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Revolutionising fruit & vegetable growing in the UK and beyond: The power of Precision Pollination 

BlogBlog29 April 2024

That’s right, the strawberries will look redder, be juicier, taste sweeter, last longer, be better for you and there’ll be more of them at a lower cost to produce.

Revolutionising fruit & vegetable growing in the UK and beyond: The power of Precision Pollination 

We’re proud to see our Polly insect listening devices playing a pivotal role in a groundbreaking pilot project this month, set to revolutionise fruit and veg production in the UK, starting with the production of strawberries, a staple in diets worldwide.  

Along with our partners, this project aims to demonstrate how optimising pollination can positively impact every aspect of crop cultivation from yield and shelf life to taste and nutrition. That’s right, the strawberries will look redder, be juicier, taste sweeter, last longer, be better for you and there’ll be more of them at a lower cost to produce. What’s not to love? Oh, and did we mention, it will all be done naturally?  

This latest precision pollination project will create a highly sustainable crop production system which adds value at every stage of the supply chain, enhancing both quality and crop yield while also minimising waste therefore addressing food production costs. It could radically change the face of fruit and vegetable production in the UK as we know it, and beyond.   

The Challenge  

Despite how much we like our fruit, and there is more than a sufficient demand for it, the UK only produces a staggeringly low 16% of domestic fruits, compared to the 50% of domestic vegetables. It is calculated that 3–5% of fruit, vegetable, and nut production is lost due to inadequate pollination. With 75% of food production depending on insect pollinators like bees, UK farmers would have to spend £1.8 billion on crop pollination without bees.  

These shocking numbers speak for themselves – the ‘simple’ science of pollination and pollinators has the pivotal position in the production of a large group of crops. So how exactly does this project tackle the UK’s fruit growing problem?  

The Solution?  

Precision pollination is a cutting-edge strategy aimed at maximising pollination efficiency through advanced technology. AgriSound, in collaboration with leading industry partners and funded by Innovate UK, is pioneering the use of bioacoustic sensors to monitor pollinator activity in strawberry farms and create a solution at farm level.  

We work with similar principles to the concept of ‘precision farming’, a modern approach where near-to-real-time data from observation and measurement in the field is used to make cultivation decisions in areas of the field where it is required. This optimised process reduces cost, is less damaging to the environment and boosts productivity.  

With precision pollination, the same approach is followed for the process of crop pollination. AgriSound provides farmers with the granular data about the quantities of pollinators in the field (or in this case, polytunnel), who are then able to forecast the rate of pollination happening. If any discrepancies are then found, the required intervention is put in place. This could be by planting wildflowers or adjusting where certain crops are planted. Thus, the data provided pushes the field (or polytunnel) to its full potential productivity.  

This is not just for the overall production, but the quality of produce as well, as research has shown that bee pollinated strawberries are of better grade, highly nutritious and have a better shelf life.  


The Project  

AgriSound’s innovative ‘Polly’ AI bioacoustic listening devices are at the heart of this project. Our devices provide real-time data on pollinator activity, enabling food producers, growers and farmers to identify areas with inadequate pollination and take targeted measures to optimise crop yield.   

This particular project with strawberries is funded by Innovate UK and will see us working with Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), National Institute of Agriculture Botany (NIAB), PheroSyn and Biobest to successfully boost strawberry precision pollination.  Additional to strawberry fields, we are also working on implementing this technology in apple orchards, orange groves and avocado fields. 

As part of the project, 250 Polly devices are being used to monitor bee activity in 12 mini polytunnels tunnels where strawberry variety Malling Vitality has been planted, at the NIAB research facility in East Malling, Kent. 

With around 160 plants in each tunnel and 20 Polly units per tunnel to monitor the bee activity, approximately 240-250 units are being used as part of an initial R&D trial, expected to span a minimum of 4 months. Bee activity will be monitored manually as well as using our Polly devices to monitor the accuracy of our readings during the trial.  

Our main aim of the trial is to develop and optimise our acoustic sensors to monitor pollinator activity in strawberry farm. The aim of our partners on the project, Pherosyn, is to develop bumblebee attractant or repellent to modify bumblebee behaviour. The ultimate objective for the project is to see how we are going to develop a precision pollination system in strawberry cultivation and how the strawberry yield, grade, shelf life and nutritional quality can be improved. Yield parameters such as berry grade, size, brix reading (sweetness), Vitamin C, Antioxidant and shelf life are analysed and at the end of the trials, so we will know how much pollination is optimum for strawberries, and what the impact of bee activity is on the quality and quantity of strawberry yield.  

Based on academic studies and test results, implementation of precision pollination using AgriSound technology to enhance the efficiency of pollinators is the most likely method to help growers push both the yield and yield quality to maximum. Working with crop producers, researchers and retailers, we’re constantly improving our tech to greater benefit the production of high-quality crops and prove just how beneficial using agritech can be.  

Get involved  

Excited about this project as we are? To stay updated on our projects such as these, you can follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram or X, as well as sign up for our monthly newsletter updates.  

If you think our devices could change your agriculture project, find out more on our website.  

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