Plant reproduction requires grains of pollen to be transferred from one part of the plant to the other. Insects, as ‘pollinators’ in the process, play a large part in this. With dwindling populations of many of the insects involved in the process, the populations of the plants themselves are suffering – according to Wikipedia, the Honey Bee population in the U.S. has declined 59% from 1947 – 2005. When we consider quotes such as “3/4 of the world’s food supply are plants that require pollinators” or “over 200 billion dollars worth of crop species are pollinated by these insects“, it’s easy to see how important this actually is. Were these quotes ringing in Michael Candy’s head when he created the ‘Synthetic Pollenizer’?
The Australian New Media artist and self confessed friend to robots has, perhaps inadvertently, addressed this issue to some extent with his interactive new media piece which partly automates the pollination process. Pollen is collected from local plants and provided, to the artificial stamen of the robotic plant. Bees are attracted to the ‘plant’ by artificial petals and, while sipping the artificial nectar from the centre of the ‘flower’, have the previously harvested pollen brushed over them by robotic actuators. The artist’s website shows the system in action with a robotic plant has been placed at the periphery of a field containing similar looking plants
The project is no longer in progress and sadly, the livestream of the plants is no longer online. However, one can imagine that given some refining, it could have a global impact. Michael’s Tumblr BLOG is full of other intelligent answers to modern (or perhaps even future) problems, as well as purely artistic ventures, and his C.V. is an impressive list of exhibitions and residencies across the globe. We look forward to what Michael has in store for the world next.
All images, courtesy of artist: Michael Candy