LTE-M to Provide Vital Boost to Bee Populations in Agriculture
Honeybees are one of the great lynchpins of the ecosystems on which we rely. While their role in keeping the natural world’s gears turning is frequently underestimated, or overlooked entirely, much of our food production is dependent on healthy bee populations. Approximately one third of the of the world’s food supply relies on pollination by honeybees, including many of the most nutritious fruits and vegetables. Our fate is intrinsically tied up in theirs.
Beekeeping however is labour-intensive work. Finding enough workers with the appropriate skills, and then paying enough to retain them, is a significant challenge for the profession. Today’s beekeepers also need to invest in ways previous generations did not, on nutritional and medical maintenance, and on regular transportation of hives in order to meet the needs of industrial-scale agriculture. Climate change, too, presents novel challenges to the viability of hives in our time – as do the ubiquitous pesticides which underpin modern food production. It is currently more difficult and expensive to make beekeeping work as a sustainable business practice – just as the world’s population is rising at an unprecedented rate, and we need their help more than ever. This need has been reflected by demand among agricultural growers, with the value of beehives rising tenfold over the last few years; this also, however, clearly illustrates the converse shortfall in supply.
The Bee Corp’s work is aimed at reducing those overheads, by automating processes where possible, and allowing beekeepers to monitor them more accurately, thereby improving efficiency and the profitability of the profession. By connecting beehives to the Internet of Things via LTE-M, beekeeping can be conducted intelligently through advanced data analytics. In partnership with leading cellular solution developer NimbeLink, Bee Corp has developed the world’s most advanced hive tracking and management system: essential data such as temperature, humidity, movement and location is collected by a mobile module in the beehive, then transmitted back to the asset management platform, where the data is analysed by The Bee Corp. By helping beekeepers and their customers in the agricultural sector derive the greatest possible benefit from these vital creatures, Bee Corp hopes to set in train business practices from which the wider world can gain along with those directly concerned.
The Bee Corp and NimbeLink’s upcoming demo at the Mobile World Congress in Los Angeles next month will set out the business case for smart beekeeping to the profession, with LTE-M connectivity providing the essential longevity and range. “Remote locations and a small environment to work with necessitated robust battery performance, a rugged enclosure and small footprint,” explains NimbeLink’s CEO Scott Schwalbe; “with a battery life of 12 – 14 years, and dimensions of 4×4 inches, our Asset Tracking Solution provided an edge-to-enterprise answer to The Bee Corp’s situational awareness challenge.” The low unit, running, maintenance and power costs of LTE-M make it the ideal technology for a solution of this kind.
With bees now more difficult to keep alive than ever before – following the spread of predators like the Varroa mite, as well as chemical and climactic threats – beekeepers often simply do not have time to address sickly hives. With the savings in labour time achievable though intelligent beekeeping, beekeepers can now maintain the health of their populations for longer, allowing populations to rise with the demands of agriculture. The Bee Corp’s founding mission was to cultivate data on beehives by finding practical solutions for commercial beekeeper – the more quality data is accrued, the stronger a position the world is in to see off disasters like the Colony Collapse Disorder of the last decade. With the kind of data smart beekeeping will generate as a matter of course, companies and policymakers will be able to ensure the practices and chemical conditions needed to ensure the growing bee populations upon which we all so heavily rely.