If you watched the dystopian series on technology, Black Mirror, in particular the closing the episode of season 3, – this might make you break out in cold sweats. Why? Walmart, the American retail giant have filed a patent for robot bees.
Two patents identified by CBInsights suggest that Walmart is taking an ultra-technological turn in agriculture … to protect crops?
The first patent filed by Walmart is not particularly innovative, especially compared to some patents filed by Amazon, such as drone beacon pods. The idea is to have the fields monitored by drones that would then be able to identify dangerous insects to spray them with pesticides. It would allow a more targeted approach, spraying a set of crops rather than the blanket approach used today. As the patent notes, “Chemical spraying of crops is expensive and may not be looked upon favorably by some consumers.”
The patent also suggests that the drones could replace that agricultural friend of the farmer, the scarecrow, by driving away birds feasting in the fields.
The second patent suggests that Walmart wants to use tiny robot bee drones to increase crop production.
This is not a new idea, as robotics scientists have already been exploring the concept of replacing our planet’s natural pollinators as their numbers decline, such as this tiny drone bee from Japan.
Walmart’s robot bees however would not only carry pollen from one flower to another but also use an algorithm and sensors to check if the pollination was successful or not. In terms of production, it is easy to see the advantage that such a technology could bring.
While Walmart’s future in agriculture may still be a way off, it does have one wondering what their intent is. Could an involvement in the field of agriculture have the company focussing on better affordable food choices for its customers, with a culture of transparency and sustainability? One would hope so.