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NVIDIA Helps Build Robotic Honeybees


And has NVIDIA struck a deal with Amazon?


MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Graphic processing hardware maker NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) has made a small play in the agricultural sector. Sort of.

The "Green Brain" project undertaken by scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in England aims to create the first autonomous robot honeybee with the help of donated NVIDIA GPUs (graphic processing units).

The $1.6 million project is being funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and seems to have its influences grounded in two undoubtedly distinct fields: The computer modeling of animal brain function and the steep, worrisome decline of the global bee population.

The former task has most recently been undertaken by the IBM (NYSE:IBM)-sponsored (and adversarially named) Blue Brain initiative, which has been pursuing the enormously complex job of "reverse engineering" the human brain since 2005.

The second issue is best highlighted by Discovery News's analysis of a 2010 University of Illinois study titled Patterns of Widespread Decline in North American Bumble Bees.

The abundance of some bees had declined by 96%, while the ranges of some bees shrank by 23 to 87%, according to researchers led by Sydney Cameron....Cameron worries that the four species in decline may be only the "tip of the iceberg." There are still 42 species they didn't study, and they could be in trouble too.

As the largest study of bee populations to date, the research signals a potentially catastrophic problem for the global ecosystem -- and, more specifically, global agriculture.

According to the USDA, Colony Collapse Disorder -- a syndrome characterized by the vanishing of adult honeybee populations from hives -- may potentially be linked to the emergence of new diseases and pests in the early 1980s, when bee colony health began to see significant decline. The actual cause of CCD is uncertain, with theories ranging from lack of genetic biodiversity, to heavy pesticide and toxin use, to global climate change. But, as emphasized by US Geological Survey research completed earlier this year, very little is really known about the state of the world's 20,0000 bee species, and it's difficult to determine the nature of this current crisis.

As of 2007, the USDA has placed a value of $15 billion on the 130 US crops dependent on honeybees for pollination.

As outlined by Science Daily, pollination management is vital to modern agriculture, and monoculture (the trend of growing a single crop over many acres) has been cited as another factor potentially harming bee populations.

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