Agency hopes bee tech challenge can combat population decline

By Melissa Coade

April 15, 2022

honeycomb-bees
Applications for the AgriFutures’ challenge close at midday on April 20. (BigBlueStudio/Adobe0

AgriFutures Australia has invited innovators to help deal with a recent hit to the honey industry, which has also affected local agricultural sectors and food security resources.

Recovering honey bee colonies nationwide is the goal of a new bee tech challenge, which is inviting innovators to develop ready-to-go technology to help Australia’s $147 million honey production industry. 

Applications for the AgriFutures’ challenge close at midday on April 20. Ten startups and entrepreneurs will then be invited to showcase their solutions at a bee congress held in Sydney later this year. 

Annelies McGaw, AgriFutures’ honey bee and pollination program manager, said any negative impact on the local honey bee industry also affected the nation’s food supply because pollination was also critical for Australia’s $14.2 billion horticultural and cropping industries. 

“The honey bee industry does a lot more than provide us with honey and beeswax products,” McGaw explained.

“Without a strong national colony of bees we will see a number of drastic flow-on effects to our nation’s food supply, ultimately leading to decreased yields for producers and increased food prices for consumers.”

Honey bee population decline is a worldwide problem however many of Australia’s hives have been lost during recent natural disaster events, including major fires and floods. Colony remediation is a problem the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has invested money in, with a recovery grant following the 2019-20 bushfires, and the bee tech challenge is being supported by some of the money from this allocation. 

Three winners from the tech bee challenge will be picked based on the most ‘innovative and relevant solutions’ for the beekeeping industry, and they receive ongoing promotion and support from the agency. 

The winners will also be invited to network with at the AgriFutures evokeAG 2023 event in Adelaide next year.  

Therese Kershaw from the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council said opportunities like AgriFuture’s challenge were an important way to bring the industry back together and build a stronger, more resilient future.

“To be able to touch, feel and view these innovations at the congress will be invaluable,” Kershaw said of the 8-11 June event. 

“The winners will be selected by the producers, businesses and organisations who need it the most and who will ultimately be the ones to reap the benefits of the implementation of these new technologies,” she added.


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