Improving strawberry yield through native and robotic pollinators
The proposed work will integrate automated monitoring of wild and managed pollinators with cutting-edge robotic pollination, laying the groundwork for a bio-hybrid system capable of observing, predicting, and improving yield in pollen-limited crops. Specific innovations include durable, low power insect camera traps, mobile end-effectors for local electrostatic pollination, rapid cross-pollination by quadcopters, and growth models conveyed to the farmer through an online app. These technologies will be validated with strawberry plants over several bloom cycles in the greenhouse, and through field experiments in a commercial farm. Short term, these technologies can be seamlessly integrated into current farm practices. Long term, they may be managed by automated schedulers to ensure optimal yield long before harvest. In a broader sense, this research opens a new frontier in precision agriculture, where robots not only have the intelligence to overcome the challenges of field deployment, but can operate as part of the natural ecosystem around crop plants.