07 Feb IU alumni-led ag tech startup The Bee Corp attracts second investment from IU Ventures
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 7, 2022
INDIANAPOLIS — The Bee Corp, a pioneering agricultural technology startup founded by two Indiana University alumni and headquartered in Indianapolis, is receiving additional investment through IU Ventures’ startup support ecosystem.
After receiving a $250,000 investment from the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund in 2020, the Bee Corp — which has introduced an innovative technology for commercial growers and beekeepers who rely on bees to sustain healthy crop production — has attracted a $125,000 investment through the IU Angel Network.
The Bee Corp is only the second IU-affiliated company to receive investment from both funding vehicles under IU Ventures, which leads IU’s investment in high-potential new venture opportunities with strong university connections. Diagnostic cancer testing startup Amplified Sciences received a double investment in 2020.
“We are extremely pleased to advance the development of one of IU’s most successful student-initiated startups, which marked its fifth anniversary last year, through the support of our expanding IU Angel Network,” said Jason Whitney, vice president of venture development at IU Ventures and executive director of the IU Angel Network. “We hope this new investment will enable The Bee Corp to further optimize its breakthrough technology platform for improving bee colony management and crop pollination and expand the use of this platform in more markets across the nation and world.”
The Bee Corp was founded by Ellie Symes, a graduate of the IU Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Wyatt Wells, a graduate of the IU School of Public Health- Bloomington.
Symes and Wells, who were named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for 2022, launched their company after winning the IU Business Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology Competition in 2016. Since then, the company has raised more than $3 million in funding, and its technology has been used to grade over 100,000 hives by beekeepers and crop growers in several U.S. states, as well as in five countries spanning three continents.
“This new Indiana University investment promises to have a major impact on our efforts to provide an effective tool for beekeepers, growers and crop consultants during the critical period of pollination,” Symes said. “It will also allow us to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the technologies we’ve developed, and to introduce them to new markets, including areas where pollination research and innovation are not as heavily funded.”
Before launching The Bee Corp, Symes and Wells created the Beekeeping Club at IU to address the devastating threats facing the nation’s population of honey bees, which has been in decline for more than three decades. Honey bees pollinate a third of the nation’s food supply, and they are responsible for adding more than $15 billion a year to the value of U.S. agricultural projects.
Symes and Wells presented some of their early findings about bees and hive health to the IU Foundation Board of Directors. The pair was challenged by several board members to dream bigger about how they could help remedy the situation and make an impact.
In 2019, The Bee Corp shifted its focus from preventing hive loss to analyzing the strength of bee colonies with the launch of its Verifli service, which uses non-invasive infrared technology, as well as data analytics, to help commercial growers and beekeepers accurately evaluate hive health. Verifli was initially developed for almond growers in California, who rely heavily on bee pollination to sustain their crops.
Since then, The Bee Corp has engaged in several pilot studies to understand the challenges of expanding Verifli into new crops. This year, the company hopes to introduce the value of infrared hive grading to more growers seeking to optimize pollination.
Symes also continues to serve on the investment committee for the Shoebox Fund, which helps companies emerge from the Shoebox, the student startup incubator at the Shoemaker Innovation Center at the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering in Bloomington. Established last year, the fund is administered by the school in partnership with IU Ventures.
About IU Ventures
IU Ventures invests in and supports early-stage companies through three programs: the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, and IU Founders and Funders network. Each program takes unique approaches to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. In Indiana alone, IU Ventures made new and follow-on investments in 19 companies during 2020-21, was recognized as one of the top three most active funds in the state and received the MIRA Venture Fund of the Year award. More than 50 percent of the companies in which IU Ventures has invested since 2018 have had women or minority founders, CEOs or other C-suite members.