Montreal startup uses AI to help keep honey hives healthy

The company, Nectar, starts by installing a five centimetre sensor inside a hive and then tracks all the data it collects and analyzes it.

Nectar is a company that uses data analysis to track operations within beehives

The company, started about two years ago, aims to help beekeepers better understand their bees. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

The first time Marc-André Roberge opened up a beehive, he found it "pretty overwhelming."

Despite being a beekeeping enthusiast, he instantly forgot what he was supposed to be looking for watching the swarm of activity inside the hive.

"I thought, I need my bees to have a dialogue with me. And I need my bees to tell me what's going on so I can do a better job."

That's where the idea for Nectar, a Montreal-based tech startup that uses artificial intelligence to track hive health, began.

The company starts by installing a five centimetre sensor inside a hive and then tracks all the data it collects and analyzes it.

Marc-Andre Roberge had a passion for beekeeping long before he co-founded the company. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

Roberge told CBC's Homerun that using the information coming in, they can alert a beekeeper right away if something is off or if the queen bee is dying.

"We help beekeepers better understand their bees," explained Roberge.

The sensors use data on temperature, humidity, sound frequency and weight of the hive to give a picture of its inner operations.

"We can analyze this data online to assess the hive's health and behaviour and strength."

He said the bees don't mind the metallic addition.

"They will put some wax on it because its an outside body, but it doesn't bother them."

When all is well and the queen bee is inside the hive, worker bees will maintain a steady temperature and humidity. If the queen dies or leaves, the work stops and the hives often collapse.

Marc-Andre Roberge is hoping to help keep hives healthy using the new data collection and analysis tool. (Nectar/Facebook)

Nectar started two years ago with Roberge as a co-founder, and it's still in development mode, working with partners in the commercial and hobby site of the growing industry.

He said that even though the AI product isn't for sale yet, they've had interest from around the world.

"It's pretty overwhelming to see how much there is a need for this technology," he said.

With files from CBC's Homerun