Bega launches AI beehive project as it looks to strengthen Australian food security

The company's the long-term vision is for the project to create a network of hives across Australia.
The company's the long-term vision is for the project to create a network of hives across Australia.

Bega Cheese is making artificially intelligent honey, and aiming to sustain the pollination of Australian food crops at the same time.

"Without prioritising the health of our honey bees and the ecosystems that rely on them for their wellbeing, honey bees, as well as Australian food security is under threat," executive general manager of Bega Foods Adam McNamara said.

Alongside the company's launch of its first honey product on Thursday, it also announced the Purple Hive Project, which involves a hive fitted with solar powered 360 degree cameras and trained artificial intelligence, designed to detect bees carrying the mite in real-time.

The company's the long-term vision is for the project to create a network of hives across Australia.

Beekeeper and Purple Hive Project advisor Ian Cane. Picture: Purple Hive Project

Beekeeper and Purple Hive Project advisor Ian Cane. Picture: Purple Hive Project

"It was clear to us that we needed to invest in technology and innovation to support the future of our honey bees, Australian beekeepers, and in turn, Australian agriculture," Mr McNamara said.

The mite, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industry, has infected every major beekeeping area of the world, except Australia. It's arrival could result in losses of up to $70 million a year, the department said.

The department's websites states "although there is a combined government and industry effort to keep them out of the country, it is generally accepted that it is inevitable that varroa mites will eventually establish in Australia".

Beekeepers are currently advised to check bees regularly, although when mites are in low numbers in a colony of honey bees they are difficult to detect, and searching adult bees is a "totally unreliable" way of monitoring, the department said.

"The presence of the varroa mite in Australia would cripple our local honey bee populations. Not only impacting Australian honey production, but also the many Australian food crops which rely heavily on honey bees for pollination," beeker and project advisor Ian Cane said.

"Our nation's food security is heavily dependent on honey bees.

"Surveillance for the early detection of the varroa mite remains crucial to the health of honey bees and honey bee pollination dependent industries - as once the varroa mite is established, it's highly unlikely that we will be able to eradicate it."

This story Bega launches AI beehive project as it looks to strengthen Australian food security first appeared on Bega District News.

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