Smart Hummingbird Feeder: Production and fulfillment update

Smart Hummingbird Feeder: Production and fulfillment update

Hello, Bird Buddies! 

Many of you might not know yet that bringing the Smart Hummingbird Feeder to life in the first place was made possible by our incredible community of backers who supported our Summer Of Birds project on Kickstarter in May of last year. The campaign’s initial goal was reached in just 12 minutes, and we ended up raising over 3 million dollars within the month of the campaign being live. As such, our backers have been enjoying the behind the scenes production updates throughout this past year, and their feedback helped shape the product all of us will get to enjoy and love. In light of that, we feel that sharing a progress update with all of you is in order now too. 

Excitingly, we have started the production of Smart Hummingbird Feeders, and will be starting fulfillment in the next few weeks. That said, we have experienced some unforeseen hiccups in the pre-production stage, which is why there will be a slight delay in the fulfillment schedule. 

In the spirit of full transparency, we wanted to provide additional context for the delay. Below, we’re sharing a number of behind-the-scenes photos, highlighting some of our team’s incredible work, and outlining our progress milestones. The current production status and the fulfillment plan can also be found below. 

Keep reading or skip directly to:

Making the puzzle pieces fit 

As you might expect, building the Smart Hummingbird Feeder is a complex process that consists of a great number of heavily interdependent parts. These individual “puzzle pieces” need to fit together not only physically, but also functionally.  

We were unwilling to budge on keeping our original Camera Module compatible with this new type of bird feeder. The modular design is something we’ve always had in mind for when we expanded our line of products. For that to be possible, however, the Camera Module needed to work efficiently with the much smaller and faster hummingbirds, which required a great balancing act between form and function. This required us to continuously carry out a significant number of tests with each adjustment on the design or the module’s firmware. 

As an example, we had done several iterations on the perch design to make sure it creates the most safe and functional landing spot for your backyard hummingbirds as well as position them for the best photos. All of this was constantly balanced against having to keep a correct distance range to the Camera Module’s sensor for it to trigger and take quality snapshots. To then support the changes in sensitivity of the sensor, we’ve also iterated a number of firmware changes (think of that as adjusting a program that runs your module). The good news here is that through the process we learned and improved our firmware quite a bit, which will provide amazing benefits for all of our camera modules regardless of which housing they are in.

To accompany the launch of the Smart Hummingbird Feeder, we’ve been developing an entire hummingbird-specific AI model. For well over a year, basic prototypes of the feeder have been distributed and tested across North America. One main objective of these very early tests was to ensure that hummingbirds love it and use it as intended, and the other was to collect as much species data as possible. Similar to our initial AI classification model, the precision and breadth of the species it can identify are closely linked to the quantity of data we gather. 

Along with the new AI model, our app also needed a refresh to accommodate the new feeder type. When you pair your Camera Module, you will now be asked to select the type of housing you’re using. Based on your selection, you will also automatically enable the corresponding AI model, so it will be important for you to select the right one, especially if you’ll be switching the camera module between housings. You’ll of course be able to change the housing at any time in the app settings. The app designs shown below are not final, but a close approximation of what you can expect. 

Tooling and T-Samples

The most crucial, and therefore the most time-consuming aspect of gearing up for mass production of (any) fully new product is called tooling. Tooling is the process of  creating and refining the specialized machinery used to make injection-molded plastic components. In our case, that means each piece that will form the Hummingbird Feeder Housing. It's imperative that we hone these tools to perfect the final product, from the main physical interactions down to the tiniest details. 

The process of sampling and adjusting the tooling is essentially a continuous feedback loop involving our team members and our manufacturing partners. Each iteration of the tools involves producing sample parts, which are then sent to our team for review and adjustments. We provide feedback to the manufacturer, along with updated 3D design files and approved changes. In response, we receive a new set of samples to examine. This process then repeats until we mutually agree to move to the next T-stage. With each stage, we’re looking at different aspects to ensure quality and compliance before mass production begins.

We received our very first pre-production samples in December of last year. These were the first samples produced by our tools (the dedicated molds and machinery), called T0 samples. They are used to review any major defects such as surface deformation and quarter-turn connection points that make it easy to attach and remove two separate parts. 

Once we were happy with the fit and function of the T0 parts, and once the tools were adjusted accordingly, we moved to producing T1 and T2 samples. As is typical, this was the longest part of the tooling process for us. Throughout the first three months of 2024, we were continuously checking and adjusting the more aesthetic factors, such as a consistent surface finish & texture, eliminating part blemishes & imperfections (such as sharp or uneven edges), making sure that the basin is fully watertight, and that the part assembly & disassembly are smooth. 

The final approval on the tooling was not something we were willing to compromise on, since we did not want to settle for a product that would be anything less than beautiful and delightful for all of you. After a delay during the tool shipment, our manufacturer in the U.S. received the final steel tools just a couple of weeks ago. We’re excited to share some photos of them with you! 

Current production status

The production of the Smart Hummingbird Feeder parts is now underway. Our manufacturing partner is preparing the assembly line and finalizing the standard operating procedures. This step is crucial to make sure that every part is put together properly and packaged without a hitch. As production ramps up, our manufacturing partner will adjust the assembly line's capacity, gradually increasing the number of units produced and packed each week. 

The Camera Modules, along with some of the smaller parts (such as the brushes and hangers for the Hummingbird Feeders) are already in the U.S. and stored safely by our manufacturing partner. The packaging has also been finalized, and we are happy to share a sneak preview with you all. 

Fulfillment plan

Our Kickstarter backers will be the first in line to start receiving their units. This part of fulfillment is expected to start in the first week of June, with weekly batches of Hummingbird feeders produced and shipped to our fulfillment center. It is very likely, however, that the fulfillment of all pre-ordered units will stretch out into the rest of the summer. 

With the part production still in progress, and the assembly line still being established, we don’t currently have a set or final number of units that will be produced each week. This is also the main reason we cannot provide individual shipping dates to you at this time, for which we sincerely apologize. 

We do, however, have a standing plan for fulfillment depending on the group your pre-order falls into and our best approximations on timeframes for the delivery.

Kickstarter backers: June-July 

As they made this project possible, our backers will be the first group to start receiving their Smart Hummingbird Feeders. Fulfillment for this group is expected to start in the first week of June. The gradually ramped up production of inventory will be exclusively dedicated to fulfilling this group’s orders until all of their units are shipped out. We expect this round of fulfillment to conclude mid-July.

Pro-exclusive early access & general presales: July-August

Following that, we will be shipping out all the pre-orders placed during the presale on our website, and we will be following the first-in-first-out principle. This means that those of you who placed your pre-orders with the Pro-exclusive early access will be receiving your orders first, followed by all other orders placed during the general pre-sale. 

The earliest shipments among this group are expected to start shipping out in mid-July, and we expect even the latest pre-orders that were placed on our website to be fulfilled before the end of August.

Please note that these timeframes are our best approximations based on the information we have right now, and that we are working closely with our manufacturer and logistics partner to help speed things up as much and as smoothly as possible. We will keep you posted on our progress and any further details we can provide about your individual orders. In the meantime, reach out to our support here if you have any questions or concerns.  

Thank you so much for being part of our story!

Follow us on our social media

Thank you for your support!
Error! Please try again.