ApisProtect and Inmarsat develop early warning system to save the bees

20 May 2019450 Views

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Honey bee on an apple blossom. Image: Jonathan Fleury

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Move by Cork internet of things company to save the bees and increase global crop production.

In time for World Bee Day today (20 May) Cork agritech player ApisProtect has forged a partnership with global mobile and satellite player Inmarsat to monitor the health of honey bees.

This collaboration aims to develop a globally scalable IoT solution for connected apiaries, to help stem the significant decline of bee populations and increase crop production worldwide.

‘Without a healthy bee population there could be severe food shortages across the world’
– FIONA EDWARDS MURPHY

Contributing an estimated $174bn to the global agri-food industry annually, honey bees play an essential role in global food production. One third of all food that is consumed worldwide depends on pollinators such as bees, and there are 91m managed beehives worldwide. However, commercial beekeepers in the US alone have experienced significant declines in colonies between 2015 and 2016.

“Without a healthy bee population there could be severe food shortages across the world, which is why we have developed an advanced system to monitor current population levels and provide real-time insights, to help beekeepers increase the health and productivity in their colonies,” explained Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, co-founder and CEO of ApisProtect.

“ApisProtect will provide beekeepers with actionable insights that will brief them on the condition of their hives, identify problem colonies and suggest a variety of actions to keep their colonies healthy and prevent losses, providing a 24/7 early warning system. This also enables them to make earlier interventions in the event of a problem, leading to reduced costs.”

Creating a buzz

Woman with blonde hair and black jacket sits with one arm on a table strewn with flower petals.

Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, ApisProtect. Image: Clare Keogh

ApisProtect, a recent Start-up of the Week on Siliconrepublic.com, has developed a solution that reduces colony loss, improves the yield of commercial beekeeping and makes apiaries much easier to manage. Inmarsat is supporting ApisProtect as the global connectivity partner, ensuring the solution can be deployed anywhere on the planet.

“Many hives are situated in remote locations globally and we needed a partner who could support our project with industrial IoT expertise and a variety of connectivity technologies,” Edwards Murphy explained.

The solution consists of an ApisMonitor Unit which sits in a beehive and is connected to an analytics platform optimised for measuring honey bee health via Inmarsat’s Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) and Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) connectivity. This in turn feeds into a machine-learning algorithm for early detection and mitigation of bee health issues.

“Inmarsat is delivering highly reliable hybrid satellite/cellular and LoRaWAN technologies to ensure that we can provide services to beekeepers no matter how remote their location. Additionally, the mobile nature of Inmarsat’s services mean that if hives need to be moved for pollination purposes, we can still continue to deliver hive data with minimal disruption.”

satellite and solar equipment alongside a bee farm.

Installation of Inmarsat technology for ApisProtect at a large-scale apiary. Image: ApisProtect

Inmarsat and ApisProtect are making a joint investment in the next phase of the project to demonstrate effectiveness of the data collection and analysis across diverse climates and bee species, spanning Ireland, the UK, the EU, the US and South Africa ahead of a commercial launch in late 2019. The project includes working with some of the world’s foremost bee researchers and organisations and is already monitoring the health of over 10m honey bees in hives across Europe, South Africa and North America.

“Combining ApisProtect’s groundbreaking sensor and machine-learning technology with our world-leading connectivity capabilities and IoT expertise will offer beekeepers a powerful tool for supporting the health of their apiaries,” said Paul Gudonis, president of Inmarsat Enterprise.

“The stability and reliability of the connectivity is highly important to this solution as continual uploading of hive data is imperative to understand the real-time health of bee colonies. We hope that this partnership will aid beekeepers in maintaining strong, healthy colonies and will help increase the global bee population.”

John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist who served as editor of Siliconrepublic.com for 17 years.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com