SFU lab and Chilliwack company are buzzing with tech advances

Mechatronics researcher creates hive monitoring system amidst critical honey bee crisis

To help tackle this environmental issue, Mitacs intern Oldooz Pooyanfar, a graduate student from Simon Fraser University’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, is working on a ‘smart’ system that monitors the health of honey bees and their hives. Once installed inside a beehive, her integrated monitoring system allows beekeepers to observe and track the health of their colonies. The device uses microscopic sensors and microphones to pick up sounds and vibrations emitted by bees and can also be used to observe the temperature and humidity of each hive.

“To understand what bees are communicating, we can either look at pheromones — the chemical they produce — or sound,” says Oldooz.

“With my monitoring system, we are collecting data in real time on what the bees are ‘saying’ about foraging, or if they’re swarming, or if the queen bee is present. The data we’re collecting will pinpoint what they are actually doing.” In turn, the device will automatically analyze the data and notify beekeepers of any abnormalities, such as diseases, colony loss, and queen loss.

Through a Mitacs Accelerate internship, Oldooz is collaborating with Chilliwack-based Worker Bee Honey Company to further observe honey bee work patterns. The internship will allow her to conduct research in the field and then make adjustments to improve her monitoring system.

“It is estimated that honey bees provide more than 90 percent of commercial pollination services,” Oldooz added. “There are many factors that could affect honey bee colonies and constantly monitoring hives is both time consuming and costly for beekeepers.”

Oldooz has plans to manufacture sensors at lower costs so that her monitoring system will be more accessible to beekeepers in the future. She hopes that her work will make meaningful contributions to help solve this important environmental crisis. 

“This opportunity with Mitacs has given me a chance to gain more real-world experience and apply my knowledge in solving problems. And, the interdisciplinary nature of the project has given me a chance to look at the bigger picture.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

Rewritten with permission from Simon Fraser University’s Internal University Communications Department.

Photo by Simon Fraser University

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