3Bee: bees, biodiversity, and the partnership with Intesi Group

Interview with Niccolò Calandri

Once upon a time, there was a pair of researchers in electrical engineering at MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and the other in biology at UCD University College Dublin passion for bees, above all, a winning idea.

This is not the classic beginning of a fairy tale but of the story of 3Bee: the climate tech company, a leader in biodiversity protection that implements innovative biodiversity and ecosystem regeneration projects. And it succeeds thanks to a valuable network of partners including Intesi Group.

We ask Niccolò Calandri, co-founder and CEO of 3Bee, to tell us more.

From what insight did 3Bee originate?

While I was engaged in my Ph.D. in the U.S., my friend Riccardo Balzaretti was devoting himself to his genetic sequencing studies in Ireland. And, in his spare time, also to the hobby of beekeeping but with growing concern about the periodic death of insects in his hives.

On the causes, only hypotheses: the spread of pesticides, wrong breeding practices, …

A question thus began to “buzz” in our heads: what can we do?

We combined our skills to listen and understand bees, thinking about sensors that would detect nectar transported, the sound emitted, possible correlation with specific diseases, and any other useful information. This was just the beginning of 3Bee.

And the first bee-monitoring technology is born…

3Bee was born from the combination of Riccardo’s and my skills: on the one hand, my engineering knowledge allowed us to develop the Hive-Tech technology, but on the other hand, this was possible thanks to Riccardo’s biological knowledge, which allowed us to understand the data obtained from monitoring hives and bees.

Hive-Tech is an IoT system that, when applied to a beehive, collects biometric information about the bee colony and analyzes the quality of the environment. The device collects all relevant data about the colony (weight, temperature, humidity, sound intensity), which is then analyzed by artificial intelligence to determine the health of the hive and its environment. Data from the device can be supplemented with laboratory sampling and analysis to determine the presence of pesticides or heavy metals. Thanks to Hive-Tech we monitor environmental parameters useful for analyzing the biodiversity around us and the health of pollinators, intending to create a network of sentinels throughout Europe.

What have you discovered?

The greatest threat to bees-and to all pollinating insects-is not so much pesticide abuse or inappropriate breeding practices, but the loss of biodiversity due to cities that are not “environmentally friendly,” logistical infrastructure deleterious to natural habitat, and intensive farming systems destructive of resources and landscape.

This is an even greater danger for Italy, the European country with the greatest wealth of local ecosystems due to its varied geography and terrain.

Your project has evolved over time…

From 2017 to the present, we have developed a series of technologies for the protection of biodiversity and pollinating insects, to bring back habitats that have been destroyed or lost over time, focusing in particular on our closest territory, that of Europe. We have created more than 200 Biodiversity Oases: urban and agroforestry habitats in areas of low biodiversity, to regenerate it. Places where technology and nature come together to take a first step toward climate resilience.

Has the sensibility in this regard changed particularly in the business world?

Fortunately, yes, although there is still much to be done.

As 3Bee, we have contributed a great deal of outreach to citizens, farmers, schools, agencies, and businesses concerning the important issue of protecting biodiversity and pollinating insects. Interest, especially on the business side, has increased over time: in particular, there is a need to better understand the risks to biodiversity and the solutions to intervene and manage the declining situation in which it finds itself.

Our initiatives aim precisely at this and are distinguished by three inescapable criteria: monitoring through technology; real regeneration of the territory with measured impact within our Biodiversity Oases, cared for by our growers, experts in the protection and care of species; and education orientation, because each project has an important dissemination purpose, also within our partner companies. For example, we were struck by Intesi Group’s full membership of interest and enthusiasm in the Oasis of CSR: the network for sustainability professionals, which we recently launched to provide companies with ongoing training in ESG.

Intesi Group’s willingness to join the network to further raise the corporate level of information on such important issues is noteworthy.  For a company whose core business is to offer solutions to digitize business processes, making them paperless and therefore more planet-friendly, it is crucial to engage in education and awareness dedicated to environmental issues.

By the way, how are the initiatives supported by Intesi Group progressing?

Intesi Group has created its own Biodiversity Oasis consisting of 3 biomonitoring hives, two in the Lodi area and one near Catanzaro, cared for and managed by two local biodiversity farmers. In total, 900,000 bees are protected and monitored with IG Bees and 900 million flowers have pollinated.

Through 3Bee Hive-Tech, we can monitor environmental parameters useful for analyzing the biodiversity and health of pollinating insects within the Oasis.

The support of partners such as Intesi Group is crucial.

Pollinating insects are responsible for about 75% of the world’s crops-they play a key role in the reproduction of many plant species through pollination work. However, they are increasingly endangered by the consequences of climate change, habitat loss, and other multiple threats. Without them, the balance of our planet’s ecosystems, and consequently that of humans, would be severely compromised.

Specifically, the Lodi area was hit by intense flooding during the winter, while the Catanzaro area faced a dry summer, resulting in feeding problems for bees and pollinators. Negative factors combined with the parallel loss of biodiversity.

Finally, to conclude: what lessons can businesses learn from bees?

Think of the honey bee: its hive is a superorganism and functions almost like a large company.

In businesses, however, one often grows only vertically by identifying with a single function: this limits the capacity for global vision and knowledge of the activities of other teams and departments, with the frequent risk of misunderstandings or, worse, friction.  On the contrary, in their lives, bees change “tasks”: scavenger, forager, nurse, keeper, beekeeper, thus learning every “secret” of the organization. Here, the horizontality of roles would be an important lesson for many enterprises.