«If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left» said Albert Einstein. As the number of precious pollinating insects has been dropping for years throughout the world, companies and scientists are now trying to find possible alternatives. Bees are at the heart of one of the six patents filed in March by the US giant retail chain Walmart: they are called "pollination drones" and are small drones - "robotic bees" - equipped with tiny cameras to spot the locations of the crops that actually need pollinating. Sensors on the drones then assure that successful pollination takes place. Walmart has also filed five other patents for additional farming drones: one of the most innovative is a drone that tracks down plant pests, and another that monitors the ongoing health of various crops.
Walmart is not the only company to invest in drones for agricultural use: in fact, it is expected that the market for these drones will reach one billion dollars by 2024. Dream or reality? Quite surely agriculture, drones and artificial intelligence will be increasingly interconnected: a research team from the Danish University of Aarhus has even devised a system that identifies the exact amount of nitrogen which plants need by examining the way in which light is reflected on leaves. And thus allowing for the production of “custom” fertilizers for individual plants, tailored to their growth needs. The result? Costs are cut, farming becomes more efficient and, by producing less fertilizer, the environment is protected.