ApisProtect, an Irish startup using Internet-of-Things technology to monitor beehives, has raised $1.8 million in seed funding.
The startup measures data from beehives — including temperature, humidity, CO2, sound, and movement data — and analyzes that data to provide beekeepers with alerts about potential issues that could lead to bee colony losses.
Bees are responsible for one-third of the food the world eats, but bee colony losses are on the rise with US beekeepers losing around 38% of their colonies between 2015 and 2016, according to a national survey.
ApisProtect will use the investment to expand overseas and open its first US office at the Western Growers Association’s WG Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas, California.
It raised funding from a group of US and Ireland-based investors including Silicon Valley investor Atlantic Bridge Capital, which is investing out of its $80 million University Fund. Atlantic Bridge’s University fund is focused on “commercializing cutting-edge research from leading institutions.” Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland, agtech accelerator The Yield Lab, agtech VC Finistere Ventures, and acceleration fund Radicle Growth also invested.
“Our investment partners offer deep knowledge of the pollination services market, as well as the agriculture and IoT technology sectors,” said Fiona Edwards Murphy PhD, CEO and co-founder of ApisProtect in a statement. “This investment will allow us to accelerate our expansion as we work to create an extensive global hive health database to power our machine learning insights. The aim is to help commercial pollinators and growers to optimize pollination.”
ApisProtect deploys six “ApisMonitor” sensors into a hive to collect and send data to its software platform every four hours. Using machine learning algorithms, the startup can detect when the bees might be sick, depending on the temperature. It can also detect if the queen bee has left or the presence of predators through the sound detected with the microphone. The data can also monitor the size of the colony and potential for disease or pests.
“This actionable information lets us help commercial beekeepers to maximize pollination and honey yield,” said a spokesperson.
ApisProtect currently monitors over six million bees across Europe and North America, with the aim of reducing the number of manual beehive checks that beekeepers need to do with a 24/7 early warning system.
“ApisProtect is uniquely placed to disrupt a global, well-established industry with robust technology developed by Fiona Edwards Murphy, following her award-winning PhD research at University College Cork, Ireland. Atlantic Bridge has a strong track record of supporting Irish companies through key stages of development and helping them commercialize their technology globally through our network in Europe, the US, and China. We believe ApisProtect has the potential to ultimately help commercial pollinators and growers to optimize pollination.”
Computer technology giant Oracle is also hoping to provide beekeepers globally with warning alerts about the presence of predators or potential disease by creating a hive network in partnership with the World Bee Project, starting in the UK. The initiative will also build on machine learning algorithms to deliver those insights and warnings to beekeepers.
ApisProtect is not planning to join Oracle’s World Bee Project Hive Network.
“We’re excited about the various bee health projects around the globe, including the Oracle project. It’s great to see validation of both the scientific importance of co-ordinated bee monitoring and the commercial market for this technology. At this stage, we are focusing on completing our own validation phase, and we’re looking forward to monitoring over 9 million bees by the end of 2018,” said a spokesperson.