Precision Pollination Pilot Comes to South Dakota
What do you get when you combine the top sunflower-producing state in the U.S. with the top state for honeybees and an innovative Australian startup company collaborating with the University of North Dakota, one of the nation’s leading universities for drone research and development?
“It’s the perfect trifecta!” exclaimed Amy Whitney, director of UND’s Center for Innovation, after describing how the University, state government and the agriculture industry worked to bring Bee Innovative from Australia to North Dakota, the state leading the U.S. in sunflower and honey production.
This summer, Bee Innovative will begin testing a concept known as precision pollination by using drones equipped with its BeeDar technology to track bees and monitor two sunflower fields in the Bismarck, N.D., area. A U.S. trial will provide a case study for farms growing pollination-dependent crops.
“BeeDar is a radar-like sensor which identifies, tracks and reports honeybee pollination activity in near real time,” said Kate Lyall, Bee Innovative’s chief technology officer. “By tracking honeybees in sunflower crops, farmers can make better use of hives to improve pollination, increasing yields and the value of their crop.”
With nearly 100 commercial crops around the world relying on bee pollination, Lyall said the company’s technology provides an opportunity to significantly increase agricultural production without using more land. In Australia, Bee Innovative’s technology has increased blueberry production by 20 percent. North Dakota’s goal is for a 10 percent increase in sunflower production to boost farm profitability and help sustain rural communities.