A new agriculture technology startup is looking to monitor the conditions inside commercial beehives.
The Bee Corp—founded by four current and former Indiana University students— is preparing to begin research and development on building and testing sensors to better understand bee needs and behaviors, while also looking to enhance beehive health in the U.S. and around the world.
The group will also study ways to reduce the substantial negative economic impact of colony collapse disorder—a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a Queen, food and only a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.
Indiana University alumni Wyatt Wells, CMO of Bee Corp, said colony collapse disorder has caused significant damage to commercial beehives.
“Since the onset of colony collapse disorder or CCD, in 2007, beekeepers have experienced annual hive loss rates of 30 percent on average,” Wells said in a statement. “Simultaneously, demand for honey and crops that depend on honeybees for pollination has grown steadily, resulting in an increasingly volatile industry.
“Our aim is to gather information that we can use to help reduce this volatility and to do so in a sustainable way for both the bees and the market that depends on them,” he added.
According to Wells, the sensors will utilize the best-in-class hardware from domestic and international suppliers.
Wells also explained the plans for the company moving forward.
“During the next six months, we will dedicate most of our resources to research, which will be an ongoing process,” he said. “In the third quarter, we will split our focus between research, data analysis and prototype development.”
The Bee Corp currently owns and manages more than 100 beehives in the southern and central regions of Indiana.
“We collect a comprehensive data set to gain a stronger understanding about the factors that contribute to a strong, healthy hive as well as factors that cause hive mortality,” Wells said. “We will perform research to test the hypotheses from the data we collect.”
Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to a 2014 White House fact sheet.
The Bee Corp was founded in 2016 after the group won a $100,000 investment from the Indiana University Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology (BEST) competition.
Investors in the business include successful IU alumni, business leaders from Bloomington and the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., which protects, markets and licenses intellectual property developed at Indiana University so it can be commercialized by industry.
In addition to financial support from BEST investors, The Bee Corp has received guidance and mentoring from IU alumni as the founders have grown the business.