Michael Candy wanted to raise awareness about sustainability, so he created a synthetic bee pollenizer. The pollenizer is a robot that “artificially pollinates” bees, integrating into the reproductive cycle of local flora. Candy hopes to raise awareness about sustainability by weaving technology with ecology.
Candy first created a cybernetic orchid, but through field testing in Dookie, Victoria, Australia in late 2017, he iterated his design into a daisy flower, and finally, chose a synthetic canola flower, also known as rapeseed. He collaborated with the resource ecology group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands to get scientific research about artificial pollination.
Candy collects pollen from pollen traps commonly used for medicinal purposes. He synthesizes the nectar as a simple concoction of sugar and water. This prototype uses an array of servos and actuators to distribute pollen and nectar to the flower buds. The color and shapes are important in attracting visitors.
Creating a convincing artificial pollinizer is difficult; bees are intelligent, excellent navigators, with highly acute sensors. The flowers are made from many different materials and processes, from 3d printed parts and glass to hand-machined aluminum and brass. The initial prototypes were made from paper to speed up fabrication and get them out on the field quicker.