How robots are filling in for bees and helping pollinate Japan’s apple orchards

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Credit: FutureIoT
Credit: FutureIoT

According to the estimate of the Japanese government, the number of bee swarms in Japan has seen a 40% reduction over the past nine years. The absence of important insect pollinators could cast a massive fruit yield reduction and cause a fatal blow on the annual revenue of fruit farmers.

The idea of applying ground robots for fruit tree pollination was a bold attempt to cope with the pollination crisis.

As an all-electric, mini-scale autonomous farm robot, the R150 travelled nimbly between three rows of Sun Fuji apples, spraying atomised pollen solution uniformly on every tree from the bottom up. From a distance, the operator could adjust the spray angle and spread width simply through the smartphone app.

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To make sure every blossom from the top of the trees gets successfully pollinated, workers often needed to use ladders to climb up and down for artificial pollination. This traditional method was not only tiring, tedious, and time-consuming, but also pose a safety risk to workers who might suffer a fall.

The trial at the Takayama farm showed that an XAG R150 could pollinate one row of apple trees within 10 minutes, 12 times more efficient than that of hand spray.

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