The co-founder of Apiterra, which sets up and maintains beehives at company and organisation premises in central Paris is developing an agricultural pollination service with its US-based arm Ubees.
“If bees are disappearing, that also means that 30% of our food supply is disappearing” explains Arnaud Lacour, speaking from the communal working space at WeWork in Manhattan, where Ubees – the latest creation by this French serial-entrepreneur – is based. The young start-up is offering American farmers a system of interlinked hives whose bees will pollinate crops. He adds: “The United States has a greater need than France for additional beehives because agriculture in the US is more intensely based on farmers growing a single crop (mono-cropping), which, combined with pesticide use, is responsible for killing bees”.
Arnaud Lacour is very pleased with one of his recent recruits: “it is without doubt the smartest piece of recruitment that we’ve secured” he explains, describing the person in charge of the bee keeping programme at UC Davis (University of California). “He has opened many doors for us”. The hives that Ubees rents to American farmers, particularly on the west coast, are monitored remotely.
“The queen bee’s brood chamber at the heart of the hive must always stay at 34°. If the temperature moves from this level, it means that the queen has died. If there is no intervention within the following fifteen days, then the entire hive will die” Arnaud Lacour continues. Ubees’ second generation (2.0) hives mean that such intervention can happen much sooner. Ubees uses various different techniques to tackle bee mortality, which it has been able to reduce by 30% at its hives to 10%.
Ubees is growing by purchasing beekeeping companies and upgrading them by deploying its technologies. The company plans to bring this wealth of expertise – built up from its experiences in America – to France. “France has recently banned the use of neo-nicotinoids in agriculture and is now at the forefront of the fight against the causes of bee mortality” adds Arnaud Lacour, who avoids any hint of pessimism. In the USA, the number of hives has plummeted by around half in recent years, dropping from 5 to 2.5 million. Honey production fell by a third. “There are solutions that can prevent the extinction of bees” he insists “but they must now be implemented before it is too late”.
A bright future for Apiterra
Apiterra was Arnaud Lacour’s first company, which he co-founded ten years ago in Paris with Ronan de Kervénoaël, and its ascension will continue even before it starts marketing its beehives to farmers in France. Apiterra’s main activity thus far is installing and maintaining beehives – for an annual charge – at company buildings and sites, which then produce honey labelled by colour. The company numbers Hermès, Clarins, L’Oréal, Accor and Guerlain amongst its clients. Apiterra also offers training for city dwellers wanting to learn about beekeeping. Paradoxically, the rate of bee mortality in Paris is less than in the countryside, where mono-cropping and pesticides are decimating hives. With the growth of city agriculture and planted, vegetative roofs, Apiterra’s future looks bright.