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Customer story

BuzzTech: Keeping digital tabs on bees

This article was published on Dec 15, 2017, 2:27 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Beekeepers can now more efficiently monitor their hives, and from afar, with innovative software and sensing technology from BuzzTech, developed alongside Callaghan Innovation.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • BuzzTech has brought the art of beekeeping into the digital age with management software for beekeeping companies that can also tell beekeepers which hives need attention.  
    • The bespoke technology was developed in conjunction with Callaghan Innovation, with sensors used to give unique insights into the health of hives.
    • With global potential, BuzzTech isn’t slowing down. The business is already working on automatic detection of hive events as well as integrating machine learning to help classify certain events. 

    Bringing beekeeping into the digital age

    The modern beehive may have been invented in 1851 but human interaction with bees is reported to date back thousands of years. A common denominator throughout - the manual nature of managing beehives.

    One company wanted to change that. BuzzTech wanted to bring the ancient art of beehive management into the digital age, looking at how they could make beekeeping more efficient and insight led. Because spreadsheets, remote locations and long hours, just won’t do anymore.

    BuzzTech CEO Julian McCurdy says, “Medium size companies have 3,000 to 5,000 hives from Northland to Wairarapa, and the people managing those hives are living on the road and working extreme hours. Generally they keep track of everything using a system of spreadsheets, whiteboards, diaries and stickers, which leads to a range of problems. It’s not unusual for hives in remote locations to be stolen, missed, or even forgotten by beekeepers.”

    Bolstering BuzzTech’s R&D efforts

    In order to support BuzzTech’s ambitions, in 2016 Callaghan Innovation started working with the business. Specifically, our Research and Development Solutions team, with experts in sensors and automation, helped to develop algorithms, audio recordings and data from multiple temperature sensors to produce unique insights into the health of hives. This enhanced hive management provides prediction of important events such as swarming and colony condition alerts.

    Hive management just got easier

    The result of the work between Callaghan Innovation and BuzzTech was bespoke, innovative software and sensing technology. This beekeeping management software drastically improves the efficiency and effectiveness of hive management, telling beekeepers which hives need attention, based on the size and condition of the resident bees.

    BuzzTech gathers temperature and audio data from monitored hives, collecting five temperature readings and two seconds of audio at least once an hour from the centre of the colony. 

    We can see how strong a cluster of bees is because the temperature profile over time gives us the size, and audio gives us the condition. We run a classifier over that, which matches the sensor data with the inspection data from the beekeeper,

    - says McCurdy. 

    Due to the nature of the technology BuzzTech can target a range of customers, meaning its reach is wide. 

    “It’s actually a little bit scary to think how big BuzzTech could be. It could be used for colonisation of new hives right down to hobby beekeeping. Every single person who keeps bees can do a better job with this system. Even in countries like the Philippines, where their infrastructure is really basic - they burn trees to get honey - by using this system, even the most remote beekeepers can manage hives successfully.”

    For BuzzTech, the work towards a better beekeeping experience doesn’t stop there. The company is working towards automatic detection of hive events, such as swarming and the presence of the queen in the hive. As well, the next development phase will involve machine learning techniques to help classify the hive sound for particular events.

    Buzz Tech

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