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Regents give OK to honey bee licensing

University of Montana administrators are hoping land-mine-seeking bees will make some money, not just honey.

Jesse Piedfort
Administration Reporter Montana Kaimin

The Montana Board of Regents approved a licensing agreement between a local company and the University of Montana in what could be the first step toward making honey bees a staple of Montana’s economy.

The license, approved at the regents meeting in Billings last week, contains provisions for UM to receive between 4 and 8 percent of revenue generated by Bee Alert Technology Inc., which uses bees to seek out land mines.

“Just the land-mine detection business alone could quickly become an important Montana business,” UM biology professor Jerry Bromenshenk said.

The new technology has the potential to save thousands of lives and create hundreds of millions of dollars per year in contracts for land-mine surveys and mapping, he said.

Bromenshenk, who co-founded Bee Alert Technology with four other UM employees, said Montana could reap the economic benefits of its research.

“One of our greatest challenges stems from our success,” Bromenshenk said. “We need to be able to develop and provide these technologies through Montana firms, rather than see them appropriated by out-of-state firms.”

UM President George Dennison has said making the University a more significant contributor to the Montana economy is one of his top priorities.

Bee Alert Technology has been conditioning bees to detect land-mines for the past four years, although the idea to train bees to detect different scents has been around for 30 years, Bromenshenk said.

In addition to land-mine

detection, the researchers are working to improve crop productivity by increasing the efficiency of bee pollination and beekeeping.

Meanwhile, a plan to create the Northern Rockies Center for Space Privatization at UM was removed from the meeting’s agenda. The center would have overseen a number of research projects, including several involving nanotechnology.

Dennison asked that the center be removed from the agenda at the meeting Thursday. The proposal was accidentally put on the agenda. Instead, there was supposed to be a notice that the center was under consideration.

The center will be a scholarly and industrial-research center offering undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training in space research. It will also assist in forming spin-off companies in the field of space research.

Dennison said it is unclear whether the new center should instead be designated an office. An office would allow the University to collaborate with different organizations on the project, whereas a center would be its own separate entity on campus.

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