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A health monitor for honey bee colonies

 
Kelton Temby
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA
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Hello all,

My team and I are passionate about sustainable agriculture, keep bees and looking to help beekeepers help their bees with technology -- we’ve created something like a heart monitor for honey bee colonies called EyesOnHives.

It leverages a pretty powerful image processing algorithm but is simple and non-invasive for the sake of the bees. When placed a few feet from a hive entrance, it tracks activity all day, every day while reporting whether the colony is healthy (or not) based on the bees’ activity.

Through the EyesOnHives app (and from anywhere), beekeepers can view videos of their bees (we respect the art), get alerts on trending activity and share data+video with friends, family and other beekeepers.

We’ve been running a pilot with 15+ hives and so far beekeepers have told us that EyesOnHives helped save their colonies from ant infestation, robbing and queenlessness - which we’re pretty happy about!

More detail at keltronixinc.com but we’re looking for community feedback -- what do you think?
Also we're launching a crowdfunding campaign today -- if you're interested, please support this project so we can join more beekeepers and save even more bees!
EyesOnHives Kickstarter Campaign
 
Pat R Mann
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Great idea - this could really help move non-invasive bee-keeping practices forward.
Can you monitor more than one hive with a single unit? The cost seems prohibitive for large-scale monitoring, but it should still be very useful for sampling; and for advancing understanding of hive behavior.
 
Kelton Temby
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Thanks! Yes, this first version will only monitor one hive - its really designed for backyard and urban beekeepers at the moment. Appreciate your support!
 
Pat R Mann
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$300 is a reasonable price tag that I would consider ... if it weren't for the data analytics subscription. Right now you don't provide any cost estimate for that. Also, will I benefit from ongoing improvements to analytics over time?
 
Kelton Temby
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Thanks again Pat - we'll improve the clarity on the page.

The retail estimate to cover the analytics and video hosting is $10/month - this is included in the Kickstarter plans for the first year at a discount, as a thank you to early supporters.

Yes - the analytics are continually improving, both on the device side, as well as the server/cloud. We're at 450k videos/datapoints and growing. The systems we have already fielded are getting new features regularly, they get updates over the air automatically.

The goal of the crowdfunding is to quickly boost the overall network of connected hives, since the data will benefit everyone on the platform (algorithms can improve with more data).

The analytics platform isn't just for your own hive either - you're able to browse and see how nearby hives are doing!

Cheers,

Kelton, Jon, Scott & the team.

Here's a pic for reference
 
Kelton Temby
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If anyone has any questions, comments or criticisms, we'd love to hear from you. We have been working with local beekeepers from the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association for the past year to refine the features of the current version.

We were hoping to create a conversation around technology and beekeeping. I grew up with bees, am a hobbyist beekeeper and work in a medical tech company by day. For the last year my team and I been working on this tech to bring healthcare analytics to bee hives.

We wanted feedback about what the community had to say about our approach to non-invasively monitor hive activity since as far as we know we're the first to achieve this at scale, and have seen some pretty interesting bee behavior patterns.

Thank you!
 
tel jetson
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interesting idea. I don't see as much value in the "health monitor" aspect of it as I do in getting a continuous record of what's going on at hive entrances.

like a lot of folks who've seen it develop in their lifetime, I am more than a little bit creeped out by big data, and part of this project seems to be along those lines, at least if it's adopted widely enough. still, it isn't all bad. I certainly like the idea of using data mining technology to research the behavior of bees a lot better than using it to sell me gewgaws. then again, maybe this is a little of both.
 
Kelton Temby
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tel!

What are you most interested in seeing with regard to the continuous record? How many hours of video would you want to see each day?

Here's a pic showing why we think of it as a health monitor - over time, the bee flight activity measurement can see changes we might miss with our own eyes!
 
tel jetson
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Kelton Temby wrote:Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tel!

What are you most interested in seeing with regard to the continuous record? How many hours of video would you want to see each day?


I wouldn't be interested in any hours of video. much better to stroll out and have a look in the flesh. your "bps" data is neat, though, and would be interesting to correlate with other hive conditions and activities. I'm sure you're already scheming other things to measure. humidity, temperature, fluid velocity in and out of the hive, weight, hive atmosphere constituents, average size of a bee. what else? it interests me more for its potential in long-term research than it does in prompting any interventions. interventions aren't really my scene, I guess.
 
Kelton Temby
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Hi Tel,

Thanks again for your feedback - yes you're right that we want to correlate bps, and the bps patterns with significant hive states and transitions.

We also want to make it really easy for beekeepers of different skill levels to get insights into what's happening to their bees, and create some standards for understanding what might be happening to a hive in a different city beyond just 'frames of bees, frames of brood'. It's a little like giving people feedback on how fast their car is going, and whether the check engine light is on. Maybe you have a better analogy?!

We have started a conversation with some of the leading bee researchers, and they're keen on the 'measure everything' approach presently too. We'd like to prove that it's possible (or not) to have a useful metric that doesn't require devices to be expertly placed in hives, since that seems to be one of the limitations of internal sensors for many beekeepers.

Curious whether you're part of a beekeeping community/club - the original system really was designed to make it easy for one of the local beekeeping gurus to have an easier time helping other beekeepers with their bees. He simply didn't have time to be driving all over town helping new beekeepers deal with their issues, and was asking myself and others to manually count how many bees came out of hives to get some idea on hive strength. We got inspired by the concept, and showed that tech could make the whole process a lot easier!

Thanks again,

Kelton
 
Michael Cox
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I'm with Tel, in that walking out to check on the hives is good enough for most circumstances. That said, I could see merit for data logging if you were trying to breed bees for particular traits and conditions, or wanted to compare to colonies in different equipment setups.

Off the top of my head:

  • Compare poly hives with wooden hives over a season - spring build up, how early they get active in the day etc...
  • comparing different lines of queens to select for certain traits - for example might some bees "get out of bed" earlier in the day and forage for longer? Do some queens start brood rearing earlier and capitalise on particular spring nectar flows?
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    Kelton Temby
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    Thanks for your reply Michael.

    Those ideas are great, and I think the data would let you test those scenarios.

    On 'waking up earlier' we find that when the temperature, humidity and wind speed allow, our bees actually get up much earlier and have a 'wake up spike'. Here's a pic showing early morning activity, and no orientation activity later in the day, most likely due to wind speed.
    http://imgur.com/FtyquP1

    Do you always know what causes a hive loss? Do you ever see the need to be able to visually check in, and prioritize whether to visit that day, or wait to the weekend?

    I'm curious whether you have ever had any 'urgent' issues that require pretty quick intervention - e.g. here's a series of videos that helped us first identify, then troubleshoot, then finally resolve ants attacking a hive.

    EoH Timelapse showed a ton of ants attacking hive - tested 'cinnamon sticks' :


    Next day, ants are attacking hive again, walking all over cinnamon


    Finally, hive stand kept ants out of hive


    Thanks again for continuing the conversation!

     
    tel jetson
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    Kelton Temby wrote:Hi Tel,

    Curious whether you're part of a beekeeping community/club - the original system really was designed to make it easy for one of the local beekeeping gurus to have an easier time helping other beekeepers with their bees. He simply didn't have time to be driving all over town helping new beekeepers deal with their issues, and was asking myself and others to manually count how many bees came out of hives to get some idea on hive strength. We got inspired by the concept, and showed that tech could make the whole process a lot easier!

    Thanks again,

    Kelton


    I'm not really part of any beekeeping club. I have spoken to beekeeping clubs, and I'm happy to speak to other beekeepers. my advice is generally the same, though. it amounts to a couple of simple ideas. never purchase bees, so losing a colony won't feel like a financial blow along with the emotional one. and let the bees sort it out: interventions now will only perpetuate problems later.

    I recognize that reality is a bit more nuanced than that second bit of advice acknowledges, but folks who are used to meddling are frequently surprised by how often it holds true.

    anyhow, Kelton, your gadget clearly has interesting potential. I'm not a believer in the neutrality of technology, and I don't have enough information to determine what the net result of this particular technology will be, but I'm interested.
     
    Kelton Temby
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    Thanks again Tel,

    I appreciate your open minded and practical approach. I can say that for our local community of beekeepers, so far the project has been a net positive, and personally I would have lost at least 2 hives without the tech.

    Hopefully we'll get enough support to grow the project, get more feedback, and more momentum for adding other features people are interested in.
     
    Michael Cox
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    Kelton - I think you may be speaking to the wrong audience here. Part of the ethos that many permie beekeepers aspire to is to aim for treatment free beekeeping. Letting hives die out can actually been seen as a positive, as natural selection is taking place. Additionally, certain practices in the apiary make your (expensive!) technology obsolete. For example I make lots of splits each spring expecting high loss rates. Essentially I replace the hives before I lose them, so there is no "cost" to me of a hive failing. Long term I actually view it as a benefit as the death strengthens my overall gene pool.
     
    Cj Sloane
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    I completely agree with Micheal. Expansion model beekeeping is where it's at. My goal for next year is 10 hives. I'd need a 100% loss to really throw me off. Let the stock get stronger and stronger. No reason to prop up weak hives.
     
    Kelton Temby
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    Hi Michael and Cj,

    Thanks for your feedback, it's really helpful to hear this from other beekeepers.

    We're almost completely aligned on treatment free beekeeping goals - my hives are all foundationless, and I raise queens from local survivor stock to share with friends and help other beekeepers. The last thing we're doing is advocating using chemical treatments, and propping up bad bee genetics (which includes bees that aren't suited locally).

    We have experienced that being able to see and track colonies gives us the option to get feedback and improve beekeeping management practices. E.g. leaving a hive with too much room for the bees to patrol lets the Small Hive Beetle take hold, and activity drops. We make the change and then see the colony start growing again. Having hive stands which allow raccoons or other creatures to mess with the hive, or ants to get in, also isn't really something the bees will necessarily adjust for, but simple changes in the setup of the hive can help the bees thrive.

    We presently have 15 systems supporting our local community of beekeepers, and I help run our local association. The system is making it easier to better understand the state of bees in our local community, and increase awareness and respond faster to pesticide spraying incidents etc.

    It's not just data in the app, but the easy communication framework built around the data that helps too. For example, you can click on a video that you think shows something interesting and alert me or another beekeeper, and I'll not just get a notification, I'll be able to see exactly what you're looking at through video too. I used this just yesterday to let a local beta user know that their hive was covered in ants.

    I completely appreciate your feedback around not seeing the value of the above, especially if you have enough room and bees and the time to run mass bee experiments. This version may be better suited to sub/urban beekeepers.

    We need some help understanding the potential value to other beekeepers outside our local needs. If none of the above resonates, can you please suggest what problems you would be interested in having a tech tool to help manage?

    We're designed and made in the USA and want to keep it that way if possible. If you do have price expectations, please share them too.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and having this dialog, I really appreciate it!
     
    Cj Sloane
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    Kelton Temby wrote:If none of the above resonates, can you please suggest what problems you would be interested in having a tech tool to help manage?


    Normally I'm a big fan of data but nothing is resonating about collecting bee data. I will think about this for a while and if anything jumps out at me I'll let you know
     
    Cj Sloane
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    Ok that took 3 seconds. The one thing I am kind of interested in isn't exactly a health monitor and it may already exist. A chip like an RFID chip might come in handy. It seems I've heard about people stealing beehives and an inexpensive tracker would be cool. Not that I'd need that yet, but I have thought about it.
     
    Kelton Temby
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    Thanks Cj Sloane, will keep that one in mind.

    We're most interested in doing what we can to get people excited about being part of crowd-sourcing data to help the bees, and other beekeepers. One of my takeaways is that we need to make the system more valuable to individual beekeepers.

    Thanks again!
     
    Chris Badgett
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    Kelton,

    Great job with this piece of technology! I wish you all the best on the Eyes on Hives Kickstarter campaign.

    It's great to see the overlap of digital technology and sustainability.

    Getting more honeybee data through apps like this will be valuable for the beekeeper and the activist.
     
    Kelton Temby
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    Chris Badgett wrote:Kelton,

    Great job with this piece of technology! I wish you all the best on the Eyes on Hives Kickstarter campaign.

    It's great to see the overlap of digital technology and sustainability.

    Getting more honeybee data through apps like this will be valuable for the beekeeper and the activist.


    Hey Chris,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement, it really means a lot to the team and I! We really hope we'll get the crowdfund across the line for the next 30 systems, even if we don't, we're determined to keep chipping away at this project locally because it's what we believe in, and we're helping connect our beekeeping community.

    I read through a few of your posts and found that you have some kickstarter experience yourself! We have just 18 days to go, but that's enough time to make changes to our approach. Could you please share any advice on what we might do better? What do you think is stopping the project from being more successful?

    Thank you for any feedback you're comfortable sharing, I really appreciate it!

    Kelton
     
    Chris Badgett
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    Kelton Temby wrote:
    Chris Badgett wrote:Kelton,

    Great job with this piece of technology! I wish you all the best on the Eyes on Hives Kickstarter campaign.

    It's great to see the overlap of digital technology and sustainability.

    Getting more honeybee data through apps like this will be valuable for the beekeeper and the activist.


    Hey Chris,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement, it really means a lot to the team and I! We really hope we'll get the crowdfund across the line for the next 30 systems, even if we don't, we're determined to keep chipping away at this project locally because it's what we believe in, and we're helping connect our beekeeping community.

    I read through a few of your posts and found that you have some kickstarter experience yourself! We have just 18 days to go, but that's enough time to make changes to our approach. Could you please share any advice on what we might do better? What do you think is stopping the project from being more successful?

    Thank you for any feedback you're comfortable sharing, I really appreciate it!

    Kelton


    Hey Kelton,

    They key with Kickstarter is great incentives. I think your rewards are actually pretty solid. You might consider an even more premium offer than the 2K (Like 5K) where you or someone on your team flies out and does a done-for-you set up of your system. If you're down for that reward, make it priced high enough to afford the overhead of that and the travel.

    The challenge with permaculture type things on kickstarter is that many of the permaculture community are not on or aware of relevant crowdfunding action without a lot of help finding out about the campaign from leaders or publishers with a lot of reach in the community.

    If you want to send us at Organic Life Guru a guest post about your EyesOnHives, your story & vision, and the campaign details, we will publish it on the Organic Life Guru Blog and send a message to our email subscribers.

    If you'r not having conversations about EyesOnHives, on other popular beekeeping forums, you might give that a shot.

    Also I would recommend making a free online course about your product to help get the word out and build your email list and start laying out online courses that support the customer on boarding to your hardware and app. We have a tool for making online courses with WordPress called LifterLMS. At a minimum keep doing what you're doing on your Youtube channel, and either you or have someone on your team read my post with a special emphasis on the video marketing part: http://blog.lifterlms.com/engagement-success/

    You should get on Product Hunt too: https://www.producthunt.com/

    Keep in touch, and best wishes.
     
    Kelton Temby
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    Hey Chris,

    Thank you for your sage advice, and for helping us understand what's happening. You know, I naively thought being insanely passionate about bees to the point of spending a year with 6 other people creating a totally new technology to help save them would be enough to get everyone else excited! It's a great learning experience nonetheless.

    I would love to submit a guest post for Organic Life Guru, that would be really wonderful! Thank you so much for your offer of support!

    Also a fantastic idea to create the online course - I had a quick look at the course tool, and it looks really interesting, I'm going to share this with our team.

    Thanks again for your advice Chris, I'm really happy to have connected with you!

    Best,

    Kelton
     
    Chris Badgett
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    Kelton Temby wrote:Hey Chris,

    Thank you for your sage advice, and for helping us understand what's happening. You know, I naively thought being insanely passionate about bees to the point of spending a year with 6 other people creating a totally new technology to help save them would be enough to get everyone else excited! It's a great learning experience nonetheless.

    I would love to submit a guest post for Organic Life Guru, that would be really wonderful! Thank you so much for your offer of support!

    Also a fantastic idea to create the online course - I had a quick look at the course tool, and it looks really interesting, I'm going to share this with our team.

    Thanks again for your advice Chris, I'm really happy to have connected with you!

    Best,

    Kelton


    Nice to meet you too Kelton! I wish you and your project all the best.

    Looks like you all are close to hitting your crowdfunding goal: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/985910122/eyesonhives-the-health-monitor-for-honey-bees

     
    Kelton Temby
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    Thanks Chris!

    It's still a dauntingly large sum to go, but we're really happy to have found others who are excited about the project and are getting involved!

    Our most recent backer was actually from the original local Beta group - Lew, recently retired and a newbie beekeeper, got EyesOnHives Beta set up just last weekend and after seeing other hives on the platform, sadly realized his hive wasn't just quiet because of winter, it had failed, and died out. Then Lew got to see a very interesting event - a massive amount of activity started, and we hoped at first it might be a wild swarm. Unfortunately it was robbing activity from another hive that discovered the dead out... we captured the activity pattern.



    I was fortunate enough to have succeeded in an experiment to do a really late season split, and have a nice healthy laying queen with some good stores. Yesterday I made the trip down to Lew's to give him a new start, you can only imagine how happy he is! Not too bad for less than a week after getting EyesOnHives running.

    I'd like to send you what I have now as a draft for sharing with your audience. I wish I'd had more time to refine it!
     
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