames acceptable to fill contracts, provided they are healthy? Things like that, as well as the transport from place to place, and how to feed in transit.
Thank you for reading this far, or for scanning and getting to the bottom at least! I hope to learn from the experienced, and at least get some direction.