Biodiversity, space data and AI saving the bees one ‘waggle’ dance at a time

24th January, 2023, Cornwall, UK

With honey bees contributing a massive £600 million to the UK’s economy each year, Environmental intelligence research, development and innovation company, the Far Out Thinking Co (FOTC) announces its upcoming projects designed to manage biodiversity through data-driven insights, from hornet traps to spaceport rewilding.

We can use bees as bioindicators.

As of July 2022, 41% of England’s native flora and fauna species have seen a decline over the past 50 years (Environment Agency study). FOTC believes that we can harness AI and satellite application technology to work with bees and other pollinators, for the greater good of the planet.

Working alongside the Cornwall Space Cluster, they have already developed some epic tech, designed to decode the honey bee’s waggle – a unique dance they perform to tell the hive where to find the latest pollen source. The patented ‘SmartHives’ integrate cameras with Raspberry Pi, a low-cost single board computer capable of machine learning AI. With this tech FOTC can capture bee foraging frequency and location data; once the foraging location has been uploaded to the rewilding map, API contacts the Met Office weather

data hub and pulls information on the precise location. They can then identify and ‘prescribe’ the specific plants needed to improve the biodiversity of the relevant areas.

FOTC have installed 14 hives in the south west, including one on the Isles of Scilly, which the team is using as a testbed to explore how satellite applications and AI can play a part in the conservation of bees and wild pollinators by assessing how climate change impacts them.

Smart beehive and moth traps are only just the beginning…

FOTC’s AI Smart Moth Trap works in a similar way: AI cameras capture images of the moths to identify the species. Met Office information is stored alongside it, enabling FOTC to explore weather correlation and identify the plant species needed to help improve moth population. The difference is the use of the iNaturalist app – a social network designed to share biodiversity information across the globe. It’s this community involvement which will support the company’s next move to create a Biodiversity Tracking Tool.

Gamification; making conservation fun.

FOTC has high ambitions for the future of continuous biodiversity improvement. By conducting monthly sampling, users can input data through the iNaturalist app to populate the rewilding map. From there, FOTC’s seed pharmacists will prescribe plant seeds to the users. It’s the gamification element that really sets this project apart; similar to pokemon, users can perform tasks (for example, identifying 40 more species) to unlock new cards and boost progress on their rewilding journey.

Beware the Asian Hornets…

FOTC is also turning its attention to these voracious predators who feed on native pollinators, posing a huge threat to the UK’s rewilding efforts. They’re testing an artificially intelligent camera trap which captures, identifies and then alerts DEFRA to the location of these non-native species for extermination.

We’re buzzing for the future:

FOTC is partnering with Spaceport Cornwall to help it become the world’s most responsible launch site and reach Net Zero by 2030… Because hosting the UK’s first satellite launch site is but one of its ambitions!

Head of Spaceport Cornwall, Melissa Thorpe, says that creating and implementing a robust biodiversity plan is key to that: “We’re proud to partner with the Far Out Thinking Company to build out a full suite of their biodiversity offerings on site. It’s an incredible opportunity to test satellite applications and AI capabilities in the name of conservation – and our commitment to a 10% biodiversity gain at Spaceport Cornwall. We’ve already installed bat boxes, so the Smart Hives and Traps are the next obvious step on our rewilding mission.”

Speaking about the partnership, Matthew Elmes, Director of the Far Out Thinking Co says that “If Spaceport Cornwall is to become the world’s first responsible launch site then we must take the lead and follow the bees; there’s a lot we can learn from them about climate change. With all this amazing tech at our fingertips – from satellite applications to AI and machine learning – we have a great chance to use real, sustainable, data driven solutions in our fight against the climate crisis. We’re excited to work with Spaceport Cornwall and use their international platform to demonstrate the positive impact we can have on our natural environment, if only we nurture and work with it, not against it.”

People can follow this journey by following the FOTC’s social enterprise arm Pollenize CIC.