The Winterthur-based company Vatorex has developed a special heating system for bee colonies which can be a game changer for beekeeping.
Making beekeepers' lives easier and bees fitter at the same time: that is the goal of Vatorex, a start-up founded in 2016 by ETH Zurich student Pascal Brunner and his father, an experienced beekeeper and biologist. The company's main product works like a "sauna for bees". Heating coils are embedded directly into wax foundations and maintain a temperature of 42° C for three-hour periods, thereby killing Varroa mites, the bees' most dangerous enemies. According to the Swiss Apicultural Health Service, in Switzerland alone one in eight bee colonies did not survive the 2019/2020 winter.
Varroa mites are the biggest threat to bees
Varroa mites bring bacteria and viruses into hives and can wipe out entire colonies. Vatorex heating bars kill the mites while bees survive the heat treatment without damage and can develop free of pests. According to Vatorex's founders, this is the first solution that does not use any chemicals. In addition to their anti-mite heat sticks system, Brunner and his team have developed an app that collects data from beekeepers and evaluates them electronically. The bee app helps beekeepers understand colony strength, brood development and the queen's brood patterns. The swarm's activities can be tracked with an interactive weather map that helps to always take the right steps to manage the bees.
Successful crowdfunding at the beginning of journey
Vatorex started with a crowdfunding campaign called 'Save the bees', which raised CHF 60,000 within five days. Funds also came from the Venture Kick programme and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. Vatorex also made an appearance on the TV show 'Die Höhle der Löwen' in 2019. Brunner and his father convinced all five investors and secured an investment of half a million Swiss francs.
In Switzerland alone there are almost 170,000 bee colonies, which are looked after by 17,500 beekeepers. The goal of Vatorex is to be used on as many beekeeping operations as possible in Switzerland and beyond. Currently the company has clients in 14 European countries, and it is now expanding to New Zealand. In 2022, it will launch a new technology based on current research.