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Artificial method a winner

Pollensmart pollen-spreading machine from Whakatane-based The Wrangler was the winner of the Fieldays Launch NZ Innovation Award. From left Wilco and Waverley Klein-Ovink, inventor David Horwood and Fairfax Agrimedia Division manager Dean Williamson.

Kiwi ingenuity was once again showcased in the Fieldays Innovation Centre and winners announced at the Innovators awards breakfast on the Thursday.

Peter Nation, NZ National Fieldays Society CEO said the level of ingenuity in the Innovation Centre was second to none.

"It's great to see the number of Innovations entrants growing every year," said Nation.

"You're looking at innovations today that could very well revolutionise agribusiness tomorrow.

The LaunchNZ Innovation award winners were Whakatane-based farm engineering business The Wrangler with their Pollensmart pollinating machine.

The artificial pollinator is the brainchild of orchardist David Horwood of Kutarere near Opotiki, who was unsatisfied by other methods of pollination. The concept and production has been done by managing director of The Wrangler Wilco Klein-Ovink.

"Research shows that pollen blown up once only gets to about a third of the flowers. A third by bees moving within the flower and third between flowers," Horwood said.

"With pollen costing around $3000 per kilogram, it's really expensive. You don't want to waste any."

Pollensmart is designed to blow pollen multiply times up over the flowers with excess vacuumed up and blown up again.

"It blows the pollen up four times which means there is a greater chance for pollination," Horwood said.

"Theoretically, you would use less pollen which means it is cheaper and you wouldn't need bees to do the job."

Horwood said that in perfect conditions, perfect pollination can be achieved but bees cannot be controlled.

"Bees can disappear to another orchard or area of the orchard quite easily and not return so this is sure-fire way of making sure pollination occurs and occurs on time."

Trials have been carried out this season with good results although the first prototype built by Klein-Ovink did not work quite as well.

"It had to be pulled apart and we started again," Klein-Ovink said.

"We were using all sorts of things like flour and castor sugar which behaved differently from pollen which is silky."

They also had to get the airflow right and test how much air was flowing in and out of the machine which appeared to be an important aspect.

"When we did the first pollination, we had to make a few refinements on the go," Klein-Ovink said.

"But it proved it worked which was encouraging but we needed to do more trials to make sure the results weren't just a one-off."

Further trials were conducted on several Bay of Plenty orchards over the past season. Comparisons were made between 100 flower samples consisting of perfect hand-pollinated flowers, bees only pollination and one, two or three applications of pollen and light and heavy applications.

The results from the next trials showed Pollensmart matched perfect pollination achieving 88 per cent exportable fruit compared to 47 per cent for bees only pollination.

There was also a large increase in bee activity under the canopy with Pollensmart.

"The results were the same across the various orchards which is ideal," Horwood said.

He also said good pollination results in bigger, better and less "dumpy fruit".

"You still get some variation in size but you don't get the dumpy ones which are a problem caused by uneven pollination. This problem can be cured with better pollination," Horwood said.

"We have also found that applying a lower rate often had the best results."

About 70 entries were entered in the Fieldays Innovation Awards this year, the trend has been towards mobile apps and data collection software as the industry keeps up with technological advancements.

The latest innovations in agriculture, backyard inventions and commercial improvements are always an integral part of Fieldays with thousands of visitors eager to view the latest rural advancements.

Award winners:

• Fieldays Young Innovator of the Year – St Paul's Collegiate School, Crankholder

• Vodafone Innovation and Technology – Agricultural Software Limited, FarmWalker Pasture Meter

• Locus Research Innovation Award – Kevin Bain, Pest Trap Reset Mechanism

• Origin Innovation IP Award – Progressive Equipment Limited, Pipe Grabber

• Crowe Horwath Agri Innovation Award – Styx Solutions, Styx Batten and Outrigger System

• Tompkins Wake IP and Commercialisation Award – Antahi Innovations Limited, TrutiTuber and FlexiTuber

• Tru-Test Prototype Grassroots Award – Kevin Bain, Pest Trap Reset Mechanism

• Tru-Test Prototype Established Award – Styx Solutions, Styx Batten and Outrigger System

• Fieldays Launch NZ Award – The Wrangler Limited, Pollen Smart

- Stuff

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