BeeHero: Smart Pollination

How many of us associate bees to honey or to regular insects?

During my Bachelor degree I had the opportunity to take part in a class held by Michal Roizman, CSO of BeeHero, a StartUp that offers services of cutting-edge precision pollination, combining the world of nature and the one of technology.

Today, in honor of the World Bee Day, I am pleased to publish the interview made by MadaAdvances to Michal Roizman. She will help us have a better understanding of bees and how this startup is helping beekeepers and farmers in the management of pollination processes.

What is BeeHero?

BeeHero provides cutting-edge precision pollination services. With fewer resources and exponentially increasing demand, industrial farming is at a breaking point and soon won’t be able to meet the needs of a hungry world. We help growers maximize crop yields through pollination services: combining sophisticated machine learning algorithms with remote sensor technology in commercial bee-hives to stimulate full output potential during peak pollination cycles.

Who is behind BeeHero?

We started BeeHero as four founders. Itai Kanot is the COO, a second-generation commercial beekeeper, who managed and operated the largest bee farm in Israel. Omer Davidi is the CEO, and he is a serial entrepreneur, that founded and sold two companies. Yuval Regev, the CTO, is a technological expert in hardware and data analytics, and myself - Michal Roizman, CSO. I have vast experience in team management in the fields of Human Robot Interaction. We feel very privileged for the opportunity to bring technology to this fascinating world of pollination. We are even more privileged to have a team of researchers and developers that like to balance "boots on the ground" with time in the office. For us, the most exciting part is to meet our customers, in the field. We are always aware of the great impact those people have on society by doing their day to day jobs. This gives us everlasting motivation in pursuing BeeHero's vision.

Where is BeeHero located?

BeeHero has an office in Palo Alto, California, and an office in Tel Aviv. We have two Bee Labs: one in Italy and one in Israel.

Today is the World Bee Day. Many people don’t understand the importance of bees, can you explain how do they contribute to our world and life?

Most people think of honey when they think of bees. But bees play a much more significant role in all of our lives - pollination. Honey bees are the most efficient pollinators on earth. The importance of pollination to world food supply is well documented. 75% of the world’s food crops rely to some extent on insect pollination. Some examples are nuts, fruits, and vegetables including almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon, squash, followed by oil seed crops such as sunflower. Until the end of the 20th century, pollination was provided for free as an ecosystem service by honey bees and wild bee pollinators. However over the last 50 years, there has been a 300% increase in the area of pollinator dependent crops.

The situation is made worse by declines in diversity and abundance of wild pollinators, which has led to increased demand for - and reliance upon - rented honeybee colonies. Honey bees have suffered from increased mortality rates, weakening health and productivity. In the USA, the annual average rate of colony loss reported by beekeepers over the last 10 years is 37.8%. This is stressing pollination capacity causing price increases for pollination services, while the strength of colonies is variable and pollination performance suboptimal. Simply put, bees are the key to feeding the globe and we need to take care of them.

How did BeeHero start?

It was Itai Kanot, our COO, who introduced us to the fascinating world of bees and pollination. From the first day it was clear that we needed to find a solution to this enormous problem. We saw that the world of bee pollination wasn’t getting the attention it deserved, and we had the opportunity to tackle it ourselves. To fully understand the problem, we engaged key stakeholders at every level. We immediately realized that to secure food for the next generation (and promote bee health) we need to create a solution that benefits both commercial beekeepers and growers. That solution is BeeHero.

What is the main problem about pollination?

The pollination effectiveness of managed honey bees depends on the number, density, spread, location and strength of colonies and the timing of their introduction. Prior to BeeHero, there was no means available for real time monitoring of pollination activity and no data, tools, or systems upon which farmers could base their pollination management decisions. Both beekeepers and farmers had no economically viable way of monitoring actual effectiveness or efficiency of pollination services in real time, and could only assess the impact on crop yield when it was already too late: at harvest. Precision Agriculture, while widely adopted in the management of other agricultural inputs such as soil preparation, irrigation, weed and pest control, hadn’t made it to pollination. Compared with the other inputs required to produce a crop, pollination was the most poorly managed. There is significant untapped potential for data-driven, yield-enhancing pollination management services.

Can you explain us how your “smart beehives” work?

BeeHero has applied remote sensor technology and data analytics to develop a solution that will enable the precision management of honey bee colonies and pollination performance to create new opportunities for sustainable increases in crop yield. Data generated from internal hive sensors and environmental parameters is analyzed by Machine Learning algorithms to provide key measures of hive health, strength and pollination effectiveness for beekeepers and farmers. Beekeepers can track the condition of their hives throughout the year, receiving key metrics that aid colony management to produce healthy, strong, and efficient colonies for supply into the pollination network. Farmers can now monitor hive strength and pollination effectiveness in real time during pollination cycles, informing optimal strategies for hive placement in the crop such as timing of introduction, positioning, spacing between hives or groups of hives, as well as the stocking density. Data driven best practices can be developed for different crops, cultivars, locations, climates, field sizes, and local habitat availability rather than the current ‘rule of thumb’ applied across highly variable situations. For the first time it is possible to directly measure and manage pollination effectiveness in real-time, a major breakthrough for the farming of 75% of the world’s food crops. This will not only provide opportunities for sustainable increases in crop yield, but improved crop quality, nutrition, and commercial value.

Have you noticed an increase in the crop yields after using your products?

Yes, because it depends on the type of crop, the results are different in each crop. At the very least data-driven precision pollination protects against losses (acres with insufficient pollination), meaning we are able to optimize every tree and every drop of water.

What are your main crops productions?

We focus on Almonds, Berries, Gourds, Sunflowers, Apples, Canola, Cotton and more. We also pollinate coffee and soy, that today, do not involve bee pollination (soy was genetically modified to not be dependent on bees). Research from recent years shows interesting results - when incorporating bees in the pollination seasons of those crops - there is an increase in yields. We run trials on those crops as well. Precision pollination can lead to a fundamental improvement in the way we grow these important crops today.

Mada Advances is a team of 10 women, scientists, from Rome, Milan and Tel Aviv. How many women work on your team?

We are a small but diverse team with women at every level of our organization. Today, there are 4 women in the company.

I wanted to thank Michal Roizman and the BeeHero team for their daily work in the safeguard of pollinators as well as having a positive impact on our earth.

Miriam Sonnino

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