In the heart of central Israel lies a moshav, a collective farm where innovative agricultural technology is taking root. Meet Mr. Sade, the visionary founder of BloomX, a tech company that has harnessed the power of mechanics to revolutionize crop pollination, drawing parallels to the vital role played by bees.
BloomX’s mission is not to replace bees but rather to enhance pollination efficiency for farmers and lessen their dependence on commercial honeybees, Mr. Sade explains.
Pollinators, particularly bees, play a critical role in global agriculture, being responsible for three-quarters of crops that produce fruits or seeds for human consumption.
In the United States and Europe, approximately 75% of the pollination for fruits, nuts, and vegetables is attributed to bees. However, the alarming decline in bee populations due to climate change, habitat loss, pesticide use, and threats like the varroa destructor mite has put farmers under immense pressure.
BloomX’s innovative technology presently focuses on two key crops—blueberries and avocados. Their flagship product, “Robee,” resembles a large push-along lawnmower, equipped with two mechanical arms that vibrate to mimic the action of bumblebees. By brushing these arms over blueberry plants, pollen is released, aiding the critical pollination process.
Another BloomX product, “Crossbee,” is a handheld tool designed for collecting and spreading sticky pollen grains among avocado trees. This technology, already in use across various regions globally, promises to significantly increase fruit yields by up to 30%.
Both products are integrated with AI-based software and mobile apps, allowing precise control and monitoring of the pollination process. GPS tools guide farm workers in identifying treated areas, while sensors help determine optimal days for pollination.
The importance of artificial pollination is exemplified by the extensive almond cultivation in California, where the industry is valued at a staggering $10.4 billion annually. Honeybees are transported from different parts of the United States to pollinate almond trees, causing potential shortages of honeybees for other crops across the country.
Lisa Wasko DeVetter, an associate professor of horticulture at Washington State University, emphasises the need for solutions like artificial pollination to alleviate the strain on honeybee populations. Travel-induced stress and the high mortality rate of honeybees due to exposure to pesticides and transportation are pressing concerns.
Eylam Ran, CEO of Edete, another Israeli tech firm specialising in artificial pollination, highlights the adverse effects of intensive honeybee use. He advocates for reducing the pressure on honeybees and allowing them to thrive naturally by embracing artificial pollination for specific crops.
Edete’s technology, primarily employed in pistachio fields in California, focuses on storing pollen for extended periods without deterioration. This allows precise fertilisation timing for various crops like apples, cherries, and almonds, ultimately benefiting both the environment and agriculture.
Diane Drinkwater from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) underscores the importance of prioritising bee health and welfare. While she acknowledges the potential benefits of artificial pollination for certain crops, she reiterates the significance of bees’ natural pollination capabilities honed over millions of years.
As I conclude, the utilisation of artificial pollination technologies offers a promising avenue to sustain crop pollination and mitigate the strain on bee populations. Striking a balance between artificial and natural pollination methods is essential to ensuring the future of agriculture and preserving the delicate ecosystems that sustain life on Earth.