Monday, 20 May 2019 11:54

Inmarsat, ApisProtect partner to help stem global bee population decline

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Global satellite communications company Inmarsat is partnering with Irish agritech company ApisProtect to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor the health of honey bees.

The collaboration aims to develop a globally scalable IoT solution for connected apiaries, to help stem what the two companies say is the significant decline of bee populations and increase crop production worldwide.

ApisProtect says it has developed a solution which reduces colony loss, improves the yield of commercial beekeeping and makes apiaries much easier to manage.

Inmarsat is supporting ApisProtect as the global connectivity partner, ensuring the solution can be deployed “anywhere on the planet”.

A statement from the two companies says ApisProtect brings the power of advanced sensors and machine learning technology into the hive to deliver a 24/7 early warning system so beekeepers can give at-risk hives immediate attention and improve bee health, giving beekeepers actionable insights and alerts to help prevent losses and increase colony productivity.

The solution consists of an ApisMonitor Unit which sits in a beehive and is connected to an analytics platform optimised for measuring honey bee health via Inmarsat’s Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) and Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) connectivity. This in turn feeds into a machine learning algorithm for early detection and mitigation of bee health issues.

Inmarsat and ApisProtect say they are making a joint investment in the next phase of the project to demonstrate effectiveness of the data collection and analysis across diverse climates and bee species, spanning Ireland, the UK, the EU, the US and South Africa ahead of a commercial launch in late 2019.

The companies say the global agri-food industry contributes an estimated $284 billion to the global agri-food industry annually, with honey bees playing an essential role in global food production.

“One third of all food that is consumed worldwide depends on pollinators, such as bees, and there are 91 million managed beehives worldwide. However, US commercial beekeepers alone experienced declines of 38 percent in colonies in 2015-2016,” the companies said.

Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, co-founder and chief executive of ApisProtect, said: “Without a healthy bee population there could be severe food shortages across the world, which is why we have developed an advanced system to monitor current population levels and provide realtime insights, to help beekeepers increase the health and productivity in their colonies.

“ApisProtect will provide beekeepers with actionable insights that will brief them on the condition of their hives, identify problem colonies and suggest a variety of actions to keep their colonies healthy and prevent losses, providing a 24/7 early warning system. This also enables them to make earlier interventions in the event of a problem, leading to reduced costs.

“Many hives are situated in remote locations globally and we needed a partner who could support our project with Industrial IoT expertise and a variety of connectivity technologies. Inmarsat is delivering highly reliable hybrid satellite/cellular and LoRaWAN technologies to ensure that we can provide services to beekeepers no matter how remote their location. Additionally the mobile nature of Inmarsat’s services mean that if hives need to be moved for pollination purposes, we can still continue to deliver hive data with minimal disruption.”

Paul Gudonis, president of Inmarsat, said, “We are incredibly proud to be working with ApisProtect to help reduce the decline of bee populations globally and to support efficient crop pollination”.

“Combining ApisProtect’s groundbreaking sensor and machine learning technology with our world leading connectivity capabilities and IoT expertise will offer beekeepers a powerful tool for supporting the health of their apiaries.

“The stability and reliability of the connectivity is highly important to this solution as continual uploading of hive data is imperative to understand the realtime health of bee colonies. We hope that this partnership will aid beekeepers in maintaining strong, healthy colonies and will help increase the global bee population.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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