Smiling woman with blonde hair and black jacket beside a bee hive.
ApisProtect CEO Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy. Image: Claire Keogh

Cork agritech innovator ApisProtect to create 25 new jobs

20 Nov 2018

Innovative agritech company uses AI to help honeybees to flourish.

Agritech firm ApisProtect, which monitors the health of honeybee colonies, is to create 25 new jobs.

The company has closed a seed round led by Finistere Ventures, Atlantic Bridge Capital, Radicle Growth, The Yield Lab and Enterprise Ireland.

‘Ireland is fast becoming an international leader in business and a world-class innovator in some of the technology sector’s most exciting and disruptive new fields’

ApisProtect is an Irish company located in Cork and is headed up by Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy (CEO), Dr Pádraig Whelan and Andrew Wood, a team with complementary backgrounds including engineering, scientific, beekeeping and commercial experience.

ApisProtect will use the investment to aggressively accelerate international expansion, opening its first US office at the Western Growers Association’s Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas, California.

“This investment will allow us to accelerate our expansion as we work to create an extensive global hive health database to power our machine-learning insights,” noted Edwards Murphy.

“We look forward to building our team of AI specialists, engineers and scientists over the next three years to 25 staff, and helping to reduce honeybee losses worldwide.”

Sweet success of smarter beehives

“Ireland is fast becoming an international leader in business and a world-class innovator in some of the technology sector’s most exciting and disruptive new fields,” said Joe Healy, divisional manager in charge of high-potential start-ups (HPSUs) at Enterprise Ireland.

ApisProtect helps commercial beekeepers to more effectively manage colonies and optimise pollination. Using ApisProtect technology, beekeepers no longer need to rely solely on periodic, manual hive checks that can allow disease, pests and other issues to deteriorate hive health beyond rescue.

Contributing €153bn worth of pollination to the agri-food industry annually, honeybees play an essential role in global food production. One-third of all food that we eat depends on pollinators, and there are an estimated 91m managed bee hives worldwide.

Currently monitoring the health of more than 6m honeybees in hives across Europe and North America, ApisProtect delivers a 24/7 early-warning system so beekeepers can give at-risk hives immediate attention and improve bee health. Its in-hive sensor network uses long-range, cellular and satellite-powered communication to proactively monitor honeybee colonies. Combining the sensor data on hive conditions, health and activity levels with its proprietary big data and machine-learning techniques, ApisProtect gives beekeepers actionable insights and alerts to help prevent losses and increase colony productivity.

“With a science-driven, multidisciplinary leadership team, ApisProtect is primed to fundamentally change the way commercial beekeepers around the globe manage their hives,” added Kieran Furlong of Finistere Ventures.

“Our Ireland Agtech Fund is dedicated to investing in early-stage agtech companies reshaping the global food and ag industries. ApisProtect was the prime candidate for the fund’s first Irish investment. There is a need for technologies to aid pollination in agriculture, and ApisProtect hive monitor technology has massive potential in key markets like California.”

Edwards Murphy has a PhD in electrical and electronic engineering, and a bachelor’s of engineering from University College Cork. She participated in Ignite, an international award-winning business start-up programme that specialises in supporting recent third-level graduates to turn innovative ideas into successful, scalable businesses. She won the Ignite Business of the Year Award in 2016.

The CEO’s work has received international recognition, including at least eight academic publications, with awards from the Irish Research Council, IBM, the Irish Laboratory Awards and Google. ApisProtect was partially funded by St Louis-based agtech accelerator The Yield Lab in 2016.

“Atlantic Bridge is delighted to welcome ApisProtect to our growing portfolio in the University Fund, a €60m fund focused on commercialising cutting-edge research from leading institutions. ApisProtect is uniquely placed to disrupt a global, well-established industry with robust technology developed by Fiona Edwards Murphy, following her award-winning PhD research at University College Cork, Ireland,” said Alison Crawford from Atlantic Bridge.

“Atlantic Bridge has a strong track record of supporting Irish companies through key stages of development and helping them commercialise their technology globally through our network in Europe, the US and China. We believe ApisProtect has the potential to ultimately help commercial pollinators and growers to optimise pollination.”

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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