An ingenious machine which both blows and sucks up pollen, invented by Kutarere orchardist David Horwood and The Wrangler, a Whakatane company, won the Innovations Launch NZ Award at Fieldays.
Called PollenSmart it is designed to make maximum use of expensive kiwifruit pollen by repeatedly blowing pollen onto the orchard canopy, then collecting a portion that has not landed on a flower, and re-blowing it back.
It’s the latest innovation from The Wrangler, a company better known for its system, called The Wrangler, which safely secures cows for hoof treatment, and which has twice won National Fieldays’ Innovation awards.
Wilco Klein Ovink of the Wrangler, took up the challenge to develop and build David’s idea as a solution to pollinating David and Wendy Horwood’s kiwifruit orchards. The Horwood’s wanted a way to get maximum amounts of pollen onto their flowers and also reduce wastage of the very expensive pollen.
After trials which began in 2015, what emerged is a machine which blows pollen multiple times in one pass. At its rear, a vacuum intake collects loose pollen that is drifting below the canopy and re-blows it back at the flowers. “The system exposes the flowers to a 3-4 meter long footprint of pollen as the machine passes under them” says David Horwood.
As well as the Horwood orchard, PollenSmart was used in three orchards this season in a trial using methodology recommended by Zespri which compared areas pollinated with bees, conventional artificial pollination, and PollenSmart.
“Multiple passes of light rate pollen application achieved the same results as perfect pollination for challenged orchards. One pass achieved perfect pollination on an orchard with excessive bee activity and overabundance of male flowers. In all trials the PollenSmart results were far superior to bees only,” says David Horwood.
“We have been asked if the machine could be used to pollinate other fruit crops. We are not aware of any other horticultural crops that harvest pollen,” he says.
David says conservative estimates are that using the machine could increase kiwifruit production by $10,000 a hectare. “In reality the potential increase is probably much more than that,” he says.
Pollination quality is directly linked to fruit size and quality and increasing fruit weight by just one gram could raise orchard gate returns by $800 for green Hayward kiwifruit and almost double for the gold G3 according to Zespri.
“We have found that multiple applications at a lighter rate have had the best results, and also those pollinated at the optimal time of day. A big advantage in owning a PollenSmart is we can use it how and when we like to get the advantage of the best conditions,” says David.
David says it is really noticeable that the Psa-V compromised areas in their orchard did so much better with PollenSmart than even areas with perfect pollination as it did not use pollen from those male flowers but top quality pollen.
“By boosting pollination efficiency growers should be able to use less pollen, and the greater the amount of pollen on each flower the bigger and better the fruit should be,” says Wilco.
“With better pollination you also get fewer misshapen fruit, and each kiwifruit is likely to be bigger and to have a higher dry matter content than those not perfectly pollinated.”