UCC Allumna rolls out new technology to protect global bee population

By Kevin Branigan - Last update


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ApisProtect, a Cork-based innovator focused on helping beekeepers prevent losses and increase productivity, will create 25 new jobs and open its first US office after an investment boost of €1.5 million. The company, co-founded by UCC Electrical and Electronic Engineering alumna Dr Edwards Murphy, has closed a seed round led by Finistere Ventures, Atlantic Bridge Capital, Radicle Growth, The Yield Lab and Enterprise Ireland.

Colony Collapse Disorder

For years, scientists have been researching the cause of, and ways to halt, the decimation of the western honey bee population. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon which occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees. In the past two decades, there have been significant economic losses worldwide due to the reliance of agricultural crops on bee pollination. Mites; malnutrition; pathogens; genetic factors; immunodeficiencies; loss of habitat are among the causes put forward by scientists, but no one factor has been indicated as responsible for this global issue.

About Dr Edwards Murphy

Dr Edwards Murphy, who has a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from UCC, was also a participant in the University’s IGNITE programme, which specialises in supporting recent third-level graduates to turn innovative ideas into successful, scalable businesses.  In fact, this project was partially funded by St. Louis-based agtech accelerator The Yield Lab in 2016. Edwards Murphy has been honoured with awards from the Irish Research Council, IBM, The Irish Laboratory Awards, Google and IGNITE, and showcased the technology to HRH The Prince of Wales at UCC during the Royal Visit in June this year.

The Technology

Headed up by Dr Edwards Murphy, Dr Pádraig Whelan and Andrew Wood, with the team bringing engineering, scientific, beekeeping and commercial experience, this technology provides an in-hive sensor network with long-range, cellular and satellite-powered communication to proactively monitor honey bee colonies. Combining the sensor data on hive conditions, health and activity levels with its proprietary big data and machine learning techniques, this allows beekeepers actionable insights and alerts to help prevent losses and increase colony productivity.

ApisProtect monitors the health of more than six million honey bees in hives across Europe and North America, bringing the power of advanced sensors and machine learning technology into the hive to deliver a 24/7 early warning system to beekeepers, allowing them to give at-risk hives immediate attention.

USA Bound

This investment will allow ApisProtect to expand globally, and open its first US office at the Western Growers Association’s WG Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas, California. The technology developed by Dr Edwards Murphy, following her award-winning PhD research at UCC, is expected to disrupt the industry internationally.

The plan is for ApisProtect to rapidly scale and deploy their IoT (Internet of Things) technology to more climates, bee sub-species and bee foraging areas. They hope to eventually establish a presence in North America, South Africa and the United Kingdom, as well as growing its team in Ireland.

Responses

“This investment will allow us to accelerate our expansion as we work to create an extensive global hive health database to power our machine learning insights”, said Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, CEO and co-founder, ApisProtect. “We look forward to building our team of AI specialists, engineers and scientists over the next three years to 25 employees and helping to reduce honey bee losses worldwide.”

“With a science-driven, multi-disciplinary leadership team, ApisProtect is primed to fundamentally change the way commercial beekeepers around the globe manage their hives,” said Kieran Furlong of Finistere Ventures.

 


Kevin Branigan

Grand Finale of NUI Galway's Threesis
IOP Communicator Award for UCD physics postgraduate student


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