15/02/2024

VBI’s BuzzWatch project nominated

VBI’s BuzzWatch project nominated for European “Innovation in Politics Award”

Vlaams Bijeninstituut (The Flemish Beekeeping Institute), the association aimed at improving biodiversity for the benefit of pollinators and bees in particular, launched the BuzzWatch project in autumn 2023. BuzzWatch is an artificial intelligence programme that maps bee populations and host plants to better match food needs and food supply. Earlier, this project also received massive support from the public jury of AMAI, part of Artificial Intelligence Flanders. So now the project has also been nominated for the European Innovation in Politics Award. The presentation of this award will take place on 2 May in Barcelona.

Vlaams Bijeninstituut (VBI), in collaboration with Hogeschool PXL and Plantsoon, has developed an Artificial Intelligence project, BuzzWatch, with the aim of helping prevent winter mortality in our bee populations. By mapping bee populations and host plants, food needs and food supply can be better matched.

Buzzwatch is a Citizen Science project, meaning that citizen cooperation is needed for the app to work properly.

How does Buzzwatch work:

  • Based on aerial images, AI models map observation plots in roadsides; based on photos provided by citizens, the AI then performs plant recognition.
  • Plantsoon provides the app in which citizens can easily note observations to the photo they take.
  • Experts evaluate those photos and check the AI determination of roadside plants in the observation plot.

What are the benefits of Buzzwatch for beekeepers:

  • Each week, the beekeeper gains knowledge of plant diversity in the local area with a nectar and pollen score. This helps reduce winter mortality due to malnutrition.
  • The beekeeper gets information on where there is a local shortage of bee food and for which period in the year, so that planting can be more targeted
  • For the beekeeper, the App can give a very local indication of where, when and how many bee colonies can be placed, without harming the solitary bees present.

The use of Buzzwatch for other stakeholders:

  • Local governments can adjust their policies with regards to the shortage of host plants.
  • Green services can measure, monitor and adjust their efforts towards bee-friendly areas.
  • Nature lovers can help solitary bees with specific requirements per species.
  • Landscape managers can adapt their sites to solitary bee migration.
  • Fruit growers and farmers can monitor pollinators.

In autumn 2023, the VBI announced the Buzzwatch project. They applied for funding from AMAI, part of Artificial Intelligence Flanders, and received massive support from the public jury.

Shortly after the press interest around Buzzwatch, the VBI was invited by international instances to submit this project idea for the “Innovation in Politics Award”.

To their surprise, they received news this week that out of 334 entries from 26 countries, the 1086-strong panel of public jury voted Buzzwatch into the top 10. Buzzwatch thus achieves a final place for this prestigious European Award.

Buzzwatch is the only project idea nominated from the entire Benelux.

It is extraordinary that a project idea conceived by a small group of volunteers from a small European region with a very limited budget can compete against large corporations from large countries.

On 2 May, a delegation from Vlaams Bijeninstituut will travel to Barcelona to explain the project at the “European Conference on Best Practice in Political Innovation”. The winner will be announced that same evening.

The President of the VBI is already reacting happily: “We hope that this can grow a promotion and further cooperation with European institutes and universities to develop Buzzwatch on a European scale. It can give the project, which is very complex and contains many challenges, more opportunities by going international. The Flemish beekeeping sector is hereby put in the international spotlight and is therefore already a winner.”

About VBI

Vlaams Bijeninstituut (VBI) was founded in 2020 by a small group of enthusiastic beekeepers who wanted to revitalise the beekeeping sector.
The Flemish Beekeeping Institute quickly became known to the wider population for its fight against the Asian hornet. The aim of the association is to improve biodiversity for the benefit of pollinators in general and bees in particular. So not only beekeepers and honeybees are the target group.

With this goal in mind, the VBI has in a short time entered into numerous partnerships with research institutes, NGOs and government agencies.

Meanwhile, the network is large and active.

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