Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are everywhere — your thermostat, refrigerator, and smartphone but also in some of the most unusual places like a smart tray cat litter box, smart toilet, or a smart belt. IoT sensors are integrated into devices to capture critical data that users can share in real-time.
In a fight to help reverse the pollination deficit, BeeHero has created IoT sensors that turn a traditional bee hive into an intelligent smart hive that has the power to address the global pollination deficit.
Insects, including honey bees, are declining globally. Three-quarters of all crops require pollination. Pollinators are essential to the ecosystems we rely on by pollinating plants, providing food for other creatures and recycling nature’s waste.
According to a 2022 study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the global loss of pollinators is affecting human health. The study noted that inadequate pollination had caused a three to five percent loss of fruit, vegetable and nut production. The lower consumption of these foods means about one percent of all deaths can now be attributed to pollinator loss.
“Numerous research studies have demonstrated the significant impact of effective pollination compared to insufficient pollination, with yield output increasing anywhere from five percent to 100% depending on the crop,” said Omer Davidi, CEO and co-founder of BeeHero. “It is important to note that an unpollinated flower will not develop into an edible product. Therefore, even if you allocate ample resources to support crop growth, insufficient bee coverage can lead to lower yields.”
IoT sensors for bee hives
BeeHero IoT sensors collect various data points inside the hive, including sounds, temperature, humidity, etc. Data is collected from the hive to a gateway device installed on every pallet of bee hives.
Like all data collected from IoT sensors, it makes its way into the cloud, where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms analyze the data to create actionable insights for beekeepers and growers.
Davidi says their system allows bee hives to communicate their condition, enabling timely treatment, reducing mortality rates, and enhancing hive welfare.
“The IoT sensors are an enabling technology developed to optimize pollination,” said Davidi in an email interview. “Bee-pollinated crops require good coverage of strong and healthy bee colonies in the field during the blooming season and our technology enables the tracking and monitoring of hives throughout the year, which gives insights to beekeepers to better address any issues the hives might be experiencing.”
Davidi says this helps improve the strength and efficiency of the hives, which in turn provide pollination services throughout the year.
“Although the concept of autonomous hives, similar to autonomous machinery or cars, is intriguing, it is not currently viable in real-world environments,” said Davidi.
BeeHero’s philosophy is not to replace beekeepers with autonomous hives but equip professional beekeepers with better tools. “We have adopted a more comprehensive approach that supports both beekeepers and growers, utilizing cost-effective IoT sensors and sophisticated algorithms.”
“Our value proposition is our ability to scale and maintain a network of strong, healthy and productive bee colonies,” said Davidi. “Every hive in the network is remotely monitored year-round to track its health and strength and provide actionable insights for beekeepers that inform important decisions about feeding, treatment, swarm management, queen replacement and other hive health metrics.”
BeeHero’s Beekeeper Platform helps beekeepers use technology to manage thousands of beehives at multiple locations. Some features include a yard view which gives an overall status of bee-yard clusters. This gives beekeepers instant notifications of an event or condition (strong wind storm, hail) requiring immediate intervention. Bee-yard reports show hive status on the number of bee frames and brood frames, which can be used to assess the hives’ overall pollination capacity.
BeeHero provides in-hive sensors for commercial beekeepers and manages hives in multiple states, including Florida, Texas, Idaho, California and Oregon.
“There are more than 200,000 commercial hives managed by BeeHero in the United States,” said Davidi. “Commercial beekeeping is a migratory business, where beekeepers may keep their bees in Florida during winter and then travel across the country throughout the year to pollinate various crops, such as almonds in California or apples in Washington state, etc.”
BeeHero in 2017 in Israel. The company has $64 million in funding and made the 2023 CNBC top 50 global disrupter list with a vision to future-proof global food supply by saving the bees. The company is headquartered in the US, with R&D centers and labs in Israel and Europe and dozens of research projects with leading academic and industry partners worldwide.
The company recently completed a collaborative research project with the USDA comparing pollination behavior and efficiency among three queen lines.
“In Israel, we are conducting a varroa monitoring project in collaboration with the Shamir Institute in Haifa University in Israel and Hohenheim University in Stuttgart,” said Davidi. “We are also in a research collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to study avocado pollination by wild pollinators.”
Pollination and crops
Davidi says that pollination is the key limiting factor for improving crop productivity.
“Significant advancements have been made in this area over the past decade. One example is a sunflower trial on 50 acres of crop that demonstrated a yield increase of 11.3 tons (22%) using BeeHero-monitored hives over the crop area using standard bee hives.”
“This resulted in a 22% increase in farmer revenue from $93.4k to $113.8k, and all of these results were achieved using 11 fewer but stronger hives, a reduction of 27% in the number of hives deployed with all other agricultural inputs remaining constant.”
Davidi says that the shortfall in pollination capacity has led to the development of the ‘paid for pollination’ market.
“The pollination effectiveness of managed honey bees depends on the number, density, spread, location and strength of colonies and the timing of their introduction,” said Davidi. “There have been no means available for real-time monitoring of pollination activity and no data, tools or systems upon which farmers could base their pollination management decisions which limit the capacity for productivity improvement.”
“With our technology, beekeepers and farmers can now monitor hive strength and pollination effectiveness in real-time during pollination cycles, informing optimal strategies for hive placement in the crop such as the timing of introduction, positioning, spacing between hives or groups of hives, as well as the stocking density,” said Davidi.