Food Tech

Beewise has $118 million in funding and a plan to save the bees

The startup supplies its automated bee hives to beekeepers in several US states.
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Beewise

· 4 min read

Calls to “save the bees” are not without good reason.

The bee population has been in decline for years due to factors like climate change, pesticides, pests, and disease. According to the USDA, more than one-third of all crop production in the United States requires insect pollination, yet the number of honeybee hives has declined from around 6 million in the 1940s to just ~2.5 million today.

California-based startup Beewise aims to help address the issue by using a combination of technologies to automate oversight of beehives for beekeepers. The company has raised over $118.7 million in funding since its founding in 2018, including an $80 million funding round in March of this year.

US beekeepers lost 45.5% of their managed honeybee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021, per the Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit that runs an annual survey on beekeeper colony losses. The startup claims its tech-powered “Beehome” decreases the number of failed colonies to just 8%.

Beewise’s Beehome is a modern update on the man-made beehive, which has been left mostly unchanged since its invention in the mid 1800s. The Beehome can hold, monitor, and maintain up to 24 colonies and is overseen by a robot, making it “as if every bee had their own beekeeper 24/7,” Beewise CEO and co-founder Saar Safra told Emerging Tech Brew.

The Beehome’s solar-powered robot uses cameras, AI, and neural networks to monitor bees and address needs like food, water, temperature, humidity, and pests, and administer medicine to sick bees.

Beewise offers its Beehome for $400 a month as a subscription service with a $2,000 delivery fee and currently supplies it to beekeepers in states like California, Florida, North Dakota, and Oregon. That includes Olivarez Honey Bees, a family-run northern California operation that claims to produce the most queen bees in North America and which has been trialing Beewise’s tech since September 2021, according to its owner, Ray Olivarez Jr.

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Olivarez said he found the Beehome useful in managing his bee colonies, but emphasized that until the tech is widely deployed, it is too early to tell how effective it actually is.

“They’re just getting started. But I think they’ve gotten off to a pretty good start. That’s pretty radical, having a robotic arm—it is in this world, in my world,” Olivarez said.

The Beehome is also able to split colonies before they swarm and leave the beehive, which Safra said could help mitigate the effects of colony-collapse disorder, which occurs when worker bees abandon the hive and the queen en masse.

Beewise’s tech can also help with harvesting honey from frames in the colonies, avoiding a manual process that can sometimes damage or stress the beehives themselves. When it comes to pest management, especially from the deadly Varroa mite, Safra said the Beehome forgoes the conventional treatment of pesticides in favor of heating up the hive to a temperature where the mites die, but the bees endure.

Beekeepers are still able to manually work inside the Beehome, but they are also able to manage the Beehome remotely. The ability to monitor and respond to issues either automatically or remotely could be a significant help for beekeepers who have faced labor shortages, leaving them unable to adjust conditions in real-time due, in part, to labor shortages, Olivarez said.

“The nice thing is that we’re not changing beekeeping. All we’re doing is basically automating it and providing it in real-time. The methods remain the same. We don’t change the food the bees consume. We don’t change the medicine. We’re basically mimicking what a beekeeper would do, [but] in real-time,” Safra said.

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