IGNITE startup ApisProtect Secures €100,000 Investment
ApisProtect buzzing with €100k to help save bees
Source: The Sunday Business Post, 9 July 2017
BY ELAINE O’REGAN
Yield Lab, the Missouri-based food sustainability accelerator that launched in Ireland in 2016, has invested €100,000 in UCC spin-out that develops sensor-based technology to help halt the decline in bee populations globally.
Established in February 2016 by chief executive Fiona Edwards-Murphy, ApisProtect has appointed a chairman to help with commercial technology she developed over the course of a four-year PhD.
Andrew Wood has joined the company ahead of plans to validate the sensor-based technology in 200 beehives in countries including France, Spain and the US. “We’ll have that rolled out by the end of this calendar year so we can validate the data captured so far in Ireland in harsher environments where you have cold or heat and humidity,” said Wood.
Wood, who has worked in senior roles with Accenture and Ernst & Young, is forecasting potential revenues of up to €10 million for the Cork-based start-up within five years. “It was the intellectual rigour of the solution that attracted me. It is using real science to make a difference to bees, which pollinate one-third of the world’s crops, and bees are in trouble,” he said.
“Up to last year, 50 per cent of bees were dying annually and that’s down to a combination of diseases and environmental factors like pesticides. For some crops, honey-bees are their only pollinator. For example, in California’s almond industry they chuck in thousands of beehives each year to help with declining pollination, so there is a very real demand for what ApisProtect is offering and a sizable commercial opportunity.”
ApisProtect uses multiple sensors to provide beekeepers with ongoing updates on hive conditions ranging from temperature and humidity to movement and sound. The idea is to facilitate early intervention should problems arise. The sensors are integrated into one device attached to the roof of the beehive. The device is solar-powered and connected to the internet by sim card.
“Wireless sensor network is my area of expertise and that is the core technology of the internet of things,” said Fiona Edwards-Murphy.
“I’ve always really liked nature, animals and the environment and I was interested in seeing how this technology might be applied to the problem of declining honeybee populations. My PhD supervisor Emanuel Popovici worked with me ion it and now an adviser for ApisProtect. We got a little bit of publicity and when beekeepers started to contact us offering to help us with the project, we saw that there might be a commercial opportunity.”
Edwards-Murphy is enjoying the transition from the world of academia to business. “In the entrepreneurial world, I’ve met a lot of people with PhD’s,” she said. “I think the core driving force for both is very similar. It’s about people doing something they care about more than they care about being paid regularly.”