The birds and the bees, and artificial intelligence

It’s often said that AI innovation success starts with identifying a problem and then applying a solution. Sometimes the problems are epic in scale; other times, they’re rooted in personal experience and a desire to help out some friends. Marc-André Roberge’s inspiration came from being a beekeeping hobbyist. A product and industrial designer by profession, Roberge began working with honeybees in 2014, producing honey for non-profit organizations. The struggle, he says, was understanding what was going on in the hive. That led to the founding of Nectar, a Montreal-based startup that has developed an AI solution for monitoring the health of honeybee hives. For Roberge, this project isn’t just about AI for AI’s sake. “I’ve always had strong environmental values (and) wanted to do something about it. With all the money being poured into protecting crops, pollination and honey production have been forgotten. Being able to help is a tremendous opportunity.” According to Roberge, beekeepers lose between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of bees yearly, and have to replace them to meet the demand for honey and pollination. “The mortality rate is even higher for hobbyist (beekeepers).” He adds that Agriculture Canada data indicates there are about 10,000…


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