Robots are Using AI to Become Nannies for Honeybees
Robots are using AI to radically slow down or even reverse the global honeybee’s die-off
Honeybees once when checking in at the BeeWise “Five-Star Hotel”, don’t want to come out. And a robotic arm is available there to take care of their every need. Hungry, Sick, or Hot? Artificial intelligence software tells robots to administer nutrients or antibiotics, harvest honey or crank up the AC inside a high-tech hive.
A Robotic arm is taking care of bees and the intensive care routine is fully focused to maximize the bees’ chances of survival and success against incredible odds so that they can continue to pollinate billions of acres of crops each year despite an increasingly warming planet. May 20th is World Bee Day, celebrated when honeybees in the northern hemisphere begin to reproduce and bee products are harvested in the southern hemisphere. It is also a time to consider the alarming state of the global bee population and what it means for the planet and our food supply. For the last many years, these essential insects, which pollinate more than 75% of all fruits, vegetables, and nuts cultivated worldwide, have been falling victim to severe human-caused stressors, including toxic pesticides, new diseases, and rising temperatures.
BeeWise a four-year-old startup based in Oakland, California, presents a particularly inspiring example of how robots and AI could radically slow and even reverse the global honeybee die-off. BeWise is a testament to our human ability to decipher even the most complex of problems. By now we know that we must adapt to climate change: changing how and where we live, how we grow food, and preserving the delicate balance of the ecosystems on which we depend. But all these coping measures raise another sad possibility: the more efficient our adaptation tools are, the more likely we are to avoid mitigating the root issues driving the crisis.
We should do both.
The bees require our help now and robots are using AI to save them. The rising pressures of crop monoculture, along with pesticides and diseases that rob bees of essential nutrients and increasingly unstable weather, are driving colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that can kill bee colonies by 25% to 30% per year. Erasing at a rate last 15 years.
Now heat, drought, and changing weather are making it worse.
Last year, a major national study reported an annual 45% die-off of commercial honeybee colonies. While the demand for bees in agriculture has grown rapidly in recent decades, the infrastructure for commercial pollination has been little developed. It is where BeeWise saw an opportunity for disruption. Founder Saar Safra describes his new commercial hive as a “five-star bee hotel.” The 10-foot-tall metal-clad, multilevel structures can house up to 10 colonies.
Moreover, to meet basic needs, the units can sense when insecticides have been sprayed into a neighboring area and close the hatches, locking insects out of the potential chemical drift.
To date, BeeWise has raised US$120 million and distributed 1,000 of its robotic hives to farms throughout California and Oregon. In four years, he has reduced the decline rate in the colonies he manages from 35% to less than 8%. They expect losses as low as 2% for their AI systems to better understand the needs of the bees. With the demand for their product far exceeding supply, they aim to have 10,000 units installed in farms by the end of 2024.