An Emirati-led AgriTech start-up has developed a drone that can pollinate date palm trees in less than a minute.
Before the flowering season, a drone is used to map out the area where pollination is required.
Data collected from the 3D map is then fed into the pollination drone's algorithm.
The drone then autonomously pollinates the trees.
“We are 96 per cent to 99 per cent faster than traditional methods,” said Mohammad Al Moosa, chief executive of CODE Three Fourteen.
The drone can take as little as 20 seconds to pollinate one tree, whereas traditional methods can take up to 30 minutes and require several workers, he said.
“It’s more efficient this way, it’s more precise,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of human error because there’s minimal human intervention."
From software to agriculture
Founded in July 2019, CODE Three Fourteen is run by three Emirati brothers, Mohammad, Abdulla, and Ahmad Al Moosa.
The company began as a tech start-up with a focus on developing applications and software.
However, after the outbreak of Covid-19, CODE moved its operations to branch into the agriculture industry.
“We merged both our passions, which is tech, software development and coding, into agriculture,” said Mohammad, 30.
Mohammad credits Ahmad, chief strategy officer, as the person who pushed the direction of the company towards agriculture.
“He’s basically the visionary, the futurist of the company,” Mohammad said.
“He’s our main strategist who shoots the crazy ideas out and gives us the chance to plug in the numbers and see if it’s going to be worth it or not.”
The brothers also have a school friend, Ahmad Al Falasi, on the team as chief commercial officer.
A fifth team member, Vidhun Vijayakrishnan, who they met at their previous companies, is also a key part of the CODE.
“We call him the 'creator of opportunities'. He has his ways of getting us in touch with the people we need to get in touch with,” Mohammad said.
Detecting threats from weevils
CODE Three Fourteen has also developed a drone that can detect a red palm weevil infestation in date palm trees at an earlier stage than conventional methods.
The red palm weevil is an insect known to be a major threat to the region’s vital date palm trees and infestations have caused farmers to suffer financial losses.
The autonomous drone collects data of red palm weevil infested date palm trees using a multispectral camera.
This data is then fed into the algorithm with true data, using true positives and true negatives to increase the accuracy of the drone’s detection system.
“Current detection methods are happening at a very late stage using visual signs. At that stage, the tree either dies, or you have a major loss in crop yield for the trees,” Mohammad said.
Abdulla, 27, CODE’s chief operating officer, highlighted the importance of tech in the global agriculture industry.
“Today we cannot meet the demands of the seven billion people that we have on Earth today. What about when we’re at 10 billion? If we’re doing the same thing we’re doing today we won’t be able to meet those demands,” he said.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has reported that the demand for food will increase by 70 per cent by 2050.
“That’s going to put a strain on the land that we can cultivate. Technology is going to play a pivotal role in having that transformation and having that food security,” Abdulla said.
Apart from the positive global effects AgriTech companies such as CODE Three Fourteen can have, the brothers are also influenced by their mission to preserve an important part of their heritage.
“It’s part of our culture and heritage in the UAE,” Mohammad said.
“We didn’t want that beautiful part of our culture to die out because of this RPW pest. Date palm trees have a special part in our hearts because they are a part of us.”