Israeli startup Beewise is reinventing beekeeping through AI technology and automation, significantly improving pollination and honey yields with its smart, networked hives.
Honeybees, while small, play a huge role in maintaining vegetation around the world. Without bees, the diversity and availability of fresh produce would decrease significantly – they are responsible for about 80 percent of global pollination, with a single colony of bees pollinating up to 300 flowers per day. 70 of the top 100 human crops, which provide 90 percent of the world’s food, are pollinated by bees.
Despite the importance of bees in preserving global biodiversity, their populations are increasingly threatened by: colony collapse disorder
(CCD) — which has seen billions of worker bees, crucial to the operation and survival of a colony, leave their hives and their queen. Modern challenges including pests, climate change and pesticides contribute to CCD, putting significant pressure on bee populations. Since 2006, more than 30 percent of honeybee populations have been declining every year.
Technological developments around beekeeping have long been overlooked; the industry has remained the same for the past 170 years, since the invention of the first man-made beehive. Enter commercial beekeeper Eliyah Radzynerwho — together with serial entrepreneur Saar Safra — co-founder
beewisea startup whose robotic hives promote bee survival in the face of global warming and other modern stressors.
“The industrial revolution, the digital revolution and the AI revolution have all skipped beekeeping,” says CEO and co-founder Safra. “The Beewise solution, the
beehome, is the first of its kind – an autonomous hive with an integrated robotic beekeeper. By combining experience in both beekeeping and technology, we have developed and marketed a state-of-the-art solution with proven results.”
Image credit: beewise
With the Beehome, bees can be cared for in real time and beekeepers can manage their hives remotely while providing essential access to data about their colonies. Each Beehome houses up to 48 bee colonies – or one to two million bees. The AI in the Beehome constantly monitors the activity in the hive and learns from the actions of the beekeepers – when a beekeeper applies a certain treatment, the AI associates that action with specific conditions; if similar conditions are detected by other devices, the robot can recommend the same treatment. The AI monitors and learns from Beehomes’ entire portfolio, which operates in the cloud and applies its lessons across the portfolio.
Understanding what is happening within a colony is vital to maintaining the bee population.
“Once a colony is in full view, taking action is the easy part of tackling climate change and modern stressors. For example, if the bees have no food and are in starvation, Beewise’s robot can easily feed them. Or, if it’s too hot or cold outside, the robot can easily adjust the hive temperature to suit the bees. The data collected is the real asset, allowing Beehomes to save bees on a large scale,” explains Safra. “97 percent of what a beekeeper would do is done automatically and often autonomously by the Beehome. It’s as if each bee has their own personal beekeeper, 24/7.”
Beewise says the Beehomes reduce bee mortality by 80 percent, increase yields by at least 50 percent and eliminate ~90 percent of manual labor compared to traditional hives. Using 24/7 monitoring and smart technology, Beehomes automatically detects threats to a honeybee colony, such as pesticides or the presence of parasites; and the robotic system responds by addressing the threat in real time in the field.
“Traditional beehives do not protect bees from climate change and modern stressors, which harms the survival of the species,” says Safra. “Our goal is to replace all traditional beehives with Beewise’s robotic Beehomes – not only to stop the collapse of the bee colony, but also to reverse the trend and allow the population to restore its natural order.”
Building the self-contained solar-powered Beehome was no easy task – unlike other types of livestock, bees cannot be enclosed with fences or wires and can leave their hive many times a day to forage. If the bees’ nests don’t meet their needs, they can just fly away and leave.
“Therefore, it is not enough to build a device with robotics, computer vision, solar panels, mobile and secure; it should also be comfortable for our core customer: the bee. The level of complexity of building a device to accommodate a biological model is ten times more complex than just building robotics or IoT,” explains Safra. “These complex little creatures are sensitive and require a very specific set of conditions to feel ‘at home’. Our robotic hives have the lowest swarm level (when bees leave their home due to uncomfortable conditions) than any hive.”
headquarters in Galilee with an outpost in Oakland, California., Beewise recently raised $80 million in its latest Series C financing round, which Safra says will primarily be invested in IP (R&D to further improve the devices), market expansion, service improvement and operational excellence. The company has brought its Beehomes to the US, which now has 24,000 hives (with plans for more than a million). Europe and Australia.