Aermatica3D and Innovation: Drone assisted pollination

Progetto Gruppo Olimpolli Montagnani
Feb 27 2023

Aermatica3D and Innovation: Drone assisted pollination

Innovation is the key to meeting the challenges of our time. The growing demand for food and climate change require new solutions to ensure the sustainability of agriculture and food production. One of the most promising innovations in agriculture is drone-assisted pollination, which can improve the yield of Italy’s olive groves and respond to the growing demand for high-quality olive oil.

The importance of pollination for olive groves

The olive tree is a dioecious plant, which means it has male and female flowers on separate plants. Fertilization occurs when pollen produced by male flowers is carried by winds or insects to females. Pollination is an essential process for producing high quality fruit and seeds. Furthermore, it is important for the conservation of biodiversity, as it promotes the genetic diversity of plants.

However, the quantity and quality of pollination can be influenced by several factors, including climate, the presence of pollinating insects and soil quality. Furthermore, the use of pesticides and the destruction of the natural habitats of pollinating insects can reduce the insect population, leading to a reduction in natural pollination.

Drone assisted pollination

Drone Assisted Pollination is an innovative solution that uses drones to transport pollen from male flowers to female flowers. This method can be used to increase the quantity and quality of pollination in olive groves, improving the yield and quality of the olive oil.

The drones used for assisted pollination are equipped with a device that distributes the pollen on the female flowers. The pollen used was previously collected from the male flowers and stored in the refrigerator until needed. In this way, the quality of the pollen can be guaranteed and the chances of fertilization increased.

Benefits of drone assisted pollination

Drone assisted pollination has several advantages over natural pollination. First, drones can reach areas that are difficult for pollinating insects to reach, such as treetops or remote areas of olive groves. Secondly, assisted pollination can be timed for the best time, ensuring that fertilization takes place when conditions are optimal. Finally, assisted pollination can also be used in the event of a reduction in the population of pollinating insects, such as due to the use of pesticides or the destruction of natural habitats.

Last year, Aermatica3D joined the Olimpolli Montagnani Operational Group (financed with measure 16 of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan of the Tuscany Region) together with the CAICT SRL Business Assistance Center Coldiretti Toscana, the CNR IBE Institute for the Bioeconomy, the Department of Life Sciences (DSV) of the University of Siena, the Center for Generative Communication of the University of Florence and various agricultural companies have worked together to solve the problem of poor pollination of the olive tree, which affects the overall productivity of the olive groves , verifying from a practical point of view the effect of pollen dispersion on fruit setting and profitability per hectare.

In fact, the Operational Group set out to increase the productivity of the olive groves without any change in the corporate structures simply with the controlled contribution, currently identified as ideal, of the best pollen for the variety of interest.

The innovative aspects

The main innovation consists in the distribution of pollen on plants to be carried out by drone at the moment of best receptivity for the stigma. The technique, which has never been applied to olive trees before, is inspired by some tests carried out on other wood species.

A further innovation consists in verifying the various aspects related to the distribution of pollen in olive growing, which will involve the involvement not only of farms but also of some Italian machinery manufacturers. It is estimated that the repercussions on the primary sector are important because a raise in fruit set and consequent productivity estimated at around 20-25% is expected.

The replicability

This technique can affect all Tuscan plants, even the traditional ones, without any significant change in the company structure, not requiring onerous interventions for farms. The project therefore intends to put into operation and test, within some model farms, the system for controlling flowering, distributing pollen on the flowers, verifying fruit setting and the trend of summer and harvest production, analyzing the costs / benefits of this practice.

The results

The research has led to the implementation of an assisted pollination system that can be technically evaluated and economically estimated, an increase in the productivity of traditional olive groves, the development of an innovation transmission network on a regional scale and

The positive evaluation of the use of the drone in olive growing as a tool for pollen dispersion but potentially also for other agronomic purposes related to precision agriculture.

Could assisted pollination be a solution for your olive groves?

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