Given our common reliance on something called “food,” you’d think it’s the issue pollination – and its general decline – may well be higher on the global agenda. More than 80% of crops need insect pollination, but growers can no longer rely on the decreasing population of wild bees.
But it is a complex problem. Pollinating crops with honeybees can threaten native wild bees who are forced to compete with honeybees for food and then exposed to new diseases. AgTech startups are addressing this by working on artificial pollination innovations, or methods to make honey bees more efficient and have less impact on wildlife.
BeeWise and BeeHero are solutions that improve honeybees and their pollination efforts, for example. But honey bees are ineffective pollinators for most types of crops. And some startups are trying to pollinate artificially, but their solutions are limited to greenhouse plants. What is there to do?
Israel based BloomX is a startup that has an AI-driven “bio-mimicking technology” where AI is placed next to mechanical devices to make the whole process more likely to succeed.
It has now emerged from stealth with an $8 million seed round led by Ahern Agribusiness, a US-based vegetable seed distribution company. Also, Vasuki Global Tech fund, Bio Bee, the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA) and Dr. Gal Yarden part.
“Our goal is to provide a highly efficient and easy-to-use mechanized pollinator that enables growers to effectively manage and control the entire pollination process without exploiting bees,” said Thai Sade, co-founder and CEO of BloomX, in a statement.
BloomX’s platform attempts to determine the optimal window for pollination and then directs crop-specific hardware devices to mimic the natural pollination process. These are electric vehicles with mechanical arms that navigate between two rows of plants and vibrate their stems. Pollen then detaches and lands on flowers’ stigmas to pollinate them, the company says.
So for avocado trees, for example, BloomX has a “gathering device” that “caresses” an avocado plant to release its pollen grains which are then transferred to another variety of avocados.
Ran Ben-Or, Managing Partner and Founder of Tene Investment Funds added: “By enabling growers to produce greater yields with less land and reducing the need to introduce non-native pollinator insects, BloomX lowers the carbon footprint of crop production, separates itself from other solutions operating in the pollination space.”