Long live the Bees! Estonians got 2nd prize at Big Data for Bees hackathon in the Netherlands

Back in June 2018, Garage48 organised Tech for Agriculture hackathon with the support of Kingdom of the Netherlands, where 5 Dutch mentors and 4 participants had joined us to solve agri-tech problems in 48 hours! Following the impact and strong relationships built during June, Garage48 got invited to take part in Big Data for Bees hackathon organised by FarmHack in the Netherlands on 14-15th of December. Feeling proud and honoured, we brought 4 Estonian participants with us to compete in this challenging, impressive event. 

Following the invitation (which we accepted in a heartbeat), we gathered a strong team to represent Estonia and Garage48 proudly:

Sigmar Naudi - beekeeper and PhD Student at Estonian University of Life Sciences
Rivo Laks - experienced software engineer and aspiring data scientist
Mart Kullamaa - commercial beekeeper with 1000+ hives (if it doesn't say much too you, just know, it's a very big number for the bee business)
Vostan Azatyan - expert in back-end development and Lead Software Engineer at Devolon

Left to right: Sigmar, Mart, Rivo, Polina from Garage48, Vostan

Two software engineers + two beekeepers = they were born ready to create impact! These guys came to the hackathon with a goal to build effective solutions for bees, have fun, and of course to win.

 There were 6 challenges presented, all aimed to help the bees as well as people working with them. While the participants could choose any challenge they wanted, all 4 participants from Estonia ended up in one team, trying to figure out how to build a decision support system for the beekeepers. The hackathon lasted for 30 hours and was held in Jheronimus Academy of Data Science in Den Bosch.

The problem behind this idea lies in the difficulty and importance of choosing a proper location for a beehive. A good location is crucial; moving a hive for even 100 metres can significantly influence the health of the bees and the honey yield. But choosing this location is never easy because the decision depends on so many external factors. That's where Data Science becomes very useful.

A joint team of Estonian and Dutch participants, called BeeSpot, used datasets provided by Food4Bees and ApiaryMap; resulting in developing a suitability score map which pretty much shows where you should place your beehive and which places are better to avoid.

Sigmar and Mart, the beekeepers, are working on the scoring system

It seemed that mixing Estonian and Dutch expertise worked pretty well. Anne Bruinsma, hackathon organizer, FarmHack says: "Everybody knows that the Netherlands are very strong in Agriculture, everybody also knows that Estonia is very smart in IT, tech and Data Science, so the idea to bring these two worlds is amazing". 
And it truly was. Even though BeeSpot team didn't have much time to work on their idea, they managed to build a prototype which truly impressed the jury and landed them on the second place and 10,000 Euros for the idea execution! That's what we call a good example of international collaboration.

While Rivo, Sigmar, Mart and Vostan's aspirations to win weren't achieved, they seemed highly fulfilled with the outcome and very much motivated to continue working on BeeSpot. The next step will be fine-tuning the scoring system to provide a more precise information for the beekeepers and to validate the idea with a bigger community. In spring, they expect a visit from the Dutch delegation of BeeSpot, coming to see Mart's hives and to discuss the future of the project.

We wish them the best of luck and hope to hear soon about their buzzing success!

The hackathon and Estonian participation were powered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands. 

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