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Saturday 7 December 2019

Hive minds: Cork's ApisProtect twins with space agency research

Bee move: ApisProtect, founded by Dr Fiona Edwards Kennedy, aims to save bees
Bee move: ApisProtect, founded by Dr Fiona Edwards Kennedy, aims to save bees

Shawn Pogatchnik

BEEHIVE monitor ApisProtect has formed a partnership with the Irish research unit of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The Cork tech firm founded by Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy is developing hive monitoring technology to keep tabs on the health of 20 million honey bees from Ireland and the UK to South Africa and the US.

The new research will develop sensors able to work in remote locations and harsh environments - where no beehive sensor has gone before.

The agreement with the ESA's Space Solutions Centre, led by UCC's Tyndall National Institute, gives ApisProtect €50,000 in new funding and access to more "expertise, funding and partners", Dr Edwards Murphy said.

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David Gibbons, head of ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland, said it sought to support local innovators "to use space technology and space-generated data in commercial earth environments".

The deal comes 14 months after ApisProtect raised €1.5m in seed capital in a round led by Atlantic Bridge and Finistere Ventures, a Silicon Valley investor in agricultural technology.

"Our mission at ApisProtect is to save honey bees. If we don't take action now, we'll lose our most important insect ally," Dr Edwards Murphy said. "We want to secure the supply of one third of our diet, and make sure we can nourish and feed the 9.7 billion people on planet Earth by 2050."

ApisProtect employs 13 people in Cork and its new office in Salinas, California.

Salinas is a focal point for the world's biggest almond industry. It depends on the arrival each spring of two million bee colonies. Bee-keepers charge farmers flat fees for providing hives to ensure pollination.

"A host of problems, diseases and pests are devastating hive populations around the globe," she said.

"With our technology, beekeepers will be able to identify which of their colonies are strong or weak and practice precision bee-keeping, which will transform the industry."

Irish Independent

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