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Beekeeping at the time of the hive connected

More and more start-ups are offering products for beekeepers. Andy Duback / AP

They are called Beelife, BeeZbee, Bee Label, Beegleam, CitizenBees, MiteNot, Connecthive, Hostabee, Bee2Beep or SamartHive and share the promotion of high-tech beekeeping. ” Every day sees new start-ups with connected hive projects. It does not stop Observes Maxime Mularz, founder of Hostabee, who has installed sensors in a thousand hives and plans to implement 50,000 in the next three years. This company based in Saint-Quentin (Aisne), a pioneer in this field, has just concluded a partnership with Veto-Pharma, a French laboratory specializing in bee disease prevention products, which will broadcast abroad its module. Its function: to follow remotely the evolution of the temperature and hygrometry (humidity) of the colony.

Timber, a company specializing in industrial weighing, will market Bee2Beep in January 2019. Labeled “origin France”, this scale connected via a low frequency link measures the weight of the hive. In spring and summer, it is therefore possible to know that it is time to harvest and, in winter, to remedy a dangerous decline in honey reserves. ” We are planning to integrate other data such as the IGN map of crops and water points within a radius of 3 km “Says Frédéric Timbert, who runs the company.

A faltering economic model

Other buzzing projects include the use of artificial intelligence to automatically count varroa mites, a mite that imposes expensive chemical treatment each year, or the introduction of a mechanism that can heat some wax frames. to eliminate the same parasite without damaging the bees or melting the wax. Cameras and sensors could also warn of the presence of Asian hornets – on a very characteristic flight – or measure the activity of the swarm depending on the inputs and outputs of bees or the intensity of its buzz.

“There is nothing to stop us from imagining that Asian hornets can be lasered inside the hive or a lot of other things, but as long as the honey is paid € 3.50 per kilo to the producers, the price barrier will remain dissuasive”, however tempers Maxime Mularz. According to him, beekeeping 2.0 seems especially promising to the countries where it is practiced on an industrial scale, as in the United States, where the producers rent their hives to ensure the pollination of the almond trees and where the costs can be amortized on tens or even hundreds of thousands of settlements.

In France and in Europe, high-tech beekeeping is emerging as a new economic model, still in its infancy, more urban than truly rural, because it is replete with new actors. Rather than selling its connected scale, Timber prefers to offer a rental (20 euros per month). “A connected scale allows the beekeeper time and travel savings but for this kind of product, he believes, the main target are companies that install hives and wish to enhance and showcase their investment. “ Large companies that must take action in the context of the obligations imposed by CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and which, in general, entrust professional beekeepers with daily maintenance, are targeted. For them, Timber will offer to complete its installation with a video camera ” to retransmit on a screen installed in the lobby the comings and goings of the foragers “.

GPS against flights of hives

In reverse of a culture that favors individual empirical know-how, or even ancestral practices, beekeeping start-ups are working on the implementation of decision aids. Pooling the surveys carried out in control hives makes it possible to define predictive models capable of creating alerts to warn the beekeeper in the event of good news (a generous acacia honeydew) or less positive signs, such as an excess of moisture. end of winter or a famine caused by the heat wave.

A specific demand, however, could open a first breach for high-tech apiculture: the fight against swarms, whose prices have exploded with the increase in mortality. “In the category of connected objects, our best selling concerns – by far – the frames equipped with a discrete GPS beacon that can find hive thieves”says Robin Seillé, sales manager of Icko Apiculture, the European leader in the sale of hive products.

Jean-Michel Normand

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