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This beekeeper is rescuing bees with deep learning and an iPhone

By now just about everyone has seen the video of Makoto Koike’s deep learning-powered cucumber sorter. Hobbyists around the world are hacking solutions to their problems using machine learning. The latest, Swedish beekeeper and inventor Björn Lagerman, is building BeeScanning with the help of a team of engineers and researchers. BeeScanning is an app that applies some clever computer vision to ordinary smartphone photos to alert beekeepers to the potentially dangerous presence of Varroa mites in their bee colonies.

Varroa mites are a nightmare for bees and their keepers. They attach themselves to bees and quite literally suck the life out of them. Left unchecked, they can destroy entire colonies. The trick is that bees need continuous monitoring, and traditional methods of identifying Varroa are time-consuming. Varroa multiply exponentially and they can only be stopped if they’re caught early.

This is where the group’s machine learning proficiency comes into play. Because the red mites contrast strongly against the back of the bees, an object recognition algorithm can be used to quickly check batches of bee images for the pests.