To produce almonds, Tom Rogers needs bees to pollinate his 175 acres of trees that flower each season in California’s Central Valley.
But the cost of importing bees to do the job has shot up in recent years as a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder has spread, making Rogers look for alternatives.
Enter Pollen-Tech, an Arizona State University-based company offering a technology that spreads pollen through a solution sprayed on plants.
“We’re always looking for a way to help Mother Nature produce a better crop,” Rogers said.
Developed from an MBA student’s business plan, Pollen-Tech won a grant through ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and is now housed at the university’s SkySong Innovation Center and the MAC6 manufacturing incubator in Tempe.
“Pollen-Tech is definitely one of our stars in terms of its long-term potential impact,” said Gordon McConnell, associate vice president of ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group.
Mentors at SkySong help startups such as Pollen-Tech refine business plans and strategies. The mentors helped guide the company toward which customers and crops to focus on, McConnell said.
“Part of our job and our mentors’ job is to help focus their idea and team on things that make sense, the markets they’ll be able to get into first, to create the sustainability for these companies to stand on their feet when they leave us,” he said.
Pollen-Tech CEO David Wade said he believes this technology is the next big thing in agriculture behind irrigation and fertilization.
“The new third wave here is addressing all of the risk and issues that revolve around pollinating crops,” he said. “By taking the process and controlling it mechanically, we can optimize how much it is.”
The patent-pending cocktail, which includes refined pollen, is delivered by a spray device hitched to a tractor. The device generates an electrostatic shock that mimics the static energy a bee generates flapping its wings during pollination. This energy helps the pollen stick.
In tests, Pollen-Tech’s technique has produced up to a 6.5 percent increase in crop yield compared to plants that weren’t treated, Wade said.
In its first year of sales, Pollen-Tech is focusing on mechanical farms that grow almonds, cherries, peaches and apricots.
Rogers used the slurry on 36 acres of his farm last year and doubled the acres this year. He said Pollen-Tech’s technology was relatively simple to use.
“It’s just one more trip through the field with the sprayer,” he said.
It now costs about $370 to treat an acre of almond trees with bees, while Pollen-Tech’s technology costs $240 an acre, according to the company.
“Even if I don’t eliminate the bees altogether, if I can reduce the number of bees per acre and get better pollination, it’s a win-win for us,” Rogers said.
Tom Brown, Pollen-Tech’s chief technology officer, said a combination of Pollen-Tech’s slurry and bee pollination could be used to help effectively and inexpensively pollinate.
“You can’t just throw your pollen wherever you want,” Brown said. “Pollen is a scarce and costly resource, so you want to be strategic in how you use the pollen and make it as worthwhile as possible.”
According to Brown, the Pollen-Tech method is around nine times more effective than similar products, which use a dry-blowing method to disperse pollen in the fields.
Rogers, who uses the dry-blowing technology as well, said he thinks Pollen-Tech has the edge.
“I honestly think we get a better job moving the pollen through the tree with the Pollen-Tech system,” Rogers said.
Longer term, Brown said Pollen-Tech could expand abroad and help small farmers, such as coffee growers in Brazil, improve their productivity.
“If we can go there, it will be pretty big,” he said.
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon