A new harvesting tool that collects location data now enables farmers to easily determine the amount of fruit produced in a specific area of an orchard, almost down to a single tree.
The PickLogger, developed by global agricultural company Agri Technovation, recently won the innovation award at the Biostimulants World Congress in the UK. It is mounted on the clippers used by harvesters, and collects location data as workers manually harvest fruit from the trees.
The GPS coordinates gathered with every snip are sent to the cloud and combined with weight data to produce harvest progress maps. The accumulated data assist farmers in making critical in-season decisions.
At the end of the harvesting period, the yield maps produced from the recorded data are collated with other available agricultural information, such as soil classification, soil chemical analysis, leaf data, irrigation data, and pest data.
This allows for well-informed decision-making and the formulation of corrective strategies, says Agri Technovation.
First of its kind
According to Erald Smith, head of Agri Technovation’s services portfolio, PickLogger is the first fruit-harvesting tool of its kind to collect such accurate location data and incorporate it into yield maps. Up to now, producers could only look at an orchard’s performance from an absolute-average perspective with data provided from the packhouse and other harvest-monitoring systems.
But PickLogger facilitates insight into the performance of orchards on a much deeper level than was possible before. Its data sets and comparisons are made available through Agri Technovation’s MyFarmWeb platform, he says.
“The greatest benefit or value-add [feature] is that it allows the agriculturist to home in on the variance within each of the orchards and accordingly develop corrective management strategies. The eventual result is increased harvest yields over time,” explains Smith.
The enhanced level of in-field data measurements that the PickLogger collects also creates opportunities for a variety of other insights.
A radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag that marries each fruit picked to a crate or bin used in the harvesting process, allows PickLogger to integrate with packhouse systems.
More accurate traceability
Using the PickLogger with RFID tags facilitates the creation of employee efficiency statistics and indicators that can be used in-season for greater employee productivity.
With a fully integrated application, it also enables more accurate traceability from the fruit on the retailer shelf right down to an almost per tree basis, according to Smith.
“Currently, the traceability detail stops at orchard level, but PickLogger can overcome that ‘last bridge’ that connects the fruit on the retailer’s shelf to the tree in the orchard where the fruit was produced,” says Smith.
He adds that when looking at yields, there are a few overarching themes that dominate developments and discussions, all of which the PickLogger addresses:
- Striving for more uniform management units by reducing in-orchard variance over time.
Combining culling-factor information from the modern packhouse back to the orchard to generate valuable insights and enable continuous improvement.
- There is an increased focus on optimising nutrition and only giving the trees what they need to produce the desired yield.
- PickLogger maps help to identify irrigation problem areas to ensure optimal use of water.
Labour efficiency and optimisation: with rising labour costs in most countries, PickLogger, coupled with RFID technology, enables better labour management decisions.
Variety of fruit
At the moment, PickLogger is primarily used on citrus, avocados, table grapes, mangoes and passion fruit. However, its harvesting capabilities include other fruit that is harvested with shears, scissors, or a pruner. Agri Technovation is also undertaking trials with vegetables such as peppers and cucumbers.