Meet the team behind Hivesite, Vijay Prema, Gareth Bell, James Emslie and Alistair Bell, four AgTech innovators who are helping New Zealand beekeepers alleviate one of their biggest challenges, the fight against the varroa mite.
The concept behind Hivesite was developed while the team was working on another project using machine vision, a technology that uses sensors to provide imaging based analysis.
“Gareth’s dad had some beehives on his property, which we found pretty fascinating and we thought, why don’t we put the machine vision inside the hives to see what we can find?” says Vijay.
Using the machine vision technology, the team were able to detect varroa mites in all of the beehives. Varroa mites are a major threat to the New Zealand honey bee, with an infestation weakening the immunity of bees, spreading disease and in severe cases leading to the death of entire bee colonies.
It was at that point the team realised there was no point in just identifying the mites, they needed to find a solution to get rid of them. From there, Hivesite was born.
The Hivesite solution is designed to help beekeepers by ridding their hives of the varroa mite using a thermal treatment. The solution fits onto existing beehives, is powered by the sun and automatically applies the treatment without using any chemicals.
The treatment kills off mites, without impacting the health of the bees. Done periodically, the system keeps mite levels down, so chemicals never have to be used.
“Varroa mites are affecting pretty much all beehives across the country, and at present beekeepers need to use chemicals to deal with the problem. Those chemicals have some major downsides, which include high cost and labour inputs. That’s the problem we’re looking to solve”.
The team of four have been working on the solution for the past year and a half, and amongst them they have a broad range of expertise.
“Gareth is in research and algorithms, mine (Vijay) is software engineering and leading innovation teams; James is a mechanical and electronic engineer who is experienced in product development and Alistair is a hobbyist beekeeper, who operates small businesses”.
While there are other companies internationally with similar solutions, Hivesite are the only ones doing it here in New Zealand and for New Zealand conditions.
“Our test is that we need to be able to put our solution onto a pallet and have it helicoptered to far flung locations and it still work. The existing solutions available on the market need to be manually moved around each hive, whereas ours is connected to the hive itself and it stays on there”.
Together the team are excited about the future for Hivesite, protecting bees and improving profitability and productivity of beekeepers.
“There are around 900,000 beehives in New Zealand, and if we had a unit on all of them then we might be able to get rid of varroa mites altogether. Elimination of the varroa mite in New Zealand - that would be pretty cool!”
The team also believes their solution has the potential to transition across to other products, which is all part of their greater roadmap.