Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Plan Bee"

                  Honeybees and other pollinators are very important to agricultural crops and without bees our lives would be very different. One article illustrated their importance saying bees, “…produce approximately $19 billion worth of agricultural crops in the U.S. alone in 2010; that’s estimated to be one-third of everything we eat!” Without the help of these bees we would be without a lot of the foods we have today. Some of the foods that bees have the largest impact on are: broccoli, asparagus, pumpkins, blueberries, watermelons, and apples, just to name a few.
                  Along with sustaining our crops, bees contribute to helping other insects and birds by maintaining their ecosystems. Another, perhaps not as crucial benefit of bees, is that they keep our world beautiful with the abundance of flowers.
                  Understanding the bee’s importance is key when analyzing the effect of their possible extinction from CCD-colony collapse disorder. With the use of pesticides and fertilizers this possibility could soon become a reality.
                  Anna Haldewang, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, has come up with a solution: Plan Bee a drone that will provide pollination. Plan Bee is still being filed for a patent but has hopes of a two-year date to make it complete.
                  Haldewang is not the first to see the need for a new way to pollinize. Another design, RoboBee, the size of a quarter, was created by Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences department. The article went on to explain that while the main reason for its creation was because of the dwindling bee supply, another use was realized: helping with disaster relief.
                  The RoboBee sets itself apart from not only other robotic bees but robotics in general because of its small size. The article mentioned that, “when Wood and his colleagues first set out to create a robotic fly, there were no off the shelf parts for them to use.” This meant that the Harvard team had to start from scratch and completely innovate the invention. Now the pollinizing machine, as mentioned above, is also being marketed towards disaster relief. The small design makes it more successful during search and rescue where other robotic tools might not be able to navigate through the debris and other materials.
                  I think the new bee inventions are fascinating; taking a natural event like pollination and turning to technology to replicate could be the answer to the declining bee populations. Although, some argue that bee robotics should just be a temporary fix until scientists can find a way to cure the CCD. Through continued government funding, the future could possibly mean artificially pollinating a field of crops through the use of robotics and drones.

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1 comment:

matt cannon said...

The rapid decline in the bee population is happening at an alarming rate. I think the idea of “Plan Bee” is an idea that is great for a very short term answer to the pollination problem, but not a good long term answer, as well as not a good short term or long term answer to the problems caused in the ecosystem. In fact, I think it will actually in a way be more harmful to the ecosystem than it could be beneficial to the pollination issue. The reason I say this is because we are introducing robotics and technology into the ecosystem. The first problem that arises is the issue that these will be robots. Robots built to mimic and resemble insects is easy for us to understand and identify, but not so easy for other animals or insects. This means that the natural predators of the bee, like birds, rodents and some reptiles, are at risk. The risk arises from the fact that if they decide they wanted to go after these drones and eat them, it would be harmful to them in the end. Animals aren’t meant to consume drones, so in doing so it would start killing off the predators. Another issue that comes from this is what happens to the prey of the bee. The ecosystem works in a way where they is a need to have a balance between predator and prey. The drones will not be able to act as predators towards the natural prey of the bee. This would cause a domino effect down the food chain and ecosystem in which the bees live. Because of this it can ruin an ecosystem in the process of trying to save it. The absence of bee instinct creates a big issue as well. All animals have instincts that have been crucial to their survival. Using drones, it would be impossible to recreate the natural instinct of the bee. Because of this there is no telling exactly what could come even from the focus of wanting to just pollinate. Since there is no way to figure out what exactly that instinct is, there is no clear way in even saying that the pollination will go as planned further down the short term timeline. Although I think that it can be a small step in the right direction in trying to aid the decline of bees and the fear of lack of pollination, I don’t think it will have the overall positive impact that seems to be expected.