Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture, an Israeli startup manufacturing a mechanical solution for pollination as an alternative to using bees, has raised $3 million in seed stage funding.
The round was led by Kibbutz Malkia, a settlement in northern Israel, and included the Israeli government’s Innovation Authority, as well as angel investors from the company’s first round of funding.
Pollination is the process by which flowering plants are fertilized. Pollen from one flower is deposited on another flower, and the resulting growth turns into a seed. This process is required for seeds to germinate, or for plants to reproduce. Bees are one of the world’s most important agents of pollination, but their populations are dropping drastically due to habitat loss, infectious disease, and colony collapse disorder. In North America alone, over 700 species of bees are headed towards extinction.
Pollination tech as an alternative to bees is growing increasingly important in the face of these issues.
Edete’s technology will rely on two advanced mechanical systems: one to harvest pollen, collecting it from flowers to build up a long-term storage of pollen stock, and another to conduct autonomous pollination, rapidly and thoroughly covering any open flower in its range, from the sky or from the ground. The latter will “constantly self-positions at an optimal pollination position” depending on the size of the orchard, according to the website.
Elsewhere, the head of robotics at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Yael Edan, was recently interviewed about her lab group’s research in developing a mini-drone that replaces the need for bees in pollination. Walmart also recently applied for a patent for drone pollination, and researchers at West Virginia University have developed a robotic pollinator, the BrambleBee, that operates similarly to a self-driving car.
Edete will first target the global almond market, which is valued at $7 billion to $8 billion a year, according to CEO Eylam Ran. Almond pollination services in California, where 80% of the world’s almonds are grown, cost an estimated $400 million a year and Edete plans to price its service in a similar range to bee pollinating services, “but with a much higher level of reliability and potential for significant crop growth,” said Ran. Future markets could include Rosacea crops (apples, pears, plums, cherries, worth over $77 billion globally, as well as Cucurbitaceae, including watermelons, melons, squash, worth $33 billion.
Israel is rapidly establishing itself as a major hub for agrifood innovation. Earlier this summer, AgFunder CEO Rob LeClerc attended two major agrifood tech conferences in Israel and was excited to see that Israeli agrifood startups are gaining interest from international corporates and accelerators and are a part of a strong national ecosystem, supported by government, non-profit, and corporate organizations.