A York company that aims to boost pollination in crops is to get some buzz thanks to a three-year deal with Marks and Spencer.
AgriSound is to supply in-field sensors to two M&S Select Farms, which will see the farms use the devices which measure the numbers of bees and other insect visitors.
The company, based in York St John University’s Enterprise Centre, has developed specialist listening devices which can collect and send data concerning key pollinators, such as bumble bees and honey bees.
At one farm, in Plumford, Kent, the sensors will be placed in an orchard to assess how well spaced flowers must be to attract bees and other pollinators.
Meanwhile, G’s Growers of Cambridgeshire, will place its sensors in hedgerows, pollen and nectar mix and wild bird seed mix. The aim is to assess how well these are at attracting bees at different times of the year.
What is learnt will be shared with the wider industry.
Casey Woodward, Founder and CEO of AgriSound, said: “The development of our PollyTM device has taken years of dedicated research and it is really exciting to see our technology beginning to deliver unique insights into pollinator activity.”
The collaboration is part of M&S five-year Farming with Nature programme, launched last year, to support the retailer’s Select Farmers to become more resilient to environmental challenges spanning climate change and biodiversity loss.
As part of the programme, M&S has partnered with specialist industry partner LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to strengthen pollinator-friendly farming practices across M&S’s grower base in the UK, such as setting aside areas for plants and wildlife.
M&S has also collaborated with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, FERA and Kings Frontier to test different wildflower seed mixes on some of its M&S Select Farms aiming to enhance yield and reduce costs through pollination and reduced pests.
Andrew Clappen, Technical Director at M&S Food, said: “Pollinators are the unsung heroes of British farming – helping to improve yields and quality while benefitting the wider environment.
“Since we launched Farming with Nature, we’ve been hosting workshops offering advice to our M&S Select Farmers on the best ways to attract more pollinators. Now, by partnering with AgriSound, the farms will have real-time data and valuable insights into what’s working and what’s not.
“We’re also working closely with farmers on land use and different wildflower mixes to boost pollinator numbers, alongside crop health and pest management.”
Gill Perkins, CEO of The Bumblebee Conservation Trusts, added: “To help wild pollinators, we need to work across the wider countryside and farmland is the key to that. It’s great to see M&S working with farmers to thoroughly integrate monitoring and pollinator-friendly management into these systems.”