Question? What’s about half the size of a paper clip, weighs less than a tenth of a gram, totally mechanical and not organic in nature, but could save the world from hunger?
If you were aware of the news reports of the last few years reporting honeybee colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the reported reduction in not only honey production but also the eventual reduction in crop pollination, then you were on the right track.
Bees are an important component in the pollination process of many fruits and vegetables, coffee and a multitude of other foods. Without them, estimates are that a third of the world’s crops we eat would no longer exist.
The good news more recently is that the mysterious condition of bee colony collapse seems to be easing and that only specific kinds of bees were seriously affected. Even so, the more than $15 billion agricultural industry represents a significant impact on the world’s economy, particularly if the bee colony collapse phenomenon should continue or exacerbate.
So, back to my opening question? What would replace pollinating bees if they ceased to exist? Scientists have worried about that possibility for years, and the solution seems to be on the immediate horizon—artificial bees, or more specifically, RoboBees!
A robobee is an autonomous flying micro-robot with the potential to perform the same job in pollinating crops as the honeybee. Researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed a mechanical bee capable of performing the important agricultural role of bees.
These micro-robots are micro-aerial vehicles that are self-contained and capable of self-directed flight. They are even capable of the similar bee-swarming effect to achieve coordinated behavior in large groups that represent the patterns of honeybees. They can also stick to walls and other surfaces like live bees.
These micro-machines contain smart sensors and other electronics that mimic the eyes and antennae of bees, can sense and respond to their surrounding environment, and have a compact and integrated battery power source—a true mechanical bee insect!
This research technology has evolved and progressed to the point of receiving the attention of marketing giants such as Walmart. The mega-box conglomerate recently patented unmanned micro-vehicles as pollination drones for a more efficient method of pollination and fertilization of crops for its vendors.
A future without insect pollination would jeopardize one third of the world’s crops, producing significantly less food and eventually increasing food prices dramatically.
Just when we thought that first-world countries had automated farming figured out, we now realize that automation in crop production is on the verge of a whole new leap in technology.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
By The Way!
I used similar micro-robot technology in my 2nd Jon Masters thriller which I published last year. The novel is called IMPERFECT MURDER and I used this technology in a special way to disable a bad guy.
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As Malcolm X said: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a… er… micro robot”? 🙂
Haha – Zap!