Cork’s ApisProtect announces partnership with the European Space Agency

29 Nov 2019

ApisProtect CEO and co-founder Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy. Image: Claire Keogh

By working with the European Space Agency, ApisProtect will have access to funding and expertise to facilitate its work in monitoring bee health.

ApisProtect, a Cork-based start-up that was featured in our Start-up of the Week series earlier this year, uses sensors to monitor the health of honey bee colonies.

It’s estimated that honey bees contribute €153bn worth of pollination to the agri-food industry annually, meaning that the insects play a vital role in global food production. One-third of the food we eat depends on pollinators.

ApisProtect is currently monitoring the health of 20m honey bees across the world and says that, in some countries, up to 40pc of honey bees are dying every year. The massive number of deaths can be attributed to a host of problems, including diseases, pests and the climate crisis.

Collaboration with the ESA

This week, the Cork-based company announced a new partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), which comes just days before European Space Week kicks off. Through this partnership, ApisProtect will bring its mission to save bee populations ‘into space’.

The start-up has joined the Tyndall National Institute-led business incubator at the ESA, where ApisProtect will utilise Tyndall sensor technology to monitor the health of honey bees worldwide.

A key challenge for the traditional beekeeping industry is monitoring beehives in remote locations and in harsh environments where traditional communication networks struggle to communicate.

This new partnership with ESA’s Business Incubation Centre (BIC) will help address this challenge and help beekeepers monitor their colonies remotely. With this new technology, beekeepers will no longer need to rely solely on periodic, manual hive checks that can allow disease, pests and other issues to deteriorate hive health.

Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, CEO and co-founder of ApisProtect, said: “Right now, we are in the peak of the technological development, utilising the data sets and learnings from our global validation trials in the US, South Africa and Europe to build the final commercial product.

“Working with ESA-BIC will enable us to access expertise, funding and partners to facilitate this.”

Using space technology on Earth

“Our mission at ApisProtect is to save the honey bees, because if we don’t take action now, we’ll lose our most important insect ally,” Edwards Murphy added. “We want to secure the supply of one-third of our diet and make sure we can nourish and feed the 9.7bn people on planet Earth by 2050.”

David Gibbons of ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland said: “We are seeking entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to use space technology and space-generated data in commercial Earth environments.

“We are delighted to have ApisProtect utilise satellite communications technology and Earth observation data in the agricultural sector as one of the innovative Irish companies we are supporting. This partnership highlights how ESA is keen to support new technologies that help solve global challenges and help ensure global food supply by ensuring the health of honey bees worldwide.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic