Blooming marvellous: New insect monitor listens out for bees on UK’s blossoming apple orchards
Innovative insect tracking tech that provides real-time data on precious pollinator activity rolls out onto Kent apple orchards AgriSound aims…
Innovative insect tracking tech that provides real-time data on precious pollinator activity rolls out onto Kent apple orchards
AgriSound aims to support farmers to identify threats, boost yields and quantify benefits to nature from on-farm environmental action
On the eve of World Bee Day, Tesco and WWF have teamed up with start-up tech innovator, AgriSound, to roll out its ground-breaking insect-monitoring device, ‘Polly’, across several English apple orchards, just as the spring blossom emerges. The technology will enable UK fruit growers access to game-changing insight into the activity of their precious pollinators.
Funded through the WWF Tesco partnership Innovation Connections Programme, 50 of the ‘Polly’ AI listening devices – designed to capture and analyse the sound of a range of common pollinating insects – have been deployed across three different sites in Kent. The aim is to measure the biodiversity benefits of wildflower margins across three large, commercial apple orchards, and their impact on pollination.
AgriSound anticipates that, by identifying areas of low pollinator activity in real time, the devices will support farmers to boost biodiversity at key sites on farm, to drive up precious pollinator numbers – and ultimately yields.
Data from the devices will also enable farmers to measure the change in pollinator numbers over time, helping to evaluate the benefits of farm level interventions to boost pollinator numbers, helping to enhance biodiversity and reduce the need for artificial fertilisers or pesticides.
WWF and Tesco are funding the trial as part of their Innovation Connections Programme, which aims to support the roll out of innovative technologies – designed to tackle the climate and nature crises – into and across Tesco supply chains. Thanks to the programme, AgriSound is working in partnership with AM Fresh, one of Tesco’s key fresh fruit suppliers, which sources fruit from a number of farms across Kent and the South East of England.
Casey Woodward, Founder and CEO of AgriSound, said: “At a time when biodiversity, including pollinating bee populations, is declining rapidly and the cost of food production is soaring, our project, funded by Tesco and the WWF could help revolutionise the efficiency of commercial pollination, allowing modern farming techniques to enhance vital biodiversity, rather than negatively impact it, as has sometimes been the case historically.”
“It is exciting to be able to expand our technology in the Tesco fruit supply chain to help growers encourage pollinators to the right areas at the right time, boosting yields, without the need for additional fertilisers or pesticides. We are looking forward to helping farm businesses to streamline biodiversity monitoring and promote nature inclusive farming practises.”
Natalie Smith, Head of Agriculture at Tesco said: “Pollinators play a crucial role in food production so it’s vital we monitor and protect their populations across the UK. By using Tesco WWF Innovation Connections winner, AgriSound’s latest technology to monitor biodiversity, we can better understand the pollinator population in British apple orchards and ensure that apples destined for Tesco shelves are helping to improve nature, while also increasing fruit yields for growers.”
David Edwards, Director of Food Strategy at WWF, said: “The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, and currently food production is driving it’s decline. From insects and birds to bees and mammals, UK nature is in freefall – and this is undermining the resilience of our whole food system.”
“New technology like this has the potential to support farmers to bring our landscapes back to life, helping to showcase measurable biodiversity benefits delivered through specific on farm interventions, at the same time as boosting productivity.”
“Alongside supporting business-led innovation to boost nature and curb the environmental impacts of food production, we need urgent action from the UK Government to accelerate the shift to nature positive farming, which is a key step to shift the food system onto a sustainable footing and help save our wild isles.”
Naomi Pendleton, Group Sustainability Director at AM Fresh said: “AMFRESH Group UK have been delighted to partner with AgriSound, trialling their technology in our top fruit supply chain. We have ambitious environmental and biodiversity targets to meet, and our sustainability team are experimenting with innovative entrepreneurial businesses to achieve these. We have been working with AgriSound in our citrus orchards in Spain for the last six months, so we are now excited to get started in the UK.”
The UK has seen dramatic declines in insect numbers in recent years, driven by a range of factors including pesticide use. It is now one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.
Notes to editors
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world Biodiversity Intactness Index, Natural History Museum and has lost over 95% of lowland wildflower meadows, precious habitats for vital pollinators.
A 2022 Bugs Matter survey found that UK flying insects declined by nearly 60% since 2004.
About the Innovation Connections programme
Innovation Connections is an accelerator programme created by Tesco and WWF which pairs pioneering start-ups with Tesco suppliers to fast-track innovation in the supply chain.
About the WWF Tesco Partnership
WWF and Tesco formed a partnership in 2018 with the aim of halving the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket. The partnership focuses on three key areas of action: helping customers to eat more sustainable diets; restoring nature in food production; and tackling waste.
Link to original article here: