Design and development of a smart weighing scale for beehive monitoring

In recent years monitoring of beehives through technology has become increasingly frequent in research and industry. This is due to a decline in beekeeping, and stagnant honey bee populations across the globe, due to, among other factors, pests and disease. Recent advances in the area of low power wireless sensor network technology can be applied to the beehive for a better understanding of the colony’s condition. This combination of engineering and beekeeping has led to the emergence of Precision Beekeeping. One of the key metrics of the strength of a beehive is the weight of the colony. Changes in weight can accurately reflect the productivity of the colony, as well as its health and condition. This paper describes the development of a wireless platform weighing scales, for implementation as part of a smart beehive.

A single point impact load cell was selected as the most appropriate load sensor and was integrated into the design of the scales. The final weighing system was interfaced via a high precision analogue to digital converter to an off-the-shelf processing platform enabled with a low power Zigbee radio, to allow for data transfer to the base station. An initial simulation of the scale’s ability was carried out, using standard weights to simulate the brood chamber of a beehive and varying weight to mimic the production and consumption of honey. The results showed that the initial platform scale has a linear output characteristic. The analogue to digital converter was evaluated and the system was found to be able to detect changes in weight in the order of tens of grams. A power analysis of the system was also undertaken to confirm that the solution was suitable for remote, battery powered, deployments.

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