Dropcopter, a drone AG startup based in California and Central New York, recently made headlines as the first company to successfully pollinate almonds, cherries and apples using drones.
The company, a partnership between Matt Koball, Mike Winch and Adam Fine has been conducting studies on supplemental drone pollination since 2015. As of July 4th. The company has released results from its 2018 third party studies which report a massive increase in almonds and cherries as well as surprising developments for apples.
Depending on environmental conditions which dictate the effectiveness of bees, the company has demonstrated an effective increase of 25% to 60% pollination set ( cherries and almonds). It means that in cold weather, and during bee shortages there’s a viable alternative to dependency on insect pollination.
Their recently publicized Apple trials are a more complex but intriguing result. Apples are not grown in the same way that almonds are. If an apple orchard sets too much fruit, it requires the grower to hand thin the less desirable apples. That’s a significant increase in labor cost. The reason for this is that the first and largest blooms to open on an apple tree produce the most desirable and largest fruit. The smaller, secondary blooms produce smaller, less desirable fruit that are less valuable in the marketplace.
What Dropcopter’s controlled Apple trial has shown is that the artificial cross-pollination of these “King blooms” has increased the size (diameter) of the crop to be harvested. Bigger fruit equals better price.
Using Dropcopter’s methods a farmer can ensure that these “King blooms” are pollinated as soon as they open. A farmer can effectively “dial-in” the amount of pollination, maximizing their sizing to get the greatest return for their crop.