A York company that lifts the lid on beehives is making a buzz around the world from Australia to the Caribbean.
AgriSound supplies sensor systems that can remotely monitor the state of beehives and alert owners when action needs to be taken. The systems are designed for use by amateur beekeepers, by businesses which provide pollinator bees and even to monitor wild bees.
Dr Casey Woodward, who set up the company in 2020, said they were already supplying equipment to St Lucia, Australia, New Zealand and the US, as well as to the UK and western Europe.
The company, which has been given support by AD:VENTURE, a business support programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has a team of five, with plans to increase to 20 within the next 18 months.
Casey, who has a degree from the University of York and a PhD from Hull, was working with companies looking at using sensors in livestock farming to optimise animal health and productivity. But he realised there was little technology being used to monitor bees, which are generally kept in remote areas.
And with more than 90 million beehives around the world and more people taking up beekeeping during lockdown, Casey saw a gap in the market.
“As well as making honey, bees play a vital role in pollinating food crops, particularly in developing countries, but also with high yield crops such as almonds, cashews and coffee, as well as beans and other legumes.
“Our technology means both new and experienced beekeepers can gain an understanding of what is going on inside the hive, and can protect against disease, predation and losses.
“For people using bees for pollination, early detection of changes can lead to quicker treatment. And quicker treatment leads to healthier pollinator numbers. And if you think that without pollinators, bees, butterflies, moths and other bugs, we'd lose more than 70 per cent of all food crops, you can see why their welfare is so important.”
The sensors that AgriSound supply will monitor factors like humidity, temperature and weight of hives, then analyse that information and send it via 3/4G to the client. The company is also developing systems that detect wild pollinators and so will help sustainable agricultural practices, in places like Africa.
“In the long term, we see ourselves as a pollinator brand, also working with wild bees, and not just a brand for beekeepers,” said Casey.
“If you can improve pollination and improve yields and have less need for herbicides and pesticides, you can actually go a long way towards alleviating poverty and hunger.”
AgriSound has been given business advice by AD:VENTURE, which helps ambitious new businesses trading for less than three years in North and West Yorkshire. AD:VENTURE has provided more than £1.7m in grant funding and helped more than 3,500 businesses and individuals in the Leeds City Region since its launch at the end of 2016.
Casey said: “We’ve had lots of support from AD:VENTURE and their help has been really valuable. Working with them has helped us open lots of new doors and make new contacts. And it is about supporting the whole company, you get support for the team, which has been amazing and led to some real growth.”
The company was also awarded a £3,000 grant by AD:VENTURE to pay for a 3D printer, and given a grant by Innovate UK through the Sustainable Innovation Fund.
AD:VENTURE has funding and delivery partners across the Leeds City Region, including City of York Council and the region’s other eight local authorities; the Business Enterprise Fund; Leeds Beckett University; West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.
Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning at City of York Council, said: “It’s really exciting to see a home-grown business working on ideas that could change lives around the world.
“It shows that giving support to early stage businesses can really make a difference, not just to the business, but the local economy and even further afield.”
For more information about AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/