In Toulouse, a start-up is creating connected beehives to “‘listen to what bees have to tell us”
BeeGuard, a Toulouse start-up, has launched since 2016 in connected hives to help beekeepers in their monitoring. During the week of October 11, 2021, it launched a new service, Apialert, to develop biomonitoring and better understand the environment of bees.
The observation gives the drone. The year 2021 “is the worst” to pay “French beekeeping since there are statistics on harvests”, deplores Olivier Fernandez, the president of the union of beekeepers in Occitania, at the microphone of France-Blue Wednesday 20 October. Across France, beekeepers collected half as much honey as last year.
In question: catastrophic climatic conditions in spring and summer. Long periods of frost, cold and rain followed one another, depriving the bees of flowering – and therefore, of food. Olivier Fernandez also points the finger “the permanent use of pesticides and fungicides which weaken the hives”.
A “disastrous” year: the 2021 harvest will be between 7,000 and 9,000 tonnes only, less than half of that of 2020, due to the very weather conditions of spring and summer, lamented the National Union of French beekeeping #AFP pic.twitter.com/bPOuaeUubV
– Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) October 19, 2021
Every year, “we let 35% of honey bee colonies die. Instead of developing their herds, beekeepers are forced to force reproduction to compensate for this mortality rate “, to alert Christian Lubat.
Technology at the service of bees
What if biomonitoring, this method using living organisms to monitor changes in the environment, could save bees? This is what believes this Toulouse, founder of BeeGuard. This start-up, created in 2016 and based in Labège (Haute-Garonne), specializes in connected beehives.
Goal : “create a decision support tool for beekeepers at 360 °”, thanks to sensors measuring different indicators (temperature, hygrometry for the queen’s deck, weight for foraging and stock status, weather) but also a GPS tracking system for securing the hives. To date, 4,000 beehives in France and Europe are equipped.
But the start-up now wants to find a place in the biomonitoring market. It launched its new service, Apialert, at the Pollutec trade fair held in Lyon from October 12 to 15.
Zoom on our bee counter #Apialert launched exclusively on # Pollutec21 !@MyBeeGuard extends its biomonitoring offer with #Apialert based on a bee counter by video analysis in partnership with @Apilab
Come and discover it on our stand E 121 in Hall 4! ?? pic.twitter.com/3ro1X3UzhG
– BeeGuard (@MyBeeGuard) October 13, 2021
Video counter embedded in the hive
“By analyzing the exceptional amount of data by beekeepers using our connected hives, we were struck by the obvious “, explains Christian Lubat. “The data collected actually shows the quality of the environment in which pollinators live. Like a photograph at a given time.”.
Bees are sentinels of the environment, a voice for the imbalances that humans have created. They can be the natural drone, which collects information on the quality of the environment. It would be interesting to listen to what the bees have to tell us.
Apialert is a bee counter by video analysis, embedded in the hive. By continuously filming the flight board, an artificial intelligence detects and counts the flow of bees. The difference between the number of entries and exits gives the daily mortality rate of the insects.
“Death can be natural, it is the cycle of life”, underlines the president of BeeGuard. Especially since the longevity of a bee does not exceed a few weeks during the summer. He adds : “But it can also be an effect of pollution, pesticides, or a wider health problem”.
Thus, if a farmer observes an acute mortality rate, he can take the necessary measures to protect his hive. For example, if this occurs after spreading in a neighboring field or in his own, he can move his herd or think about alternatives to the phytosanitary products he uses.
Weigh in the debates
Apialert is not intended to be a tool for beekeepers alone. Christian Lubat readily cites other types of farmers, and the same companies and public authorities that could be affected by this new service.
Car there “mission” Apialert (and BeeGuard in general), it is “to provide concrete elements, to provide tools to the various actors” to influence debates and discussions for the protection of bees.
And, why not, get the public authorities to take decisions in favor of beekeeping and the protection of bees. Christian Lubat recalls that more than 70% of crops (fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, spices among others) need an animal pollinator.
For his part, Olivier Fernandez concludes: “Today, beekeepers are working for the survival of bees. If it weren’t for the beekeepers, if they went on strike, we would have serious food shortages.”