Robotic hives, which constantly monitor the bees: this is the discovery of the Israeli start-up Beewise, created in 2018. A hundred of these devices, called “Beehome” (“bee house” in English), have already been deployed in Israel and a dozen in the United States, while waiting for Europe, a market in which the company hopes to enter in two years. Their objective is to reduce bee mortality, major pollinators and guarantors of food security.
Beehome containers are like normal wooden hives, except that they are managed by a robot placed inside which monitors these insects, controls their habitat and provides care. “The robot is equipped with sensors that allow it to know what is happening in the frames”, explains Netaly Harari, director of operations for Beewise in a kibbutz in Galilee, Israel. She specifies: “Thanks to artificial intelligence, our software knows what the bees need.»
The robot can also automatically dispense sugar, water, medicine. In the event of a problem, it alerts the beekeeper via an application. The latter can then intervene remotely from his computer and move if necessary. The solar-powered mega hive can also regulate temperature, eliminate nuisances and even extract honey, thanks to an integrated centrifuge, according to the start-up which has 100 employees and has raised about 76 million. euros of investment to develop its exports.
Beewise will produce honey for the first time from the end of May, the “first honey in the world made with artificial intelligence!”, enthuses Netaly Harari. For Shlomki Frankin, a 41-year-old beekeeper who works in Kibbutz Galilee, “the robot is a tool for the beekeeper, but it does not replace it”. “I can do a lot of simple tasks remotely like making the hive bigger or shrinking it […] or let the robot do that and focus on other tasks,” he says, adding “save a lot of time”.
70% of crops depend on bees
These last years, many bees have disappeared in the world, victims of “colony collapse syndrome”attributed to a combination of several factors. “The decrease in flower fields due to construction has reduced the sources and diversification of food for bees”, explains Professor Sharoni Shafir who heads the Hebrew University’s bee center in Rehovot. Added to this is the use of pesticides, diseases and parasites such as varroa destructor, a devastating mite, lists Professor Shafir.
A significant part of human food results from pollination, provided by insects, which allows plants to reproduce. More than 70% of crops – almost all fruits, vegetables, oilseeds and protein crops, spices, coffee and cocoa – depend very heavily on it. “Bees and other pollinators are essential for food security and nutrition,” summarizes the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which celebrates World Bee Day on May 20, to emphasize the importance of their preservation.