You might not realize it, but we all get a massive buzz off of bees.
For millennia, humans have reared these creatures for their honey, prized for its utility as a sweetener, preservative, and for its medicinal properties.
More than that, bees are our planet’s arch-pollinators; responsible for helping many of the world’s plants to reproduce. That means they play a much bigger role in our survival than simply producing honey (tasty as it may be.) Pollination leads to new generations of plants that oxygenate our atmosphere, strengthen our soils, sequester carbon – and, of course, that feed, clothe, and shelter us.
But pollinators — including bees — appear to be in decline. The picture is a complicated one that is yet to be fully explained, but disease, parasites, habitat destruction, and climate change are all argued to play a role.
Italian startup 3Bee is aiming to fight back on behalf of our furry friends by using technology to “listen to the bees’ needs and intervene when they are unwell,” as it states on its website. This tech platform include sensors that can be placed in honeybee hives in order to monitor what’s going on inside.
3Bee recently joined the GROW Impact Accelerator, which is backed by AgFunder and GROW. AFN spoke to the startup’s CEO Niccolò Calandri (NC) to find out more about the buzz-iness…
AFN: What problem is 3Bee trying to solve, and how does your tech offer a solution?
NC: 3Bee is trying to buffer the mortality of key pollinators through monitoring and predictive action. Our technology is deployed across a wide network of beekeepers – more than 3,000 in Italy by now, and already present in over 80 countries worldwide – with the aim of mapping the health status of honey hives and providing a quick and effective decision support system. In addition to this, 3Bee has developed several assets to restore the bee to the center of environmental bio-monitoring.
AFN: What have been some of the biggest challenges for 3Bee so far? What have been some of the biggest successes?
NC: The biggest challenge at 3Bee was to raise awareness about the protection of bees and pollinators in a creative way. Insects are extremely confused within a macro-category of ‘annoying little animals that need to be defeated,’ and fighting this prejudice with gamification was the real challenge we faced. The success that we feel has been most valuable to date is people’s recognition of the very value of the bee as a natural bio-indicator and sentinel of environmental and social wellbeing, and the identification of 3Bee as the activating partner that can [realize this.]
AFN: Do you have any numbers or case studies that demonstrate the impact of your tech?
NC: Together with ESA [the European Space Agency] we are developing the first predictive system to analyze biodiversity.
With CREA [Italy’s Council for Agricultural Research & Analysis of Agricultural Economics] we are developing algorithms for analyzing starvation mortality. Bees — not only honey bees — are facing an increasing danger of starvation mortality due to adverse climate trends.
In collaboration with the CNR [Italy’s National Research Council] we are developing intelligent systems to study pollination and how to defend bees during this process.
AFN: What does ‘impact’ mean to you personally, and to 3Bee as an organization? Why is social and environmental impact so important?
NC: The concept of impact is the company’s driving force. Our sometimes ‘activist’ mission has fuelled the growth of the team in terms of ambitious and goal-focused resources [and created a] mindset aimed at rapid evolution.
3Bee has added an impact measurement asset to its activities, [aimed at] compensating for the more direct consequences of climate change on pollinators.