Technology start-ups are exploring ways of keeping agriculture productive as the bee population worldwide continues to collapse.
The Beak & Stiff orchard in LaFayette, New York, is the first apple orchard in the world to be pollinated by drones. The 400-acre orchard has relied on bees for 107 years, but last month opted to team up with the Dropcopter drone company and to use its Worker Bee pollinator instead.
Pete Fleckenstein, Director of Fresh Fruit Operations at Beak & Skiff Orchards told local news station NewsChannel 9 that if the weather gets too cold the bees don't fly and that can result in missing the short pollination window. Using a drone, he added, is 'one less weather related event I have to worry about every spring'.
There are claims that the drone, which hovers 8 feet above the trees, can deliver 'the necessary pollen more precisely than bees can do it', and that drones save time, with the Beak & Stiff orchard pollinated in a couple of hours instead of the two weeks bees would have needed.
The implications of this are vast and inequitable. Hopefully, even more intelligence and ingenuity is being applied to reversing the downward trend for natural pollinators.