- Fewer than 30% of individuals in the UK meet the recommended fruit and vegetable intake, posing health risks.
- A 24-month early-stage project funded by Innovate UK aims to optimize acoustic sensors for monitoring pollinator activity in strawberry farms.
- The project is led by Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) in collaboration with AgriSound, PheroSyn, Biobest UK, and NIAB.
- The technology aims to improve strawberry yield, quality, and shelf life by precisely monitoring and modifying pollinator behavior.
- The project supports the UK’s sustainability journey by reducing reliance on fruit imports.
Fresh fruits are essential for a balanced diet, providing vital micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. However, in the UK, less than 30% of individuals consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, increasing potential health risks. While the UK is self-sufficient in vegetable production, the fruit sector lags, with only 16% of domestic production. This gap has led to a new project to optimize strawberry farming, one of the UK’s most popular fruits.
The Project’s Scope and Aim
Funded by Innovate UK, the 24-month early-stage project focuses on using novel acoustic sensors to monitor pollinator activity in strawberry farms. The project is led by Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and involves collaboration with AgriSound, PheroSyn, Biobest UK, and NIAB. The goal is to develop tools to modify pollinator behavior, thereby supporting farmers in growing higher-quality produce with improved nutritional profiles and extended shelf life.
Acoustic Technology in Agriculture
Casey Woodward, CEO and founder of AgriSound, expressed excitement about the project, stating, “Being involved in this groundbreaking project, using our latest agri-tech to benefit the crucial food supply chain of fruit in the UK, is exciting for AgriSound.” The company’s ‘Polly’ bioacoustic insect listening devices are being deployed to monitor pollinators and other insects for precision pollination, significantly enhancing crop yield and reducing food production costs.
Pheromones and Insect Behavior
Dr. Mary Ellis, CEO at PheroSyn, added that the project would also focus on developing tools to influence bumblebee behavior using pheromones. These technologies will be trialed at NIAB to investigate their efficacy and the effect of pollination on strawberry quality, nutritional content, and shelf life.
Addressing the Technology Gap
Dr. Victoria Nash-Woolley, Sector Lead at CHAP, emphasized the commercial importance of strawberries in the UK, stating, “Strawberries are one of the most commercially important soft fruit crops in the UK, with an estimated production value of approximately £350 million.” She added that the project aims to fill the current technology gaps, ultimately boosting British strawberry production, reducing reliance on imports, and contributing to the UK’s sustainability journey.
Image provided by CHAP