Engineers introduced collectively by Mars at the moment are utilizing know-how to avoid wasting Australia’s bees from devastating varroa mites

Australia’s biosecurity regime is about to get a well timed technological increase from an unlikely alliance.

Some younger tech-savvy aerospace engineers have joined forces with one in all Australia’s largest dairy firms.

They’ve created the Purple Hive Project, which is aimed toward safeguarding Australia’s bee and honey business from invasive and damaging pests.

Number one on the least-wanted checklist is Varroa destructor, a pinhead-sized, blood-sucking mite that has devastated hives across the globe.

Australia is the one inhabited continent nonetheless freed from the pest. It’s in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Vignesh Murugan (left) and Joel Kuperholz, co-developers of the Purple Hive.(Landline: Tim Lee)

“It frightens us to a great degree,” mentioned beekeeper Ian Cane. “Varroa mites have a devastating effect on bee health and their ability to pollinate food crops and produce honey around the world.”

Mr Cane believes it is inevitable that varroa will attain our shores. So in latest months, he has been eagerly road-testing a high-tech purple gadget on his beehives within the tall eucalypt forests of Victoria’s East Gippsland area.

It’s purple as a result of the color is variety to a bee’s sense of sight, and appears like a letterbox hooked up to the entrance of a hive.

A beekeeper in full beekeeping gear
Victorian apiarist Alf Brugman from Upper Beaconsfield east of Melbourne has stored bees for 45 years.(Landline: Tim Lee)

The entry slot incorporates refined surveillance tools.

“It’s got two cameras, one top, one bottom,” defined co-developer Vignesh Murugan of the Melbourne-based Virmana Tech firm.

“As a bee comes through the front slit we monitor the bees, take an image every second and detect whether varroa mite is there.”

Individual photographs of 1000’s of bees per hive are taken over the course of a day. That’s the place synthetic intelligence comes into play.

“So, we’ve invented the world’s fastest and smallest artificial intelligence that can see like humans,” mentioned Dr Shivy Yohanandan, who works for the Australian department of Xailient, a high-tech agency headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

“So what’s happening here is we’ve trained AI to count bees and detect hitchhiking varroa mites.”

If the mite is detected, an alarm sign will be despatched immediately to a tool similar to a cell phone.

Two men stand in front of rock formations
Joel Kuperholz and Vignesh Murugan in Utah, USA, whereas competing in NASA’s rover problem.(Supplied: Joel Kuperholz and Vignesh Murugan)

The inspiration for the Purple Hive owes a lot to the Red Planet.

In 2018, engineering college students Joel Kuperholz and Vignesh Murugan have been a part of a staff from Melbourne’s Monash University that received the prospect to compete within the University Rover Challenge in Utah, USA. They excelled at their problem of utilizing robotics to construct the primary semi-autonomous Mars rover, and late final yr the pair shaped their very own firm.

“We found we had a great working relationship, so we decided to take that and apply it to the Australian agriculture sector,” mentioned Mr Kuperholz.

“We both wanted to make a difference and help prevent the (varroa) mite getting into Australia.”

Varroa mite poster
This varroa identification chart was despatched to registered beekeepers all through Australia in 2012.(Matt Brann: ABC Rural)

Bega Cheese Limited’s involvement stems from its latest diversification from dairy merchandise into desk spreads.

In 2017, it bought the Vegemite brand and peanut butter from Kraft. This month, it launched into processing and promoting Australian honey. Aware of the risk posed by pests similar to varroa, it sought a high-tech safeguard.

“We identified a need and opportunity to leverage technology and innovation to protect the Australian bee industry,” mentioned Bega’s Adam McNamara. “To make it easier for the monitoring of this mite.”

At current, quarantine inspectors conduct common bodily inspections of so-called ‘sentinel beehives’ positioned at ports and different factors of entry to Australia to detect if the mite has arrived.

“The current process for monitoring the Varroa destructor is painstakingly manual,” mentioned Adam McNamara of Bega Cheese.

A man stands in front of a bee hive
Aris Petratos from the Victorian Apiarists’ Association is delighted by the Purple Hive undertaking(Landline: Tim Lee)

“To the entry points of Australia, they are the biggest risk areas,” mentioned Mr McNamara. “We’d like to establish a mesh network where a Purple Hive can be attached to any beehive around Australia.”

Apiarists are excited by the undertaking. Aris Petratos of Victorian Apiarists’ Association believes it represents an unlimited advance in biosecurity and the ever-present risk of varroa.

“If technology alerts you on your phone, you instantly know there’s a problem. You can go out and do something about it,” mentioned Mr Patratos. “If it (the pest) is there for a month or a week or two weeks, it may already be too late.”

Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday, or on iview.


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