A local scientist gives Newsom an earful about bees at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
BeeHero CEO Omar Davidi (center) and co-founders Itay Kanute (left) and Yuval Regev (Courtesy of BeeHero)
Among the heads of state, dignitaries, and leaders of big-name companies like Visa, ExxonMobil, and Microsoft who arrived in San Francisco last week to speak at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation events, one computer scientist from Santa Cruz was causing quite a stir. In the ear of Governor Gavin Newsom.
BeeHero CEO Omar Davidi spoke about bees at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, right after former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke about international relations, and before Governor Gavin Newsom took the stage to discuss climate change and the economy. California.
The world’s population is increasing, Davide told host Helena Humphrey in a “fireside chat” at the Moscone Center. “We need to grow more food,” said Davide, wearing a gray suit and light blue tie. “We need more pollinators, and bees are the most efficient.” But the insects are at risk, with large numbers of bee colonies collapsing around the world every year, BBC News presenter Davide Humphrey said.
With business offices in Palo Alto and headquarters near Fresno, BeeHero aims to sustainably boost crop yields through artificial intelligence, in-hive bee monitoring and data analysis that increases the pollination of food plants. The company has grown so quickly that it made CNBC’s “Disruptors 50” list this year of innovative and upcoming startups — a high-profile highlight that helped place its CEO among such powerhouses in APEC, Davide believes.
The United Nations is at a loss for words when describing the threat posed by declining bee populations, resulting from modern agricultural practices, pesticides, loss of biodiversity and a warming climate: “The global decline in bee populations poses a serious threat to a wide range of vital plants,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said. On World Bee Day in May 2019, nearly three-quarters of the crops that provide 90% of the planet’s food depend on pollination by bees.
The USDA describes the health of honey bees and the 4,000 wild bee species in the United States as “of great importance to the well-being of American agriculture, food security, and the nation’s overall economy.”
BeeHero, founded in Israel in 2017 by Davide, second-generation beekeeper Itai Kanute, and systems engineer Yuval Regev, gives beekeepers advanced sensors to collect data to create “smart” hives, and sells AI-powered consulting services to farmers who employ beekeepers. So they can plant, maintain and irrigate crops to maximize honey bee pollination.
BeeHero is now the largest “vaccination provider” in the United States, Davide said. The company in December announced 300% year-over-year revenue growth and $64 million in total funding — including from food giant General Mills.
The three-day CEO summit continued through Thursday, bringing hundreds of powerful business leaders together to make presentations and hold meetings with government officials from the 21 APEC countries.
As Davide waited backstage at the Moscone Center, he spoke briefly with Newsom about BeeHero and the decline of bees plaguing agriculture, he said. “I invited him – and we’ll see if he happens – to see our solution in action during the upcoming almond pollination season in February,” Davide said then.
Davide told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) audience that on farms where BeeHero technology was installed, bee colony mortality rates decreased by 27%. “We have seen an increase in the production of various crops, such as almonds, apples, cherries, canola berries and sunflowers,” he said.
BeeHero’s mission is rooted in a biological fact: For many fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, each unpollinated flower means that less food — like apples or almonds — can’t be produced. One powerful beehive can pollinate tens of millions of flowers a day, Davide said.
BeeHero has given away 300,000 of its sensors to beekeepers, mostly in the United States but also on three other continents, and the beekeepers supply their hives and services to farms that are BeeHero’s clients for pollination consulting. BeeHero beekeepers receive all the data from each of their hives. “Because we help them improve the efficiency of their cells, we help them make more money,” Davidi said in an interview before the APEC summit.
The startup’s sensors collect data inside the hive about temperature and humidity, which are key indicators of bee health and, in the case of temperature, a way to determine when the queen begins laying eggs. The sensors also measure the sounds the bees make with their wings and bodies, “translating” the sounds for purposes including determining when the colony is weak or stressed.
BeeHero has not only pioneered the use of sensor technology in agriculture, but has attracted significant interest from investors, said Noah Wilson Rich, CEO of The Best Bees, a multi-state beekeeping and bee technology company headquartered in Boston. In gardens, on commercial rooftops, and at research sites in the Gulf region. Successful fundraising draws attention to promising technology, Wilson Rich said.For growers, Allison McAfee, a bee researcher at North Carolina State University, said having BeeHero sensors in each hive could be useful in large operations, so if a colony “breaks down” during pollination due to the loss of its queen, mite infestation or disease, The colony can be replaced during the pollination period.
But since Varroa mites are the biggest killer of honeybee colonies, McAfee would like to see a monitoring device that could count the mites and transmit data in real time. “This will be a huge resource for effective Varroa control,” McAfee said.
Davidi said his sensors could identify major mite infestations by changes in the sound of the bees’ “grooming dances,” and eventually it may be possible to count mites in real time. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, he was grateful to bring news of bees and the solutions his company offers to a global audience. “The dependence of food production on these small insects comes to the mind of many people,” he said.