Honey bees are the source of 80 percent of all worldwide pollination. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.
“A lot of people don’t realize that bees are responsible for a third of our domestic food supply,” said Simon Kuntz, Chief Product Officer of the Bee Corp.
Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees. They pollinate much of the vital foods we eat every day like fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Honey bee deaths in almond pollination this year over 3x normal in Fresno county, w/average of 17 different pesticides on samples of bees 😢🐝 https://t.co/qVfnXV2p6W
— Save Bees (@savebees) March 20, 2017
Experts, such as Marla Spivak, professor in entomology at the University of Minnesota, say a worldwide bee colony collapse is a legitimate threat to the future of out ecosystem.
Three IU graduates with a singular goal–to save honeybees from extinction- have created a benefit corporation, a for-profit company certified to meet social and environmental standards, called The Bee Corp.
The corporation started off as an idea of it’s founder, Ellie Symes.
Symes received a grant her sophomore year from the IU Hutton Honors College to start a beekeeping program. After the beekeeping program launched Symes says that “a professor became interested and he actually designed a Kelley class around helping the beekeeping program stay on campus.”
Symes pitched her program to a Kelley School of Business class three years ago and IU students Simon Kuntz and Wyatt Wells immediately wanted to join her. Following the first day of class, Kuntz and Wells volunteered to bee-keep with Symes and following the semester project, they all had enough information to turn the program into an IU club.
“We call it the bee fever,” said Ellie Symes, CEO of the Bee Corp., “I was amazed that here we are with bees flying all around us and they’re not stinging us and we’re like getting to see this world that I’ve never seen before.”
Their makeshift club eventually took off with a simple idea: tech needs to happen in beehives.
Symes, Kuntz and Wells entered their idea into the 2015-16 Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology Competition, also known as the BEST competition. They won the competition and received $100,000 prize funded by IU alumni who receive a stake in the company.
“She kinda became the bee lady on campus. That’s literally who she was for a few years,” says Wyatt Wells. “Anytime someone would come up to her they’d be like ‘Oh, you’re the bee girl aren’t you?” Wells has become Chief Marketing Officer of the Bee Corp. “It’s just funny how you mention bees and it kind of just clicks with someone and it’s unlike anything else.”
— MyBeeLine (@MyBeeLineCo) March 17, 2017
The Bee Corp. paired a company’s hardware with their own software API, which essentially monitors the queen bee and the bee hive and alerts beekeepers if there’s a problem or if the queen bee dies, so that the whole colony doesn’t collapse. This alert system is called Queen’s Guard.
The Queen’s Guard software analyzes temperature data, pesticide levels and pollen count from sensors installed inside the hive. “You can’t inspect every hive every day and something can go wrong at any point,” said Wells.
Queen’s Guard helps beekeepers prevent over-winter colony loss and can help save between 10,000 and 50,000 bees. The Queen’s guard system sold 40 units in its first month on the market.