Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

It’s getting harder each day to be a honeybee.

Buzzing around pollinating our global food production is the fun part, but on the other side, these insects are fighting for their lives and dying at an alarming rate due to pesticide exposure, novel pathogens, and parasites called Varroa destructor—a giant tick that feeds on bees, spreading deadly viruses that can kill or greatly weaken colonies.

This increasing demise of colonies matters to humans because one-third of all food grown in the U.S. is dependent on pollination from bees. And the majority of bees responsible for pollinating these domestic crops—2.5 million colonies—come from managed beehives, according to California’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan. In the last 10 years beekeepers have reported up to 40 percent of annual colony losses, according to the Bee Informed Partnership.

In the effort to help beekeepers, two Ph.D. students from Cornell University, Hailey Scofield and Nathan Oakes, leveraged their honeybee research, data science, and electrical engineering expertise to assist colony managers and develop a new approach to fighting parasites.

Combplex is a smart frame that helps eliminate parasites and remotely monitors bee health in a hive. Their new approach aims to eliminate the harmful Varroa destructor parasites within the hive without the need to use harmful chemicals traditionally used against these bee killers.

“We are in the prototyping stage. We are in the process of launching a field trial in South Carolina in April before a large-scale field test with commercial beekeepers in up-state New York over the summer and fall,” said Hailey and Nathan.

Combplex was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures, which comes with a $10,000 grant upon completion of the program to help founders move their businesses forward.

Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars has been so influential in expanding our horizons as founders,” said Hailey and Nathan. “As scientists we tend to focus on the product, research, and vision. The LaunchPad program has provided personalized mentorship to help us build out aspects of the business, such as our brand, team, and the steps we need to take to reach our goals.”

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