Bega Cheese (ASX: BGA) has marked its entry into the honey aisle with the launch of the Purple Hive Project, an initiative designed to protect honey bees from the threat of the destructive Varroa mite.
The pest has crippled bee colonies around the world, and while the mite is yet to hit the Australian industry it is only a matter of time before it becomes established on our shores.
After revealing its launch of 'B Honey' today, a 100 per cent pure honey that is Australian owned and sourced, Bega highlighted how the Purple Hive Project uses 360-degree camera technology and artificial intelligence to detect a healthy bee from a bee carrying Varroa mite.
The mites tend to attach themselves to honey bees and honey bee brood, not only causing problems through its disruption of colonies but also by transmitting viruses amongst the bees.
"When we began to develop B honey, we realised the significant threat facing Australia's honey industry," explains Bega Foods executive general manager Adam McNamara.
"It was clear to us that we needed to invest in technology and innovation to support the future of our honey bees, Australian beekeepers, and in turn, Australian agriculture.
"The Purple Hive is a solar-powered artificial intelligence-based device, trained to detect the Varroa mite in real-time so that we can prevent its spread if it were to make its way into Australia."
It is estimated that one in every three mouthfuls of food that Australians consume relies on pollination support by honey bees.
"The presence of the Varroa mite in Australia would cripple our local honey bee populations, not only impacting Australian honey production, but also the many Australian food crops which rely heavily on honey bees for pollination," says Ian Cane, beekeper and Purple Hive Project advisor.
"Surveillance for the early detection of the Varroa mite remains crucial to the health of honey bees and honey bee pollination dependent industries - as once the Varroa mite is established, it's highly unlikely that we will be able to eradicate it.
"The Purple Hive Project will be a game-changer for what is currently a painstakingly manual detection process. We look forward to this technology becoming accessible to Australia's wider community of beekeepers in the future."
The long-term vision is that the Purple Hive Project will create a network of hives located across Australia to support the entire honey industry.
"Without prioritising the health of our honey bees and the ecosystems that rely on them for their wellbeing, honey bees, as well as Australian food security is under threat," adds McNamara.
"By enjoying B honey, you'll be supporting the Purple Hive Project, and in turn, our bees."
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