Project: Global Initiative for Honey bee Health (GIHH)

December 11th, 2016

Global Initiative for Honey bee Health (GIHH)

Bees play an important role in ecosystems and agriculture worldwide. To understand honey bee behaviour and the various pressures they face, we have developed microsensing technology which allows for the monitoring of the behaviour of individual bees using RFID tags.


The GIHH is an international collaboration of researchers, beekeepers, farmers, industry and technology companies led by CSIRO.  It aims to research the threats to bee health, better understand bee colony collapse and find solutions to help secure crop pollination.

Our scientists are contributing core capability, knowledge and technology along with expertise in biosecurity, bee pathology, pollination and landscape ecology, and micro-sensing technologies and systems.

By improving the health of honey bees, ensuring sustainable production of crops dependent on honey bee pollination, and increasing productivity through coordinated management of pollination, we can increase the environmental and economic benefits for farmers and beekeepers while making a valuable contribution to sustainable farming practices and food security.

The Challenge

In recent years, the world has seen an unprecedented decline in honey bee colonies with causes largely unknown. Australia is particularly vulnerable due to the horticulture and agriculture industries relying on un-managed feral honey bees for much of our crop pollination.

The Solution

We developed an integrated system of micro-RFIDs (radio frequency identification), reading antennas with additional relevant sensors operated by a custom-implemented embedded system to a database and interfaces to facilitate data visualisation and analysis.

These tiny sensors and associated reading systems allow researchers to analyse the effects of stress factors including disease, pesticides, air pollution, water contamination, diet and extreme weather on the movements of bees and their ability to pollinate.

Each “sensing kit” consists of hardware, software, data and experimental protocols which can be integrated into behavioural, biological and ecological studies and applied on a global scale to increase our knowledge of honey bee health.

The GIHH unites efforts of scientists, beekeepers and farmers conducting experiments, providing and sharing information, publishing joint-reports, and advancing the knowledge on bee health to identify management responses which support industry and government to secure the one third of our food supplies that rely on honeybee pollination.

Impact on Government

Research organisations from nine countries collaborate on the project and the Brazilian Government has reviewed the application of neonicotinoids in agriculture with input from GIHH. Our Data Specification Format, as reported by us in the literature, is adopted worldwide by scientists using RFID on bees.

Impact on Industry

  • Vale (a mining company) uses our system to continuously monitor stingless bees in their operations in the Amazon (Carajas mine). Through this effort Vale meets a condition to operate with the Brazilian EPA and is now able to assess the impact of their operations on pollinators.
  • Our systems are being used collaboratively worldwide for assessment, open data sharing, and science advancement; accelerating the speed of discovery by providing entomologists and landscape biologists with an easy to use platform (hardware and software).
  • We contributed to the Australian Science curriculum by providing datasets of bee movements and activities for school teachers to use in the classroom with students, along with delivering various talks about our research with outstanding media coverage.

Science Impact

  • Three publications, one patent, one dataset.
  • Documentaries and short videos produced by Intel, NAB, Hitachi, CNN, and Austrade.
  • Stories published by international outlets such as Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, CNN, and BBC, in 20+ languages.
  • The launch of the GIHH resulted in the most successful media campaign ever done by CSIRO.

Recognition from Peers

  • 2016 Best Paper Award, IEEE International Conference in Data Science Systems.
  • 2016 Australian Engineering Excellence Award – Innovation, Research and Development, Engineers Australia.
  • 2016 iAwards for Big Data Innovation of the Year (Tas), AIIA.
  • 2016 PR Week’s Global Impact Award, received in London.
  • 2016 Asia-Pacific Magazine Science and Education Award in Singapore.
  • 2016 IABC Golden Quill – Merit Award for Media Relations in New Orleans, USA.
  • 2015 Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Award, Innovation, Technology and Transport.

Impact Pathways

The impact of GIHH includes:

  • Mitigating (and avoiding) losses in agricultural productivity.
  • Increasing pollination effectiveness, productivity and the profitability of farming systems.
  • Improving sustainability and competitiveness of agricultural industry – especially horticultural exports.
  • Providing beekeepers with prompt access to world-wide experts to evolve the industry.
  • Providing SMEs with access to state-of-the-art technology and inside support from Global ICT manufacturers for product development and  commercialisation world-wide.
  • Allowing collaboration: RFIT manufactures the hardware with their Taiwanese partners and test the units in collaboration with IMBROS in Australia. IMBROS commercialises the hardware and embedded software. Manufacturing of the micro-tags is done by Hitachi Chemicals and they are also commercialised by IMBROS.
  • Supporting Hitachi, Intel and CISCO on their exercise of CSR (corporate social responsibility) as they provide leadership and demonstrate how technology can deliver positive commercial, social and systemic outcomes.

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Our highly skilled team of world class researchers and engineers is open to partnerships and collaborations for research, development, and commercialisation.

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