Cork bee protection firm receives €1.5m investment injection

Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, CEO and co-founder of ApisProtect

A Cork agricultural technology company that uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor honey bee colonies has received a €1.5m investment from investors that will allow it to create 25 new jobs and expand internationally.

Lee Road-based ApisProtect announced the close of a €1.5m seed round of financing led by top-tier international venture capital investors Finistere Ventures and Atlantic Bridge Capital.

Radicle Growth, the Yield Lab and Enterprise Ireland also participated in the investment round.

ApisProtect said it will use the investment to aggressively accelerate international expansion, opening its first US office at the Western Growers Association’s WG Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas, California.

“This investment will allow us to accelerate our expansion as we work to create an extensive global hive health database to power our machine learning insights”, said Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, CEO and co-founder of ApisProtect.

The Kanturk native added: “We look forward to building our team of AI specialists, engineers and scientists over the next three years to 25 staff, and helping to reduce honey bee losses worldwide.”

ApisProtect helps commercial beekeepers more effectively manage colonies, Dr Murphy Edwards said.

“Contributing €153bn worth of pollination to the agri-food industry annually, honey bees play an essential role in global food production. One third of all food that we eat depends on pollinators, and there are 91 million managed beehives worldwide. The aim is to help commercial pollinators and growers to optimise pollination,” she added.

With the Cork firm’s technology, beekeepers no longer need to rely solely on periodic, manual hive checks that can allow disease, pests and other issues to deteriorate hive health beyond rescue.

Now monitoring the health of over six million honey bees in hives across Europe and North America, ApisProtect brings the power of advanced sensors and machine learning technology into the hive to deliver a 24/7 early warning system so beekeepers can give at-risk hives immediate attention and improve bee health.

Atlantic Bridge co-led the seed round with Finistere Ventures, which made its first investment from the Ireland AgTech Fund, a partnership between Finistere Ventures and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund).

Radicle Growth, an AgTech Acceleration Fund, played a key role in the round and is actively supporting ApisProtect's US expansion efforts.

ApisProtect provides an in-hive sensor network with long-range, cellular and satellite-powered communication to proactively monitor honey bee colonies. Combining the sensor data on hive conditions, health and activity levels with its proprietary big data and machine learning techniques, ApisProtect said it gives beekeepers actionable insights and alerts to help prevent losses and increase colony productivity.

ApisProtect said the investment will allow it to rapidly scale – deploying its IoT technology to more climates, bee sub-species and bee foraging areas.

It said its key focus will be establishing a presence in North America, South Africa and the UK, as well as growing its team in Ireland.

ApisProtect is headed up by Dr Edwards Murphy, Dr Pádraig Whelan and Andrew Wood, a team with complimentary backgrounds including engineering, scientific, beekeeping and commercial experience.

Dr Edwards Murphy has a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a BE from UCC in 2013.

As a graduate of UCC, Edwards Murphy participated in the Ignite program, an international award-winning business start-up programme that specialises in supporting recent third-level graduates to turn innovative ideas into successful, scalable businesses.

She won the Ignite Business of the Year Award in 2016.

Her work has received international recognition, including at least eight academic publications, awards from the Irish Research Council, IBM, The Irish Laboratory Awards, and Google.

ApisProtect was partially funded by St Louis-based ag-tech accelerator The Yield Lab in 2016.

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