Monitoring cocoa pollinators
Who pollinates the cocoa trees? It is an intriguing question gaining momentum while the chocolate sector seeks for sustainable alternative to boost cocoa production. Studies show that pollination services are a major contributor of cocoa yields. A study carried out by our team in Southern Bahia found that less than 10% of tree flowers are pollinated, and increasing this rate by little could triple fruit production without the need of agrochemicals. Now, our team is determined to resolve the pollinator identity question. Our preliminary results show that a large biodiversity of insect species, like ants, trips, and midges, visit cocoa flowers and collect pollen, contesting the old idea of a single-specie cocoa pollinator. These novel findings are possible by the integration of engineering and ecological principles into EcoEye camera, an intelligent AI-camera trap capable to track miniature insects on real time. Our final goal is bringing awareness about how important is to conserve tinny insects for securing the future of our chocolate.
Although pollinators are crucial to the yield of cocoa plantations, there is very little information about them due to technical limitations in investigating them. Together with our team at Westlake University (China), we are developing smart cameras capable of detecting the insects that visit cocoa flowers. Our cameras are able to accurately record various ecological aspects of pollinators and flowers that would be impossible with conventional methods.
We monitor the diversity of pollinators using artificial intelligence cameras
The most modern models have already provided new evidence of pollination in China. Soon, we will begin large-scale monitoring in the cocoa agroforestry studied in Brazil, where we are sure to record unprecedented interactions between insects and cocoa plants.