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Rev Hardware Accelerator Team Finds Sweet Spot In Beehive Monitoring

Rev Hardware Accelerator Team Finds Sweet Spot In Beehive Monitoring


From a comical pop culture reference in Cards Against Humanity to a very real concern for ecosystems, bees are on our minds. With a reported 30 percent of bees dying yearly, and 33.7 percent of colonies collapsing between April 2016 and March 2017, as reported by the Bee Informed Partnership, we can’t help but ask ourselves what we can do to help stop the problem?

Combplex, a Hardware Accelerator team at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, has devised a prototype system to help beekeepers manage colonies more effectively. By giving beekeepers tools to monitor for signs of colony collapse, this team intends to help save bees from extinction.

Co-founder of Combplex Hailey Scofield examining her prototype in a protohive.

“I think that what’s actually unique about our product is that it’s really pretty simple. It’s not replacing beekeepers, it’s augmenting information that they [have],” said Hailey Scofield, co-founder of Combplex. “We think of ourselves as a bee science company that is using hardware to solve problems and get more data for bee health research.”

The founders of Combplex, Hailey Scofield and Nathan Oakes, are both Ph.D. students at Cornell University. Scofield has worked with bees and other insects for almost a decade. She studies development, temperature and honey bee behavior at Cornell, knowledge she applies to her startup. Oakes trained as an electrical engineer and worked for several bio-tech startups before meeting Scofield at Cornell, where he is getting a degree in computational biology.

Over the 11-week sprint to Demo Day, the team worked on solidifying their design, business model, and perfecting their prototype, which faced some obstacles. During the first sprint, the team realized that their system’s wires were slowly being eaten by the bees. The team brought up their hurdle at a Hardware Design Review and, within moments, were offered advice from the other hardware teams. By the eighth week the team had found a solution to their problem: they covered their wires with a material that did not irritate their temperamental bees: candle quality beeswax from local beekeepers.

The teammates said they were pleased that the rapid prototyping allowed them to develop so quickly, but even more grateful for the knowledge they gained on how to take their prototype out of the lab and into a pitch. Before the Hardware program at Rev, the team had little experience with carpentry and mechanical engineering, let alone marketing.

“We have new skill sets thanks to the Hardware Accelerator, and that feels really powerful,” said Scofield.

Now that the team has the knowledge they need to make their project grow, the hope is that the rewards will be sweet. After Demo Day, the team says it will start looking for grants to help continue their research and monitor bees year ‘round. They’ll also be looking for more beekeepers to test their prototypes in hives.

Combplex is sure to cause a buzz in the industry, and we’ll definitely bee keeping an eye on their journey post-demo day. To learn more about what Combplex and other HA teams are up to at Rev, be sure to attend Networking@Rev’s Demo Day on August 10.