TAKING HEART

Polybee wins two DBS awards worth S$75,000 for bee-imitating technology

Singapore

FOR putting the idea of using autonomous drones for indoor pollination into practice, Polybee was awarded the DBS Tech for Impact award worth S$50,000 on Friday to develop its bee-like technology. The award will allow Polybee to access the DBS Innovation ecosystem, marketing support, as well as the DBS Banking Prize.

This comes after the deep-tech startup was awarded the People's Choice Award in the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize competition last October, bringing its total winnings to a value of S$75,000.

DBS said it hopes the support would help Polybee advance their tech and contribute towards a more sustainable and food-secure future.

"We have chosen Polybee as our DBS Tech for Impact Prize winner as we believe that their autonomous drones for precision pollination in indoor farming can bolster urban farming and in turn support Singapore's goal to produce 30 per cent of our food needs by 2030," said Karen Ngui, board member of DBS Foundation and DBS' Group Head, strategic marketing & communications.

"In addition to being the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize People's Choice Awardee, we hope that our support will help Polybee to scale and empower them to make an impact in global efforts to enhance food security."

Founded two years ago in March 2019, Polybee has successfully programmed its autonomous drones to pollinate strawberries, tomatoes and other indoor food crops with a more than 90 per cent success rate of bearing fruit, a feat founder Siddharth Jadhav said was "as good as bees, if not better".

From navigating, pollinating, to recharging itself before the battery runs out, Polybee's drone functions are almost as similar to those of a bee's, but without the need for food or water.

But the work does not stop there.

Mr Siddharth has a vision to build a drone platform that can be used for all types of indoor farming when it comes to end-to-end processes such as pollination, which is currently done manually.

At present, Polybee's drones are specially tailored to specific food crops due to the differences in the growth methods between different species.

For example, drones used to pollinate strawberry plants are small, no larger than 9 centimetres in size to navigate between the limited space within tiers as strawberries are usually grown on tightly stacked shelves in indoor vertical farms. Comparatively, larger drones are needed to pollinate tomato plants as they are usually grown further apart on hanging vines in greenhouses of sizeable area, said Mr Siddharth.

More than pollinating to produce fruits, the founder also wants to ensure that plants pollinated by Polybee's drones are of good quality and robust in size "to add to its market value".

"The job doesn't end once pollination is done . . . At the end of the day, we are looking to increase productivity," said Mr Siddharth.