Beefutures has developed technology with the potential to “revolutionise” our understanding of the impact of climate and human activities on the environment by analysing bee behaviour.
Oslo-based impact investors Norselab have led an NOK 18m (€1.56m) seed round investment in Beefutures, a biotech firm focused on providing the tools to optimise beekeeping and pollination, incentivise more sustainable farming practices and combat biodiversity loss. Existing investors, including angel investors and family offices, also participated in the round.
This is Norselab’s second investment through the Meaningful Equity II fund, following its investment in Wanda, a circular logistics platform last year.
Norselab said its decision to invest in Beefutures was driven by the company’s innovative technology, which had the potential to revolutionise human understanding of the environment’s resilience or susceptibility to climate incidents and human activities by generating data and insights into bee behaviour.
Norselab explained that despite increased public awareness of the need to halt biodiversity loss, thrown into the spotlight by the Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity summit held in Montreal last year, there was a lack of adequate tools to assess the state of biodiversity.
Jean-Guillaume Marquaire, investment partner at Norselab, said Beefutures provided a piece of the puzzle with the development of a new technology called Onibi, which uses honey bees as biosensors to evaluate how able a particular environment was to withstand certain impacts.
He said that he and his team had been impressed by how advanced the Onibi solution was given the early stage of the company.
“Beefutures’ technology has enormous potential to contribute to solving the biodiversity challenges we are facing,” he said. “We look forward to working with Beefutures to support the growth of their innovative technology and build out an early-mover solution that actively safeguards our planet’s biodiversity.”
Beefutures, which is headquartered in Norway with an R&D centre in France, said it would use the investment to scale the technology and further explore how the data collected by bees could help with biodiversity preservation and restoration.
Protecting biodiversity and sustainable farming
According the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, more than 90% of the leading global crop types are visited by bees and pollinator-dependent crops contribute to 35 per cent of global crop production by volume.
But bee populations globally have been declining due to habitat loss, intensive farming practices, climate change, air pollution, invasive species and the use of harmful pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, posing a threat to both biodiversity and food security worldwide
The Onibi technology, which is made up of two elements – Onibi Base and the Onibi Watch, has been designed to help beekeepers, farmers, property owners, municipal and national planners and land managers to better understand the health of the ecosystems in which they operate as well as make more timely decisions to support pollinator-friendly agriculture and urban landscape regeneration.
Using sensors, microphones and cameras as well as AI powered visual and audio monitoring, placed in and around a beehive, Onibi is able to collect data on the phenology of bees and their environment, foraging intensity, daily bee losses and pollen, among other things, which can then be translated into actionable insights.
The technology, which is in the final field test phase with the Norwegian Beekeeping Association before it becomes available for commercialisation, can also be used to monitor and analyse the health of the bees themselves. Using integrated chemical-free thermal and light treatment solutions it can also boost the immune systems of bees and protect them from diseases and parasites like the varroa mite, which has been responsible for the widespread destruction of bee colonies throughout Europe and worldwide.
Christophe Brod, founder and CEO of Beefutures, who hails from a commercial bee keeping family with more than 30 years of experience in keeping bees, said: “Onibi Base is entering commercialisation for beekeepers to fight the varroa mite and offer urban beekeeping and/or pollination services for corporates and farmers. Onibi Base together with Onibi Watch will also be proposed to professional urban beekeepers who need remote monitoring, which is becoming central to municipalities’ biodiversity management. We will also focus on research institutes and governmental bodies to scale the solution for biodiversity data and bee behaviour monitoring.”
The Meaningful Equity II fund is still fundraising with a target fund size of €150m. Speaking to Impact Investor, Marquaire explained that all of the fund’s investments had to prove “a substantial and concrete contribution” to at least one of the SDGs, while causing no significant harm to any of the SDGs.
“Beefutures has a clear contribution to SDG 15: Life on land through their chemical-free treatment against invasive species (the varroa mite) and through the insights their Onibi Watch technology can provide about local ecosystem impacts of climate change and human activities. Beefutures also contributes to SDG 2, zero hunger, target 2.4, by supporting agricultural productivity through honey bees,” he said.