Saturday, May 21, 2022

Israeli bee tech startup Beewise pulls in $80m investment for robotic beehives

Israeli bee tech startup Beewise, a developer of robotic beehives, pulled in an $80 million investment for its automated solution aimed at saving global bee populations, the company announced Wednesday.

Insight Partners, a New York-based investment and private equity firm that has invested in a number of Israeli companies, led the Series C round, which also included investors such as Sanad Abu Dhabi, a private investment and assets management company that is an aerospace -focused subsidiary of the United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, as well as Israeli private equity investment group Fortissimo Capital, Corner Ventures, lool ventures, Atooro Fund, and Meitav Dash Investments.

Founded in 2018, Beewise developed the Beehome, a solar-powered, converted container that brings together robotics, artificial intelligence, imaging, a software platform, and a mobile application to monitor and care for honeybees around the clock. The device can house up to 24 bee colonies and automatically controls for climate and humidity conditions, detects and eliminates pests and parasites, identifies when a colony is preparing to swarm, sends alerts when human intervention is needed, and even harvests the honey the bees produce .

“The Beehome works with 24 colonies, 12 on each side. And in the center, there’s a robotic system that moves and monitors [the colonies] 24/7 using computer vision, machine learning and neural networks. It dispenses food, water, medicine if there is a disease or pest, it knows if it’s too hot or cold — the robot can treat all of this,” Beewise co-founder and CEO Saar Safra told The Times of Israel in an interview last August, describing his and the company’s mission save the world’s bees.

Controlling and monitoring all these conditions in real time ensures that yields improve, pollination occurs more efficiently, and honeybee populations are protected, he explained.

Bee populations certainly need protecting. Due to what Safra calls a “perfect storm” of climate change, habitat loss, excessive use of agricultural chemicals, parasitic mites, and various pathogens, bee populations have been declining for decades and the world “is losing about 40 percent of colonies every year “

Israeli bee tech startup Beewise pulls in $80m investment for robotic beehives

Beehomes by Beewise in the field. (courtesy)

In the US, beekeepers lost an estimated 45% of their managed honeybee colonies between April 2020 and April 2021, marking the second-highest annual loss on record according to the most recent loss and management report issued by the Bee Informed Partnership.

It’s a staggering figure given that “nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land, ” according to the United Nations.

In addition, “pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (eg, canola and palm oils), fibers (eg, cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts,” according to the World Bee Project, a UK-based initiative advancing the integration of various technologies to help save the bees.

Indeed, technology is a much-needed solution to protect bee populations and help them thrive, Safra said.

“Treating and caring for living biological beings in real-time helps keep them strong and healthy. A robot can do this all day long; it doesn’t get tired. Humans can’t treat bees in real-time. If there’s a problem, you don’t know about it until you get to the hives. They [beekeepers] need to drive into the field — if they have 1,000 boxes scattered around, they need to look into them to see what’s happening, and often it’s too late as the colony has collapsed,” he said.

Israeli bee tech startup Beewise pulls in $80m investment for robotic beehives

The Beehome is an automated, autonomous beehive developed by Israeli startup Beewise that monitors and cares for bees 24/7. (courtesy)

With the Beehome, apiarists can take immediate action if there’s an issue, which means “more bees stay alive, there’s more honey and more pollination.” According to initial internal findings, colony collapse with the Beehome is reduced to about 10 percent, Safra said.

Beewise employs about 70 people passionate about saving bees, said the co-founder. The latest round, which Beewise said is the largest for an Israeli agriculture tech startup to date, brings the company’s total funding to $120 million.

In addition to the investment Wednesday, Beewise also announced a lighter-weight version of the Beehome with a more effective feeding system and stronger solar panels, the company said.

“We are the only company on the planet that is deploying precision robotics in tandem with the world’s most innovative technologies including AI and computer vision in order to save the bees,” Safra said Wednesday in a company statement.

“Our Beewise team is thrilled to be supported by an incredible roster of investors for our Series C who understand our dedication, tenacity, and passion towards succeeding in saving the bees and reversing the trend of the bee colony collapse,” he said.

Israeli bee tech startup Beewise pulls in $80m investment for robotic beehives

Inside the Beehome, an autonomous, automated hive by Israeli startup Beewise that can house up to 24 bee colonies. (courtesy)

Safra indicated that Beewise is fulfilling thousands of orders in the US and, with the funding, “will be able to meet incredible market demand through increased manufacturing, develop additional product iterations, and further improve pollination.”

Daniel Aronovitz, principal at Insight Partners, said that the investment firm has not only funded a company “with a fantastic business model, it also addresses one of the biggest challenges our planet is facing.

“We at Insight couldn’t be more excited to lead the largest investment in an Israeli agtech company to date,” said Aronovitz.

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