Meet the robot pollinators replacing the bees

Jon Lawson

Japanese government scientists have estimated that bee numbers in the country have declined by 40% in the last 9 years, so XAG has devised a new robot to replace them. 

The new R150 has completed trials successfully and is now going on sale. In April, XAG Japan organised a demonstration to test the machine using and its onboard JetSprayer system to pollinate apple trees. The field trial was conducted in Village Takayama, in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan, and studied by parties representing Japanese Agricultural Cooperatives. The operator poured a pre-mixed solution of pollen into the tank before setting the robot on its way to move autonomously to spray the Sun Fuji apples following a pre-defined path. It was spraying from the bottom up, and the operator remotely adjusted the spray angle and spread width from an app on his smart phone. The designers believe it will be safer as well as more efficient as it will mean workers won’t have to keep using ladders and doing the job by hand, a time consuming process.

It’s one of the first products resulting from the 2020 roadmap devised by the The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, a ten year plan featuring digital technologies, like robots and artificial intelligence, to streamline the country’s agricultural economy.

Makoto Arai, a fruit grower who lives in Village Takayama witnessed an earlier demonstration. He commented, “I knew my hunch of an autonomous robot was right. I felt that I could anticipate a reduction in labour costs if I were to adopt one of these smart helpers. Instead of investing my time into manual labour, I could focus on sales, branding and the business expansion of my fruit farm in the future.”

Next, XAG plans to launch companion agricultural drones which are currently under development.

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