Bees are vital for food crops to grow, as well as flowers and other parts of the ecosystem to thrive (and they make honey!). But the bee population appears to be in trouble—for a combination of factors, bee populations across the globe have been declining for decades. However, one innovative Israeli company has folks "buzzing" about a high-tech beehive that they think might help bring the bee population back from the brink of disaster.
Israeli tech startup company, Beewise, has gained international attention and some big money investors for its robotic beehives. The company recently announced that Insight Partners, a New York-based investment and private equity firm, is putting $80 million into their project—the "Beehome."
Beewise's Beehome is a high-tech, solar-powered super condominium for bees. It can house up to 24 bee colonies—that's about the equivalent of 50 hives. The Beehome features robotics, AI (artificial intelligence), computer software, and a mobile app that lets beekeepers keep an eye on the hive from anywhere, 24 hours a day. The Beehome automatically keeps the temperature and humidity just right for the bees. It also takes care of pests and parasites (deadly little creatures that can wipe out a colony quickly!). The robotic home also notifies the keeper when human intervention is needed, and it identifies when a colony is about to swarm (leave the hive for good). The Beehome even harvests the honey!
Beewise co-founder and CEO Saar Safra says the company is on a mission to save the world's bee population. And Beehome is their secret weapon. "The Beehome works with 24 colonies, 12 on each side. And in the center, there's a robotic system that moves and monitors [the colonies] 24/7 using computer vision, machine learning, and neural networks. It dispenses food, water, medicine if there is a disease or pest, it knows if it's too hot or cold — the robot can treat all of this."
Safra says a "perfect storm" of loss of habitat, changes in the climate, too much use of chemicals in agriculture, along with the usual parasitic mites and other pathogens have caused bees to disappear over the last several decades—the world "is losing about 40 percent of colonies every year."
According to a report by Bee Informed Partnership, beekeepers in the US lost an estimated 45 percent of their managed honeybee colonies between April 2020 and April 2021—the second-highest annual loss on record.
The United Nations is also tracking the global situation with bees because "nearly 90% of the world's wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world's food crops and 35% of global agricultural land." Believe it or not, bees and other pollinators are necessary for biofuels, some medicine, food for livestock, candles, musical instruments, and more.
Safra believes that technology is a key to turning things around.
"Treating and caring for living biological beings in real-time helps keep them strong and healthy. A robot can do this all day long; it doesn't get tired. Humans can't treat bees in real-time. If there's a problem, you don't know about it until you get to the hives. They [beekeepers] need to drive into the field — if they have 1,000 boxes scattered around, they need to look into them to see what's happening, and often
it's too late as the colony has collapsed." According to an internal study done by
Beewise, the Beehome can help reduce colony collapse by 10 percent…which Safra says means that "more bees stay alive, there's more honey and more pollination."
Beewise, founded in 2018, is now up to $120 million in investments. And with this latest round of funding, they have announced the launch of a new lighter-weight version of the Beehome with an even better feeding system and sturdier solar panels.
"We are the only company on the planet that is deploying precision robotics in tandem with the world's most innovative technologies, including AI and computer vision in order to save the bees," Safra said.
And the Beehome seems to be in high demand in the US. Safra said they have had thousands of orders, and with this new funding, Beewise "will be able to meet incredible market demand through increased manufacturing, develop additional product iterations, and further improve pollination."