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Edete precision pollination
Edete’s 2Be pollinator has multiple nozzles that generate controlled air vectors with a precise pressure and flow rate, dispersing dry, pure, electrostatically charged pollen. Image credit: Edete

Edete precision pollination drives double-digit increases in pistachio yields in California trial

January 18, 2024

Israeli startup Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture says a leading California pistachio grower using its precision pollination tech has experienced a 19% increase in crop yields versus control blocks within the same orchard.

Founded in 2016 by Eylam Ran (CEO), Keren Mimran (VP Marketing), Ori Inbar (chairman) and Elad Etgar, Edete first deployed its technology in Israel before heading to California for tests on wind- and insect-pollinated crops, demonstrating double-digit increases in yield vs controls.

In its latest implementation, Edete deployed its tech in April 2022 and April 2023 on three young plots of Golden Hills pistachios spanning 500 acres in Bakersfield, California, for one of the largest growers in the US.

19% increase vs control in two blocks pollinated

Cofounder and CEO Eylam Ran told AgFunderNews: “Pistachios are known for their alternate bearing nature, which cycles between ‘ON’ years of high yield and ‘OFF’ years of lower yield. For orchards with a sufficient maturity history, it’s beneficial to compare a block’s performance not only to a control block but also to its own past performance in similar ‘ON’ or ‘OFF’ years.”

He added: “Our customer chose to test our technology on relatively young orchards. In fact, 2022 marked the first harvest for these blocks, making 2023 only their second year. This means there was a limited historical understanding of these blocks and no set expectations for yield, especially considering 2023’s (very) exceptional conditions that led to record-breaking yields across the industry.

“Despite these factors, our precision pollination technology achieved an average yield increase of 19% compared to the control blocks. This demonstrates that even in years with favorable conditions, Edete’s approach can optimize and enhance yields significantly.”

The third block…

Asked about the third block that was pollinated by Edete, he said: “In the case of the third block, we observed a second consecutive year of suboptimal results compared to other blocks of the same age in the region.

“We collectively agreed that this third block, showing consistently inferior performance, should be categorized as such and monitored separately. This will enable us to understand the impact of optimal pollination on blocks that are inherently weaker or underperforming. It’s important to note that in the worst-case scenario, our service is not expected to reduce yields; at the very least, it should maintain them or result in minimal increases.

“Because of its unique challenges, this third block was not included in the overall average yield calculations. This decision was made in agreement with the grower,” added Ran, who recently took the helm of Edete’s US business, following the departure of Ed Surber. “Post the upcoming season, we plan to initiate the process of interviewing candidates for the role of US Corp Manager.”

Edete precision pollination
Image credit: Edete

$ benefits for growers

In a previous study on 82-acres of pistachios in northern Sacramento in 2021, Edete achieved an average yield growth of 24%. This success was demonstrated across three plots of varying ages: 6 years, 15 years, and 24 years, said Ran.

“The increase in yield for the third consecutive year in 2023 underscores the effectiveness of precision pollination in overcoming natural pollination deficiencies. This not only ensures optimal yields, even in record crop years, but also contributes to agricultural resilience and food security for consumers.”

According to Edete, the financial impact of a 19% increase in yield for pistachio growers is substantial, “with an estimated additional contribution of $1,000-$1,300 per acre at a 19% increase in crop, based on a predicted average crop of 3,000-3,800 pounds per acre at an average price of $1.8/pound in 2023.”

The focus for 2024

In 2024, Edete’s primary focus is the upcoming commercial pistachio pollination season in April, said Ran.

“We’re starting with our existing customers, who have decided to repeat the service, at least in the areas we covered in 2023, and we anticipate an expansion of serviced areas with these returning customers, reflecting their growing confidence in our technology.

“Given the less favorable winter conditions this year, which are likely to impact yields negatively, we expect more growers to seek our services. Our presence in California is well-established and equipped to serve up to 5,000 acres. It’s a prime opportunity for growers, as those who approach us first will benefit from our services.

While Edete’s primary focus remains on California’s pistachio growers, he said, the firm will also conduct smaller-scale trials on almond crops in Israel in February.

Why precision pollination?

Unlike almonds, which rely on honeybees for pollination, a dwindling and increasingly expensive resource, pistachio crops are pollinated by wind, which is both abundant and free-of-charge. So why are some growers turning to artificial or ‘precision’ pollination?

If the weather is optimal throughout the year, male and female pistachio trees bloom at the same time, and the wind successfully carries pollen from male to female plants, growers can expect a decent harvest, says Edete.

Put another way, it says, if all the stars align, Mother Nature doesn’t need any assistance. The problem is, she doesn’t always play ball.

Multiple factors can impact yields, notes the firm. But one of the biggest challenges for fruit and nut growers is insufficient winter chill (warmer winters, which have been attributed to climate change) which means male and female trees do not always flower at the same time. This results in sub-optimal pollination and a resulting reduction in yields.

Edete—which offers precision pollination as a service (PPaS)—helps Mother Nature by applying pollen directly to trees in a highly targeted manner (see video below, shot by AgFunderNews in California last year).

Its intellectual property covers pollen collection (mechanically harvesting flowers, separating out the pollen, storing it for one to several years, and checking its viability), and machines that fire the pollen onto trees electrostatically via a controllable dozer enabling the precise dispersal of grams or parts of grams of pollen per tree.

Equipped with sensors that measure humidity and wind speed to optimize the time and the amount of pollen being dispersed, the units can operate day and night, under suboptimal weather conditions.

While artificial pollination is not new, Edete can deliver a degree of precision that low-tech spray and pray approaches cannot, claims the company, which applies an electrostatic charge to the pollen, while the tree, which is rooted in the ground, is negatively charged, thereby increasing the likelihood of the pollen finding its target, rather than just blowing it around and hoping.

Edete has raised about $13 million to date from seven growers’ co-operatives and private investors and has also secured $2.25 million in funding from the Israeli Innovation Authority, said Ran.

“As of January 2024, as we initiate our Series B funding round targeting $8 million, we are engaged in discussions with new potential leads. Additionally, we are awaiting a response regarding another program with the Israeli Innovation Authority.”

Further reading:

🎥 Edete offers high-tech alternative to spray and pray approach for artificial pollination

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