BloomX: Artificial pollination tech is revolutionizing how our growing planet gets fed

An interview with the CEO of BloomX reveals how advanced biomimicking robotic tools and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are mimicking Earth's natural pollinators.
Sade Agard
BloomX: One of the company's  revolutionary pollination devices
BloomX: One of the company's revolutionary pollination devices

Courtesy of BloomX  

  • A company called BloomX has developed advanced biomimicking robotic tools and AI algorithms to artificially pollinate crops.  
  • Its clients are some of the world's leading blueberry and avocado growers in Latin America, South America, South Africa, and the U.S.
  • Its unique pollination approach could be revolutionary to agriculture and help solve one of Earth's biggest challenges: food security.

It is estimated that by 2050, global food demand will have increased by 56 percent. Still, even as agricultural frontiers expand, a gap remains between the need to maximize production and the ability to sustain it using existing resources.

To close this gap, growers are turning to cutting-edge technology in areas like irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. But what about pollination? After all, it's the foundation of our food system. 

Now, a company called BloomX (formerly Bumblebee AI) has developed advanced bio-mimicking robotic tools using complementary artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that together can mimic how natural pollinators pollinate specific crops. 

Interesting Engineering (IE) reached out to Thai (Elgrabli) Sade, BloomX's CEO, to explore how his pollinating tech works and learn how it is helping to feed the Earth today. 

Bloom X: 'Revolutionizing the entire flower pollination process'

"BloomX was founded to address the pressing challenge of global food security by sustainably increasing growers' crop yields as well as improving fruit quality," Sade told IE.

BloomX: Artificial pollination tech is revolutionizing how our growing planet gets fed
Honey bee pollinating a flower

With more than 75 percent of food crops and nearly 90 percent of wild flowering plants depending – at least to some extent – on animal or insect pollination, a reliable and sustainable solution to the pollination deficiency challenge is crucial to meet the growing demand for food. 

"Although managed bees like honey bees are commonly used for crop pollination, their generalist nature makes them ineffective for pollinating specific crops," Sade explained.   

In contrast, wild bees are natural and efficient pollinators that have evolved to pollinate crops according to the lock-and-key principle (i.e., as a key can only fit a certain lock, certain bees specialize in pollinating certain crops). Unfortunately, many of these species are endangered or threatened due to human activities.

"To tackle this challenge, our team at BloomX has developed a technology that uses AI and crop-specific mechanical devices to mimic the natural pollination process," Sade said.

He emphasized that by minimizing the dependency on honey bees and the stress that honey bees experience under current conditions, BloomX's technology provides a sustainable alternative that raises farmers' crop yields and quality.

He explained that the name 'BloomX' signifies the company's commitment to revolutionizing the entire flower pollination process.

"We are committed to enhancing crop pollination, not just by improving the lives and work of bees but also by focusing on the overall process. This sets us apart from competitors who primarily focus on bees," he stated. 

Sade underlined that the company is dedicated to the health of bees because it understands their critical role in pollination. Still, they also aim to tackle pollination holistically.

"Hence, the term "Bloom" symbolizes the growth and flourishing of crops, while "X" represents innovation and endless possibilities. With our solution, we aim to contribute to global food security and increase growers' ROI (Return on investment) while preserving the environment for future generations," he stated. 

How does BloomX's artificial pollination tech work?

According to Sade, BloomX has a unique pollination approach involving two parts.

"First, we utilize our agronomic knowledge and environmental data to identify the most efficient time for pollination," he explained. "Second, we've created crop-specific hardware devices that mimic the natural pollination process in the field."

This combination of software and hardware enables BloomX to provide growers with an efficient and reliable pollination solution that optimizes crop yields, ultimately improving their ROI.

BloomX: Artificial pollination tech is revolutionizing how our growing planet gets fed
BloomX's electric vehicles with pre-calibrated mechanical arms vibrate the stems of blueberry plants.

For example, 'buzz-pollination' technology is used to effectively pollinate blueberries. "This technique imitates the natural pollination process of bumblebees in which they use their wings to vibrate flowers and release pollen," Sade said.

Unlike honey bees, which cannot buzz-pollinate due to their small size, BloomX's electric vehicles are fitted with pre-calibrated mechanical arms which vibrate the stems of blueberry plants, causing the pollen to detach and land on the flowers' stigmas – which acts as a sort of landing pad for the pollen – where it can attach and begin the process of fertilizing the plant.

"In addition, we've developed a 'Collector Device' with an electrostatic charge that strokes the perimeter of one avocado variety to release its sticky pollen grains," he revealed. 

"The grains are then collected on a reusable frame and transferred to a different variety of avocados in the same way that natural cross-pollination occurs."

By using AI to determine the optimal window for pollination and by mimicking natural pollination processes using crop-specific hardware devices, BloomX, he states, offers an innovative alternative to traditional pollination methods.

Who's already using BloomX's artificial pollination approach?

"BloomX's clients are some of the world's leading Tier 1 and 2 blueberry and avocado growers in Latin America, South America, South Africa, and even in the U.S.," Sade stated.

While the company was not free to name any of its clients at this time, it did share some of the data from one avocado case study.

"Since 2020, BloomX has been working with an avocado grower that grows both Ettinger and Hass avocado varieties. This partnership began as a POC (proof of concept) that included three types of treatments, including 40 trees each," he revealed.

After receiving one BloomX treatment, the first 40 avocado trees saw an increase in average fruit production of 10.45 percent. Four BloomX treatments were given to the second 40 trees, which experienced a rise in production of 37.92 percent. Finally, the third group of 40 trees received eight BloomX treatments and experienced an increase of 59.56 percent.

"As a result of the POC's success, the avocado grower expanded the pollination area to 7.4 acres in 2021 and to 74 acres in 2022. Since then, BloomX has had continued success, tremendously increasing the average number of avocado tons/hectare," he told IE

'One of the most significant challenges has been gaining the trust of growers'

BloomX's goal to increase yield and quality sustainably is a lofty one – and quite frankly, the journey towards it has and continues to face a few challenges, which Sade highlighted. 

"One of the most significant challenges has been gaining the trust of growers who have relied on traditional pollination methods using bees for many years," he said. 

"However, since our approach replicates the natural pollination process, we have been able to overcome this challenge by providing demonstrations and case studies of our successes with current clients."

To further advance their mission of improving crop yields and promoting sustainability, the next goal at BloomX includes securing funding for their next round of development. This will allow BloomX to expand its operations and continue improving its pollination technology. 

BloomX: Artificial pollination tech is revolutionizing how our growing planet gets fed
Bloom X has seen global successes, particularly in pollinating avocado and blueberry trees.

"We intentionally started developing manual tools for the LATAM (Latin American) and South American markets because we recognized that there is an abundance of inexpensive labor in these regions," he highlighted.

"We now plan to expand into the US and Europe with proven results," Sade added.

In order to solve labor force difficulties in these regions, the CEO told IE that the company has since teamed up with other AgTech companies to develop next-generation crop-specific technologies that enhance the pollination process, including autonomous pollinating equipment.

"Through these efforts, we aim to help growers achieve better outcomes and contribute to long-term sustainability in agriculture," he concluded. 

The promising future of artificial pollination 

Ultimately, we now know that artificial pollination is promising because it can increase food production, supplement natural pollinators, increase efficiency, and provide more consistent yields. 

With the growing demand for food, it can help meet the needs of a rapidly growing population. Additionally, as natural pollinators decline in numbers, artificial pollination can supplement their work and ensure that crops are adequately pollinated. 

Since artificial pollination can also be done more efficiently than natural pollination and with greater precision, this could lead to higher yields and lower costs for farmers. Such benefits could be revolutionary to agriculture as we know it and improve food security.

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