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Ag Tech Start-Up Investigates Conditions Inside Commercial Beehives

Ag tech start-up The Bee Corp. is causing quite a buzz as it begins to monitor conditions inside commercial beehives. The four founders, who are Indiana University alumni and a current student, plan to build and test sensors to better understand bee needs and behaviors. The team will also investigate how to reduce the substantial negative economic impact of the colony collapse disorder and how to enhance beehive health in the U.S. and around the world.

According to a 2014 White House fact sheet, honeybees contribute more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Commercial beekeepers travel around the country with beehives in their trucks to pollinate almonds, sunflowers, apples, and other fruits.

“Since the onset of colony collapse disorder, or CCD, in 2007, beekeepers have experienced annual hive loss rates of 30% on average,” says Wyatt Wells, who is one of the founders and CMO. “Simultaneously, demand for honey and crops that depend on honeybees for pollination has grown steadily, resulting in an increasingly volatile industry. Our aim is to gather information that we can use to help reduce this volatility and to do so in a sustainable way for both the bees and the market that depends on them.”

The Bee Corp. owns and manages more than 100 hives in the southern and central regions of Indiana.

“We collect a comprehensive data set to gain a stronger understanding about the factors that contribute to a strong, healthy hive as well as factors that cause hive mortality,” he says. “We will perform research to test the hypotheses from the data we collect.”

Wells says the company has sourced best-in-class sensor hardware from domestic and international suppliers. “During the next six months, we will dedicate most of our resources to research, which will be an ongoing process,” he says. “In the third quarter, we will split our focus between research, data analysis, and prototype development.”

A $100,000 investment from the Indiana University Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology Competition (BEST) in February 2016 helped founders Ellie Symes, Simon Kuntz, Wyatt Wells, and Lucas Moehle establish The Bee Corp. Investors include IU alumni, business leaders from Bloomington, and the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., which protects, markets, and licenses intellectual property developed at Indiana University so it can be commercialized by industry. In addition to financial support from BEST investors, The Bee Corp. has received guidance and mentoring from IU alumni as the team has grown the business.

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