How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops. (2023)

How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops. (1)

Deep learning algorithms referred to as AI are being applied to digital video to identify four different pollinator species working in a strawberry farm, and to plot the insects’ visits to flowers.

A study conducted during his PhD and being continued by Dr Malika Ratnayake in his capacity as a postdoctoral researcher at Monash University, forecasts a system that automatically reports which pollinators visit a crop, how often they visit, and from what direction – potentially superseding the expensive and time-consuming manual methods of pollinator assessment.

This is part of a broader project being led by Associate Professor Alan Dorin in the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, to explore how technology can be used to improve insect pollination security of crops and native ecosystems in the face of changing climate.

More than a third of the world’s food production from crops relies on animal pollination, Ratnayake says. Each pollination-dependent crop has different requirements around the optimal number of visits a flower needs from effective insect pollinators to maximise fruit yield and quality.

But at a point in human history when there has never been greater need for efficient pollination of crops, climate change is affecting the pollinators’ ability to do their job – partly through direct effects on the individual insects, and partly because shifting climate zones are bringing new insect species into conflict with pollinator species.

How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops. (2)

“Currently, there are no automated or efficient ways to monitor pollinator performance and use the information to manage pollinator populations in a timely manner,” Ratnayake says.

“Our system can record insect movement data in different parts of a farm, automatically count insects and insect-flower visits in each area, and compare the contribution of different insect types to crop pollination.”

“With the data in hand, growers can see whether they need to shift bee hives to better support areas of their crop, or raise the side walls of a greenhouse to allow better access to insects from a certain direction.”

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And it is not only farmers who are interested in the system. Ratnayake is working with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) seeking to adopt the technology for insect biodiversity monitoring.

Ratnayake and his Monash colleagues published the findings of their experiments on a commercial strawberry farm at Boneo, Victoria, in the International Journal of Computer Vision. For this work, the team used nine camera trap modules built from low-cost Raspberry Pi cameras and Raspberry Pi computing boards to capture video at 1920 × 1080 resolution, at 30 frames per second. This was the upper limit of the platform’s processing power; lower quality would not have provided enough resolution for analysis.

As it was, Ratnayake says, material collected to video had to be downloaded from each unit for remote processing – a step he hopes to eliminate on the way to developing a more streamlined version of the system.

The video material was passed through an automatic algorithm that was largely adapted from two algorithms that Ratnayake developed during his PhD – one to track a single insect through occlusions by foliage and changing backgrounds of an outdoor environment, and an evolved version that can track multiple insects simultaneously.

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How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops. (4)

The latest deep learning model distinguishes between insect species (four types at the time of publication), and forecasts likely flight trajectories for each species, to build a picture of how each species visits the crop’s flowers.

The flowers themselves also had to be tracked. Far from being static objects, flowers are shaken by wind, insects and in some crops follow the sun throughout the day. The deep learning model was used to map flower movements.

The deep learning-based object detector model starts by identifying the presence of an insect when it enters a video frame. After detection and identification, the insect is tracked through subsequent frames while its position is compared with the position of recorded flowers to identify flower visits.

Various thresholds are programmed in to guard against false positives and other precautions are also taken – for instance, the system snaps a still image of an insect on first detection to support human identification if it is needed.

Ratnayake and his colleagues are now dealing with the wider interest their findings have aroused and are working on expanding the developed system to an end-to-end fully-automated real-time “precision pollination” framework.

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Building a commercial version would require new capabilities with increased computing efficiency. So far, the team has provided proof-of-concept in greenhouse-grown strawberries that grow in flat clumps with flowers that are spread across what Ratnayake describes as a “2D structure”. Now they need to develop their algorithms to deal with “3D” plants like blueberry bushes, and they need to add more pollinator species to the deep learning model.

This work will likely require an increase in computational power. At the same time, commercial adoption of the system will likely be improved if pollinator activity can be directly reported from monitoring units – which means that every unit will need to be capable of its own on-board processing.

These challenges, and the need to build a system capable of providing meaningful results in open fields rather than just greenhouse environments, are now being worked on with a growing range of partners.

Ratnayake is optimistic about results.

“Currently there is no other practical system capable of building data on pollinator activity like this technology,” he says. “And there is nothing that can identify and classify insect pollination behaviour across large-scale industrial agricultural areas in a way that makes it possible to increase farm yield via improved pollination.

“Right now, the space is ours.”

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How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops. (6)

Originally published by Cosmos as How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops.

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Matthew Cawood Matthew Cawood has written about agriculture and the environment for more than 30 years. He currently works in communications with the University of New England.

How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops. (8)

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How AI can be used to track pollinators in strawberry crops.? ›

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers a new way to track the insect pollinators essential to farming. In a new study, we installed miniature digital cameras and computers inside a greenhouse at a strawberry farm in Victoria, Australia, to track bees and other insects as they flew from plant to plant pollinating flowers.

What are the pollinators of strawberries? ›

Strawberry flowers are most effectively pollinated by honeybees.

Do strawberries attract pollinators? ›

Bees visit strawberry flowers to collect pollen and or nectar. However, they do not find them particularly attractive. Between six and 15 bee visits are reported to be needed to pollinate a strawberry fruit fully. Honey bee colonies should therefore be introduced for strawberry production.

Are strawberries self pollination? ›

Strawberry plants can self-pollinate, or be pollinated by wind or bees.

What insects contribute most to pollinating strawberry plants? ›

Bees rely on flowers for nectar and pollen, and are commonly seen on many flowers. Flies are also important visitors of strawberry flowers. When a bee visits a flower, pollen can get on its body; the transfer of that pollen to a different plant of the same species is called “cross pollination”.

Can you artificially pollinate? ›

Hand pollination, also known as mechanical pollination is a technique that can be used to pollinate plants when natural or open pollination is either undesirable or insufficient.

What insects pollinate strawberries other than bees? ›

Planting pollinator-friendly native plants is also highly attractive to bees and many other pollinating insects such as hoverflies, moths and butterflies and may recruit pollinators to target strawberry plants.

Does organic farming improve pollination success in strawberries? ›

Pollination potential in strawberries was significantly higher on organic compared to conventional farms, shown by the fewer malformations on berries and a higher proportion of fully pollinated berries.

Are butterflies attracted to strawberries? ›

If you would like to open your own butterfly diner for a couple of weeks, butterflies love very ripe fruit such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apples, and bananas. Simply slice the fruit, set on a plate, and put on your porch, on top of a stump, in your garden …

Do everbearing strawberries need to be pollinated? ›

Each strawberry flower has both male and female organs and can self-pollinate. The female strawberry organ is located in the center of the flower. The female part of the flower consists of approximately 400 pistils, each of which must be pollinated for successful fruit development, advises PennState Extension.

What is the difference between pollinated and unpollinated strawberry? ›

Open pollination of flowers by insects will increase fruit set, yield, and quality of fruit. The more flowers on the receptacle that are pollinated, the larger the fruit. Unpollinated flowers can lead to misshapen berries. As many as 20 bee visits to each receptacle is required to fully pollinate all of the flowers.

How do I protect my strawberry plants from birds and insects? ›

Undoubtedly the most effective way to protect strawberries from birds is to drape the strawberry patch with bird netting, an inexpensive plastic mesh with ¼-inch holes.

How do you control strawberry pests? ›

Cover rows of strawberries with floating row covers in summer to prevent adult insects from laying eggs in your strawberries. Use a homemade spray made from garlic or hot pepper mixed with water to spray plants. Use neem oil or a citrus-based insecticidal oil to prevent infestations.

What strawberry plant produces the most fruit? ›

Fragaria 'Chandler' (Junebearing Strawberry) is an early season heavily-cropping cultivar producing some of the largest strawberries.

How is artificial pollination done? ›

Find a blooming female flower with its petals pushed back. Touch the stamens of the male flower to the stigma of the female flower and roll over it gently. The pollen will be transferred to the stigma and pollination will occur.

What are examples of artificial pollination? ›

Artificial pollination is practised for decades. Kiwifruit, almond pistachio, hazelnut, and date palm are the most common examples of plants where artificial pollination has been used to boost the production the fruits.

What are disadvantages of artificial pollination? ›

What are the disadvantages of artificial pollination? The main disadvantage of artificial pollination is that it is inefficient and costly. Artificial pollination does not produce as many crops as natural pollination. In addition, artificial pollination produces less biodiversity.

What pollinators don't sting people? ›

Mason bees are different than honey bees and bumble bees because they do not have a queen, do not make hives, and do not make honey. Because they do not have these things to protect, they normally don't sting and are safe around children and pets.

What are better pollinators than bees? ›

Non-bee pollinators include flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, ants, birds, and bats, among others.

Are ants bad for strawberry plants? ›

Damage in Strawberry

While the ants occasionally damage the roots of strawberry plants through tunneling, they usually have little direct impact on the crop. However, their presence can be a hazard to workers in the fields. If their nest is disturbed, fire ants will swarm and sting nearby people.

Does painting rocks like strawberries work? ›

Introduction: Decoy Strawberry Rocks to Deter Bird Burglars

These painted strawberry rocks will fool pesky birds from stealing the real strawberries from your garden. The birds will be attracted to the realistically painted berries. Once the birds get fed up with the rocks, they'll leave your strawberries alone.

What does lemon juice do to bees? ›

Since honey is more acidic than sugar, the bees have to work hard to digest the higher PH of sugar. The lemon juice lowers the PH balance, making it easier on the bees.

How does organic farming support pollinators? ›

Organic farming supports pollinator health by using techniques that improve pollinator habitat, providing more diverse and nutritious forage options, and reducing the use of synthetic pesticides that are toxic to bees.

Which crop is most reliant on pollination? ›

One of the most important crop and honeybee pollination partnership is with California's almond production. California is responsible for producing 80 percent of the world's almonds. This crop is entirely dependent on honeybee pollination. Without the bees, there would be no almonds.

What are organic farmers using to help pollinate their crops? ›

Many organic farms already have healthy popula- tions of native bees. In some cases, these wild insects can effectively provide all necessary crop pollination services when enough habitat is available and bee-friendly manage- ment practices are implemented.

Do strawberries attract rodents? ›

Rats and mice are strongly attracted to berries and fruits. If you have strawberry plants or blackberry bushes, watch to make sure these are picked regularly, and are not providing a food source for rats. Rodents also love fruit like apples or pears.

Do butterflies lay eggs on strawberry plants? ›

Some butterflies will lay eggs on a variety of plants, usually limited to a specific plant family, such as Rosaceae (Rose Family). This means that the caterpillars that hatch from the eggs could feed on the leaf of a rose, an apple tree, a hawthorn, a plum tree, or a strawberry plant and be perfectly happy and healthy.

Why do ants like strawberry plants? ›

Last year they ate all the berries off the plants. Certain ants are attracted to sugary fruits, honeydew secreted by aphids and the nectar of flowers. A strong blast of water or insecticidal soap or neem can help control the aohids eliminating the honeydew.

Does Epsom salt make strawberries sweeter? ›

Delicious Fruits

Adding Epsom salt to your fruits and vegetables soil will mean sweeter fruit and delicious vegetables. The Epsom salt will help to boost the chlorophyll levels in your fruit and nut trees. The more chlorophyl means more energy, and more energy means sweeter fruit.

How much can you make on an acre of strawberries? ›

The total gross income is $18,330 per acre. Hired labor harvests the strawberries three times and is paid $0.50 for each pound. The picking labor cost to harvest 13,000 pounds of strawberries is $6,500 per acre. Once harvested, strawberries are put into cartons and baskets at a cost of $1.75 per flat.

What is best fertilizer for strawberries? ›

Specifically, strawberry plants rely heavily on nitrogen. You can use a fertilizer containing only nitrogen such as urea (46-0-0) or ammonium nitrate (33-0-0). Another option is to use a balanced fertilizer such as a 12-12-12.

Should you fertilize strawberries when they are blooming? ›

Established strawberries should be fertilized once per year after the final harvest. Spring fertilization is not recommended because it can result in soft berries and overly vigorous growth that can increase the incidence of disease.

How often do you fertilize everbearing strawberries? ›

Apply phosphate and potassium-rich fertilizer or compost tea to your strawberry plants every 2-4 weeks after flowering begins (4-6 weeks after spring planting). Water your strawberries very well before fertilizing.

What are the runners on Everbearing strawberries? ›

Strawberry runners are properly called “stolons.” The word “stolon” comes from the Latin word “stolo” meaning a shoot, branch, or twig springing from the root. Stolons are produced by virtually all June-bearing strawberry plants and most everbearing and day-neutral strawberry varieties.

Can you tell the difference between self pollinated and cross pollinated crops? ›

Self-pollination occurs when the pollen from the anther is deposited on the stigma of the same flower or another flower on the same plant. Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower on a different individual of the same species.

What are the three methods that strawberry plants can be reproduced by? ›

There are three different ways to propagate or produce new strawberry plants: seed, division, and runners.

How do you tell if a plant has been pollinated? ›

If there is a seed inside, you have a pollinated plant.

You can also tell if pollen has fertilised a female plant by paying close attention to the pistils—the flowers' reproductive organs. These hair-like structures change in colour over the course of the normal flowering phase from white to dark orange or red.

What plants do strawberries hate? ›

Plants like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, melons, peppers, roses, mint, and okra may actually contribute to this deadly disease in strawberry plants. It is essential to note that strawberries should not even be planted in beds that have recently housed those plants on this list.

What do farmers spray on strawberries? ›

Conventional strawberries are grown using synthetic chemicals at many points during production, including soil fumigation prior to planting, with products like K-PAM or Methyl Iodide to kill diseases left from previous seasons.

How do farmers protect strawberries? ›

Using overhead irrigation during cold temperatures can protect strawberries from frost and freeze damage, as long as temperatures do not fall below 20° F. It is very important to have an overhead irrigation system set up, as cold temperatures during bloom are common.

What is the best pesticide for strawberries? ›

Look for active ingredients in chemical pesticides appropriate for strawberries, such as pyrethrum, captan and malathion. Organic options include the active ingredients spinosad or bacillus thuringiensis.

What are the best pollinators for strawberries? ›

Strawberry flowers are most effectively pollinated by honeybees.

How many years do strawberry plants last? ›

Strawberry plants can produce fruit for up to four or five years. However, the crop yield mahy reduce dramatically after the first two or three years due to disease, so we recommend buying a new plant at that time.

What fertilizer makes strawberries sweet? ›

It is important that you select a balanced NPK fertilizer, or growmore, to feed the plants for growth and health, early in the season, and after the plants have finished fruiting, to buold strength in the plant for next year.

What happens if you don't pollinate strawberries? ›

Lack of complete pollination in each pistil (female flower part) can result in smaller or misshapen berries, meaning reduced yield of marketable fruit. The actual berry forms from each pistil developing into an individual “seed' that is actually an individual fruit, called an achene.

Which bees love strawberries? ›

Bees that like the Strawberry Field are Fire Bee, Riley Bee, and Shy Bee. Bees that dislike the Strawberry Field are Cool Bee, Bubble Bee, Bucko Bee, and Windy Bee.

What bees eat strawberries? ›

A team investigated their foraging behavior in agricultural landscapes. They found that honey bees prefer strawberry fields, even if flowering next to oilseed rape fields.

Do strawberries need a cross pollinator? ›

Strawberries have both male and female flower parts on the same flower and can self-pollinate. Wind and rain can move pollen within the flower. However, this usually does not allow for full pollination of all the ovules. Bees, such as honeybees or bumblebees, are usually necessary to allow for complete pollination.

Do bees make honey from strawberry? ›


This honey is produced from the beautiful evergreen shrub of the Arbutus or Strawberry Tree (Arbutus Unedo). Yes, bees visit strawberry flowers to collect pollen and or nectar.

Do strawberries attract wasps? ›

Do Fruit Trees Attract Wasps? Almost an inane question, “Do fruit trees attract wasps?” While wasps feed on a variety of pests during the early to mid growing season, their interest shifts from those protein sources to the irresistible sugary taste of ripe berries and fruits in the late summer to early fall.

What fruit do bees like the most? ›

Many types of trees including plums, apples, crabapples, peaches, and pears are good food sources for bees. Varieties come in fruiting and fruitless types. Many fruiting varieties need bees to produce fruit.

What is vicious bees favorite fruit? ›

Vicious Bee is a Blue Event bee. It can be claimed for 250 Stingers at the Vicious Bee Egg Claim. Like all other Event bees, this bee does not have any favorite treat.

How much water do strawberries need? ›

Strawberry plants need regular water to thrive, especially during fruit bearing season, when they need an average of 1-2 inches of water daily. The best way to water strawberries is to use drip or soaker hose placed at least two inches away from the plant.

How many strawberries are produced per plant? ›

First, each strawberry plant will typically produce about a quart of strawberries per year. Varieties like Ozark Beauty (an everbearer) will produce two main crops and a few scattered berries throughout the year. When added together, they will usually total about a quart of total production.


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