Buzz without bees for glasshouse pollination

Miniature drones are being used to pollinate indoor crops as part of research looking at alternatives to honey bee pollination. 

Singapore company Polybee is testing its drones at the University of Western Sydney and with the South Australian company Perfection Fresh in trials funded by Hort Innovation as part of a $60 million commitment to pollination research.

Honey bees struggle in covered environments, and bumblebees, the gold standard for glasshouse pollination in the northern hemisphere, are not allowed to be imported into Australia.

Hort Innovation CEO Brett Fifield said covered cropping was growing rapidly in the horticulture sector and would be key to achieving an industry goal to produce $20 billion worth of fruit and vegetable crops by 2030.

Polybee founder Siddharth Jadhav said the drones would pollinate strawberry and tomato crops for the Australian trials. The draft from their propellers helps spread pollen between flowers. Mr. Jadhav said this method outperformed bumblebees in trials at one of the largest indoor farms in the United Kingdom last April.

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