Digitalization in the fruit growing sector

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Growers’ experience is a powerful source of knowledge to efficiently manage orchards and get good results out of them. Nevertheless, current specific circumstances, as more unstable climate conditions and stricter requirements of the market, are rising the need of higher accuracy in orchard analysis and more efficient decision-making processes.
The technology industry is quickly reacting to this need and there are many start-ups focusing on solutions to improve the quality and the speed of the decisions taken. These are usually software-based products that exploit the power of artificial intelligence, image recognition or data analysis to make the life of farmers easier.
In the context of digitization, we see three main trends that should attract your attention: software-as-a-service solutions for orchard management, yield monitoring and estimation and the growth of farm management integrated platforms.

Software-as-a-service solutions for orchard management

Image source Ceres imaging
With Software-as-a-service solutions for orchard management, we define those digital tools that aim to collect, elaborate, and provide advanced information on the field or orchard and the related products. Thanks to the help of sensors to be placed into the field, weather stations, images and algorithms, growers can take more informed decisions throughout the entire season.

Multispectral imaginary has a great potential, as it can provide specific field information, just by looking at it. For example, Ceres Imaging is aimed to do so, integrating images with analytics and providing insights on irrigation management, nutrient management, pest and diseases management and even labor management.

Looking at soil monitoring, Sensoterra has developed a system for wireless soil and water optimization. Thanks to the sensor to be put into the soil, the user gets data about the active root zone and is able to better manage irrigation and soil products.

Even if we can’t control weather conditions, we can at least use systems that help us better forecast it. For example, Weenat provides a sensor that analyses the specific local weather conditions, to give customized insights and treatment recommendations.

Yield monitoring and estimation

Pixofarm app for apple yield estimation.
For many years, growers have manually collected fruit sizing data and counted hundreds of fruits on trees, one by one – an immense effort. The digital revolution makes the farmers life easier and changes this approach, by introducing disruptive technologies to automate and refining the process.

A first example in this sense is Pixofarm, which is able to provide current and forecasted average size of the apples, growth rate, fruit count, predicted production and size class distribution at the harvest time, by taking pictures of the fruits with a smartphone. The power of imaginary is getting importance in precision agriculture, as proved by Intelligent Fruit Vision, the start-up using a camera on tractors, to count fruits on trees. A similar approach is the one by GreenAtlas, which, thanks to its hardware, is able to count fruits and flowers in the whole orchard.

Farm management platforms

Image source Agricoulus
The introduction of data crunch into agriculture obviously presents some downsides as well. Two of them are the many data sources involved and the loss of a tracking system. To solve this pain point, many companies are offering integrated platforms to provide the decision makers with a unique access to information and a tool to keep track of the every-day activities.

In this sense, companies as Agricolus or Spacenus provide different versions of integrated platforms. Showing different types of data, growers can keep a better overview on their fields and orchards and have in one place all the information from their monitoring tools. Deaverde, through an activity log, helps keep track of the treatments applied and the products used is a handy feature of management platforms.
Water is one of the most important resources for agriculture and the decisions about irrigation are crucial for growers. Therefore, getting more information and controlling tools for water can be strategic elements for a good growing process.

SmartWatering wants to leverage sensor to automate the irrigation process and decisions, based on soil and climate conditions. HydroPoint also provides a system, able to give insights on water flows and leaks. Instead, a solution that wants the plants to take the lead of watering decisions is CommonSensors, which makes irrigation activities be based on specific valves, controlled by the plants.

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