Sensor technologies to improve beekeeping in South Africa

SAFEGUARDING the future of beekeeping in South Africa is the aim of an international agri-tech project, funded by the UK Government.

Despite contributing considerably to the economy and providing employment, beekeeper numbers in South Africa are declining and the sector is failing to attract new entrants. As a result, suboptimal pollination presents a major threat to food production.

To address this problem, researchers are investigating how the internet-of-things (IoT) could be used to transform beekeeping, utilising sensors to collect real-time data to inform decision making and reduce labour requirements.

The work, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)’s Frontier Technology Livestreaming fund, is being delivered by pollination management technologists AgriSound, supported by Agri-Tech Innovation Centre, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), and South Africa-based R&D organisation, Cropimpi.

International Business Development Manager for CHAP, Dr Jenna Ross OBE, said: “Beekeeping contributed R16 Billion to the South African economy in 2016 and provided 180,000 jobs. However, beekeeper numbers are declining.

“We have an exciting opportunity to overcome this challenge using technology. IoT is transforming agricultural production to improve welfare, crop yields and production sustainability. Coupled with predictive algorithms, it can generate significant returns to mitigate losses, and maximise farm performance.

“We’re delighted to be working alongside AgriSound and Cropimpi to develop a potentially game-changing solution for a wide diversity of beekeepers in South Africa.”

The project is investigating the use of existing AgriSound technology, with the addition of novel elements such as responsive, inclusive user-led training and bioacoustic algorithms for advanced decision-making. As well as developing a low-cost technology solution, the aim is to create a digital training platform to support the next generation of beekeepers in South Africa.

Founder and CEO of AgriSound, Casey Woodward, said: “It’s really exciting to work with CHAP and Cropimpi on this ground-breaking project to bring advanced insect monitoring technologies to South Africa. The devices will collect data to help drive improved hive management which will deliver broad-reaching benefits.”

Founder of Cropimpi, Carine Kroukamp, said: “We have identified participants from a wide range of demographics to take part in this project, and this will enable us to investigate the challenges in the industry on a personal level and compile a well-developed business case for Agrisound’s entry into the South African market.

“We also aim to educate and support novice beekeepers on the project to increase their honey production and management through education by South Africa’s top performers in the bee industry.”

To find out more about this project, contact CHAP at enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk or visit www.chap-solutions.co.uk