Bendigo secondary school students are going to play a crucial role in a world-first international research project to save the world's bee population.
EcoThought Farm in Harcourt is the home of the Bees with Backpacks projects, with hundreds of bees recently introduced to the premises.
A partnership between CSIRO, the Department of Education, Ecothought Farm and tech innovator HiveKeepers, bees will be fitted with high-tech microsensors that work like vehicle e-tags to monitor bee movements to and from their hives.
CSIRO's Data61 team leader in Microsystems Peter Marendy said he expects as many as 5000 bees to be tagged this year.
"The way we put the backpacks on the bees is using a glue, tweezers and a separation tool.
"We open the hive, identify the bees we want to tag and place the tag on the bees back so it goes below the head and doesn't prevent it from flying," Mr Marendy said.
The microsensor tag is 2.5 millimetres by 0.4 millimetres in size, with a minimum of 50 bees to be tagged each week.
HiveKeeper's chief executive officer Simon Mildren is tasked with tagging the bees.
"Bees are small creatures who like to be busy, so tagging them will be a new experience for me," Mr Mildren said.
The microsensors will feed back real-time information to researchers, informing industry and recreational beekepers about ways to better care for their hives.
"If we can understand where bees are foraging to, how far they travel and what sort of plants they're interested in, we can learn about the right environment for a bee to be in.
"The end goal is to create a sustainable colony and have a healthy bee population," Mr Mildren said.
Bendigo Tech School students will visit EcoThought farm to have a hands-on experience and develop innovations from the data gathered.
"The project will be a fantastic way to introduce students to sensor tech and get them excited about future careers in the food, wine and agriculture industries," Bendigo Tech School director Graeme Wiggins said.
The Bees with Backpacks project has generated international interest, with overseas research teams using the technology invented by CSIRO.
EcoThought Farm chief executive officer Slade Beard is elated to have the project at his farm.
"We have spent the last seven years developing a research platform.
Testing the communications infrastructure that EcoThought has invested in developing is one of the benefits of the project.
"There is a lot of thought out there that bees are disappearing and maybe we can find some evidence to support it and do something about it," Mr Beard said.