Thai Sade is the founder of tech firm BloomX, a company that has found a way to mechanically pollinate crops in a similar way to bees. "We are not replacing bees... but rather, offering more efficient pollinating methods to farmers and reducing the dependence on commercial honeybees," Sade says.
Unfortunately for farmers all over the world, bee populations are under pressure due to factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and the use of pesticides. The European honeybee is also being badly affected by a parasitic mite called varroa destructor.
BloomX's technology is currently aimed at two crops - blueberries and avocados - and allows them to be pollinated even if local bee numbers are very low. The firm's main product is called "Robee," which at first glance looks like a large push-along lawnmower. It has two mechanical arms that stick out on either side. These vibrate, and when brushed over blueberry plants, they cause them to release their pollen. The level of vibration is said to have been designed to imitate that of bumble bees - the most effective pollinators of blueberries - which use their wings to agitate the flowers.
BloomX's other product is "Crossbee," a handheld tool for collecting and spreading sticky pollen grains between avocado trees. To date, the equipment is being used in South America, South Africa, Spain, the US, and Israel, and BloomX says it can increase fruit yields by 30%.