Essex: University study uses Maths to maximise pollination by bees

Honey bees in their hive

Honey bees in their hive - Credit: Archant

MATHEMATICAL methods are being used to identify the best positions for beehives in order to optimise pollination under a partnership between the University of Essex and Chelmsford-based firm Simul Systems Ltd.

The project comes after Andrew Lewis of Simul Systems was awarded a £5,000 Innovation Voucher from the Technology Strategy Board to help develop an app to help beekeepers improve productivity.

Increasing pollination rates is seen as vitally important as beehive colonies have decreased significantly over recent years. This is creating a potential crisis as one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat is dependent on pollination, according to the British Beekeepers Association.

Dr Abdel Salhi, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, is now leading a feasibility study on the use of maths to estimate the best distribution of beehives to achieve effective pollination of trees.

Simul System’s aim is to use this analysis to develop an app which will provide commercial and non-commercial bee keepers with a tool to help them decide where to best place their beehives in the future to generate the best possible yield.

Mr Lewis said: “We are very grateful to all our associates, in particular the University of Essex and the Technology Strategy Board, for enabling this opportunity to develop an idea which we hope will make a valid contribution to increasing crop productivity at a difficult time.”

Researchers have visited a local orchard to investigate their configuration to help with building an appropriate mathematical model and the first phase of the project will be completed by the end of March.

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Dr Salhi said “I was excited to undertake this project because it seems an ideal area to deploy mathematical methods of optimisation.

“The underlying problem is potentially very tricky to solve. However, good approximate solutions will be very rewarding indeed. It is also a good opportunity to work with the local farming community.”

Companies can still bid for support from round two of the Innovation Voucher scheme. The aim of the scheme is to provide SMEs with the opportunity to work with an external expert for the first time across a wide range of themes, gaining new knowledge to help their business innovate, develop and grow.

More information about the Technology Strategy Board Innovation Vouchers can be found at:

For further information about working with experts at the University of Essex or general queries about how the University can help you with your application, contact Linette Edonya, Enterprise Support Officer, by e-mail to or by telephone on 01206 872925.