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V-eliminator, innovative solution for varroa fighting

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - V-eliminator (V-eliminator, innovative solution for varroa fighting)

Período documentado: 2019-02-01 hasta 2019-06-30

The problem and the importance for society
Bees are critically important for the environment and to the economy. They ensure pollination for over 80% of crops and wild plants. It is estimated that pollinators, including honey bees, bumblebees and wild bees, contribute at least 22 billion EUR each year to the European agriculture industry (265 billion annually worldwide). Yet in the past decades the number of bees - in Europe and North America primarily - has decreased by almost 25 %. Further decrease in bee population can therefore endanger the pollination and can lead to rise the of food prices.

The overall objective
The main goal of the project is to develop a first laser based system for the mass elimination of varroa on bees. The laser used for removing varroa will offer much safer (for bees and people) and more efficient solution to the varroa problem compared to existing solutions (chemical and mechanical). Other goals: a) advanced statistics of bee behavior and b) with modifications the system will be used for other insects elimination as well (wax moth, small hive beetle…)
The system which consists of laser and camera is managed by deviation control engine and computer vision algorithms. The system is integrated into housing.

The power supply can be performed using the solar cell and battery or AC adapter. Average power usage is only around 5W so many units can be powered from one medium sized 100Wp solar panel.

The low power laser is used. Extensive shooting test were performed before the optimal shooting power and time were found.

Deviation control engine. The direction of the beam is determined by two mirrors that change the angles and thus determine the point at which the beam will be directed. The activator is a magnet in a magnetic field, which shifts the angles of mirrors very quickly. The improvements were done to speed it up and to lower the consumption of the eneregy.

Computer vision consists of hardware (camera, card computer) and computer vision algorithm that identifies the bees and varroas on them. The prototype is currently using a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B single board computer with an 8MP camera.
The key steps in computer vision algorithm. With each image frame the algorithm performs fast image segmentation which enables to find image blobs or ellipses which represent detected bees. All bees are tracked with Kalman filter which is required for prediction of target’s position (i.e. the selected varroa on the bee which is currently tracked). When the varroa is detected the laser (at minimum power) is directed towards it and then the laser correction is calculated. If detected laser point is positioned on the varroa the laser power in increased for 40ms to destroy the varroa mite in the next prediction step.

Miniaturization is also a part of the project, from 19x21x9 cm to 9x11x8 cm end-product dimensions housing.

A prototype is developed to TRL 6, first tests were conducted on the varroa, the laser and the optics (optical vision) are operational. Software is being tested, but is not finalised yet. Technical power supply, the launch, heat efficiency of the laser have been tested at this level and work.
Generally, V-Laser with the existing equipment is too expensive to be affordable for a wider population of beekeepers, but the goal is to make it cheaper and the target group of customers are ecologically aware beekeepers.

The benefits of V-Laser compared to competitive solutions.
• The system is going to contain statistics on the number of varroas and bees (ingoing and outgoing) and varroa eliminated, which was not possible until now (the use of an advanced computer vision algorithm).
• The use of a laser system will not require specialized knowledge; the beekeeper will hang it above the entrance of the hive and the work is going to start right away.
• The V-Laser does not affect healthy bees, which is common when using other solutions.
• Work is autonomous and does not require any attention from the beekeeper.
• The laser is powered by long lasting and easy to replace batteries.
• It represents an efficient solution, with no remittance, easy to use, harmless to bee, beekeeper and the environment and does not cause the varroa resistance

Benefits to society
• Positive effects on the agricultural industry. By pollinating, the bees contribute to an agricultural production. Bees have positive effects on the entire ecosysem and the preservation of biodiversity in nature, so the protection of bees and the preservation of individual species is of crucial importance for humanity.
• Sustainable food production.
• Higher quality of honey and honey based products.
• Reduction of environmental burdens (less pollution of soil and groundwater) The use of various chemicals, which so far as the most common measure have been used in the eradication of varroa, have an impact on the pollution of soil and groundwater which will be reduced by the use of V-Laser.

State of the art
The first novelty is the use of laser beam for varroa removal. We clean the affected bees of the varroa constantly, and no harm is done to the healthy bees which is a key novelty compared to other solutions.

The second novelty relates to production efforts oriented into areas of developing a system that could be produced efficiently and inexpensively. The technology of the laser and optical vision are not novelties per se, the novelties are sophisticated AI computer vision algorithm, miniaturization of the hardware and effective synchronization of optical vision and laser system.