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Hivemind: The Kiwi-made app that’s the ‘Fitbit for bees’

Hivemind has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help beekeepers check their hives remotely, and take proactive action to keep their bees safe and happy.

The “Hive Strength Monitor with WiFi” campaign aims to develop and commercialise an affordable and accessible WiFi monitor for beekeepers. Targeted at responsible beekeepers, commercial pollinators, and honey lovers alike, the monitor also includes an app that lets folks check on their bees remotely.

The system comes with sensors and remote monitoring software that measures bee activity and hive conditions, and alerts beekeepers of changes in humidity, temperature, and bee numbers.

With the hives connected to their own WiFi network, beekeepers can open their Hivemind app to quickly assess the condition and wellbeing of their hives. Large-scale deployments can also install a WiFi hotspot to provide intensive hive monitoring at minimal monthly fees.

“Our Hive Strength Monitor can also help beekeepers pick up any early signs of trouble and to act quickly to prevent or minimise both loss of their bees and potential spread of disease,” says Hivemind director Berwyn Hoyt. “Any sudden changes in activity or temperature could mean the bees are swarming, or dying off due to disease or hunger, or that the honey from the hives is being robbed by wasps. Hivemind data alerts can allow beekeepers to proactively assess the situation and mitigate any risk to their hives quickly.”

After two years in development, the launch was partly funded Callaghan Innovation. Today, there are close to 300 commercial Hivemind installations across New Zealand, Australia and the United States, with customers reporting increases in their honey yields by as much as 18 percent – not bad for a company that was only founded in 2012 in Christchurch.

Mike Everly of Forest & Bees Native Honey was one of Hivemind’s early adopters. “Our manuka honey hives are placed in very remote sites in New Zealand, many accessible only by helicopter,” he says. “Knowing what is happening through the season is critical to decisions about if and when we may need to add boxes, and when we need to harvest. Using this data, we selectively check on areas and make much better management decisions.”

Hoyt says that the importance of the role bees play in the survival of our planet can’t be understated. “Keeping bees happy has become a primary environmental concern where technology can play a significant role,” says Hoyt. “With better understanding of bee behaviour and hive conditions, beekeepers and commercial pollinators can potentially prevent swarms, dying colonies, and the spread of disease by mitigating risks early.”

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