According to the USDA, “One out of every three bites of food in the United States depends on honey bees and other pollinators. Honey bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops each year, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables.” But since 2006, roughly 30 percent of beehives have collapsed due to disease, pesticides and loss of habitat.
The good news, however, is that a Canadian startup called Nectar is using technology to help beekeepers better manage their colonies to help fight off this decline. The company creates sensors (also called Nectar) that go directly into beehives to monitor data such as temperature, humidity, and weight of the hive as well as the frequencies the bees emit.
Up to three sensors can be placed in a hive, depending on the type of data and how much of it you want to collect. For instance, one can be placed in the brood to monitor bee activity, or you can add more to get an overall sense of the hive and its honey production. Each sensor uses Bluetooth, which, according to the company’s lead apicultural scientist, won’t harm the bees. Readings are broadcast from the sensors to a nearby gateway every hour, and then the data is transmitted to the Cloud.
Nectar then parses through all that information and transmits it to a dashboard that keeps the beekeeper updated on the state of their bees. They can quickly learn if a new queen is hatching, whether the temperature in the hive is ideal, if there are parasites in the hive, or when the bees are about to swarm (when roughly half of the colony splits off to create a new hive).
Nectar wants to modernize beekeeping, which hasn’t changed its traditional methods for the past 100 years. Those traditional methods are manual and disruptive, with beekeepers physically opening up hives each week to check in on them, which agitates the bees and reduces their honey production. Once inside the hive, beekeepers usually rely on inaccurate, “gut” reactions to the look, sound and smell to determine its overall health.
According to Nectar co-Founder Marc-André Roberge, the result of adding his company’s sensors is farmers “Cutting down on operating cost. Losing fewer hives and raising revenue in terms of honey production and pollination contracts.”
Nectar was part of the Founder Fuel accelerator’s 2017 cohort, which gave the company $100,000 (Canadian). Nectar sensors are in pilot programs right now with commercial beekeepers, and the company aims to officially launch the first version of their product in Q1 of 2019 (when the new bee season starts). It will cost $2.50 ($1.98 USD) per month for one sensor, $4.00 ($3.17 USD) for two sensors, and $5.50 ($4.37 USD) for three sensors.
Nectar’s homepage says it can “Give your bees a voice.” Hopefully, people will listen.