Innovation for the Honeybee

Beehive technologies to support the world's honey bee population

The decline of the world’s honeybee population has been cause for concern. A third of all food produced relies on their pollination, but bee numbers have fallen for 37% of species. It was while learning about beekeeping in 2013 that Bulgarian aeronautical engineer, Sergey Petrov, wondered if he couldn’t do something to reverse that trend.

“My grandfather had been a beekeeper but had passed away before I could learn the trade from him,” Petrov says. “I was overwhelmed with information about the bees dying and I wondered why no one was doing anything about it – we have sufficient technology, we have the connectivity. I started researching whether there was a feasible technology that could achieve this task.”

After winning a scholarship to develop the idea for 10 weeks at Singularity University in Silicon Valley, Petrov officially launched Pollenity in 2015. The business currently has three products – the Beebot, an in-hive sensor system that allows beekeepers to monitor the temperature, humidity and level of activity inside the hive remotely, the hiveBase, a wireless scale to track weight change and overall bee health, and the uHive, a complete sensor-equipped beehive. In 2017, the team won the best Internet of Things (IoT) startup at the Central European Startup Awards.

Petrov’s remote beehive management system is just one of the innovative startups to come out of Bulgaria in the past few years. Petrov agrees the startup scene in Bulgaria has changed significantly in the years since he first had his business idea. The eight-strong Pollenity team is now based at Puzl CowOrKing in Sofia, and has also benefited from local venture capitalist (VC) investment. In 2016, it received $348,000 (€300,000) from Bulgarian VC firm Neveq to build and start to market their products. It followed a $70,000 investment from two angel investors in California at the prototype stage, a year earlier.

The international attention is welcome, Petrov adds, particularly as their primary market is likely to be the US, where farmers hire bees from beekeepers to pollinate their crops. In the future, he hopes to develop a blockchain marketplace for pollinators, whereby hive health statistics and productivity data can be used to negotiate better contracts. Longer term, Petrov has visions of an “internet of bees”, whereby all hives around the world can be connected and the data shared. He owns 11 hives himself, situated just outside Sofia, and produces his own honey. “These creatures still have a lot to teach us,” he says.

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