With almond pollination now behind us, we’re preparing to dive back into research and development. As always, our number one focus is to improve Verifli—fine-tuning our accuracy to eliminate manual hive checks, speeding up report turn-around, and building new features that deliver more value to our customers.
Hive strength model
We made several key breakthroughs last winter towards improving the accuracy of Verifli’s hive strength predictions. We’re more confident in our hive strength model than ever before, and with 8 months of testing ahead of us, we believe model accuracy will exceed our strict performance standards for the upcoming almond pollination season. That could mean no more manual hive inspections to double-check our results!
Though Verifli was more accurate than ever this season, there’s always room to improve. We’ll continue to collect data throughout 2021 to strengthen the model in a wider range of weather conditions. Certain weather conditions (like torrential rain) will always pose a challenge, but we aim to produce reliable hive strength predictions when the weather is less than ideal.
We’ll also expand the model to work on different hive box materials. The thermal conductivity of plastic, styrofoam and other alternative materials used for hive boxes vary from the more common pine hive box. We’ll collect data on colonies housed in non-wood hive boxes this year to adapt our model and maintain accuracy on alternative hive boxes.
Much of our work last year on the hive strength dashboard revolved around optimizing for speed and capacity. Now that the dashboard can seamlessly handle tens of thousands of hive strength records, we’re planning to build some new features our users have requested. Along with minor optimizations like faster, more intuitive printable report generation, here are two major projects on our roadmap this year:
Daily Pollination Stats tracker
Verifli users will see a new toolbar on their dashboard next season that displays custom weather metrics that impact pollination. These two metrics will update daily with local weather data from each of your orchard locations:
Bee Flight Hours+ (BFH+): Measures how much time the bees have to pollinate given the weather conditions. Bee Flight Hours has drawn criticism for its rigid, imperfect formula that only measures when conditions are optimal for bee flight. If weather isn’t optimal, BFH assumes that zero bees are flying. In response, we’re designing a custom formula (called BFH+) that accounts for limited bee flight when conditions aren’t optimal. Based on peer-reviewed research of bee flight activity in various weather conditions, we hope that BFH+ will add valuable context when viewing your hive strength results.
Verifli Score: Adds your Verifli hive strength results to BFH+. Verifli Score accounts for the fact that a hive sends out a different percentage of foragers based on the colony’s population size. Given the estimated flight time measured by BFH+, Verifli Score uses your hive strength results to estimate how many foragers are sent out by your hives. Measured on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 is worst, 5 is best), Verifli Score will help our users determine if their bees are strong enough to provide sufficient pollination given the local weather conditions.
Pollination planning portal
Planning for pollination can be a complex, detail-intensive process with little room for error. One typo or misplaced decimal point can lead to a nightmare that haunts every almond grower: poor pollination. Here are just a few key details growers must consider when planning for pollination:
Determining how many hives to place & distributing hive drops evenly throughout each orchard.
Assigning a beekeeper to each orchard & communicating when, where and how to drop hives (instructions must be very easy to follow since hives are dropped at night).
Selecting drop locations that are reasonably easy to access—but not too easy, otherwise you risk exposing hives to theft.
For growers who manage more than a handful of sites, this process can become overwhelming, especially when your only tools are PDF maps and Excel spreadsheets. To simplify this process, we’re building a new page on the Verifli dashboard where users can manage all the details in one place. After entering the necessary information, users will be able to edit orchard maps and customize drop locations, keep a running tally of how many hives have been assigned and the total hives per acre at each site, and manage beekeepers (assign to each site, track how many of each beekeeper’s hives you’ve assigned, store contact info and share maps).
With several big projects on the horizon, we’ve got more than enough work to keep us busy this year. We’ve already made strong progress in the 2 months since almond pollination wrapped up, and we’re eager to get the ball rolling on model tuning and software development.