Yield monitoring in fruits and nuts:
As we are sure you are aware, many Midwestern grain crop farmers have been monitoring these yields for years, however, this technology is predicted to move west into the vineyard industry of the pacific states of America. The wine industry is familiar with yield variability during their production months and looks for a way to monitor performance. With this technology, growers can implement zonal vineyard management, treating specific zones to their needs, rather than a uniform method of care for the whole location. With differentiated production systems, inputs and outputs can be tailored with the hopes of maximising the yield and quality in each specific zone. This technology would be difficult to adapt to a hand-harvested crop however, it would drastically increase yields among other mechanised crop production methods. Apart of vineyards, it has been suggested by Agfunder that almonds, walnuts and pistachios are good candidates for zonal yield monitoring. The market is growing and with this new yield monitoring, so are the profits of those who are/will implement this method.
Water conservation has been a hot topic for growers for decades now. CSR is a highly valued asset of a company and efforts to reduce water use while still maintaining and exceeding yield records are essential. We can look to Fagerberg Produce for an example of an effectively run operation. They are a grower/packer/shipper of around 1,300 acres of yellow, red and white onions, based in the United States. Fagerberg produces high yielding onion crop and saves water simultaneously. Installing drip irrigation has changed the way that Fagerberg uses water, the farm is noted as one of the first to purchase autopilot GPS to install drip tape. Since installing their drip system, they have noted a 40% drop in water usage and have reduced their flood irrigating by 1.9 feet using drip technology.
Many consider robotics/AI to be the way of the future, in everyday life, and has gained traction in the farming community over the past couple of years. Fighting the availability and affordability of labour in agriculture, Grimmway Farms based in California, USA is looking at growing plants in pots, such as ornamental flowers, and piloting robots that have the ability to move the potted plants in and out of growing fields for harvest. If the concept proves to be efficient and increase yields while cutting costs, there is a high chance that the testing will expand into the vegetable sector.
Internet of Things: Wireless Connectivity
Real knowledge, real time and anywhere you want it? Systems like Climeate’s Fieldview Pro use Bluetooth to display real-time field data to a device of your choosing, preferably an iPad. This information is collected as modules pass through the field and store collected data in a cloud. Information can be collected and sent over larger distances using 4G cell services, and in this case they are provided by Verizon AgTech. If you would like to go even deeper into your crop, smaller scale high-value horticulture such as wine use these systems to monitor environmental and growing conditions in real time. Sensors can measure soil moisture, humidity and temperature. With these analytics, growers can optimise their operation by tailoring the environment to the needs of their crop and more importantly, make better decisions about water, crop-protection materials and when is the right time to harvest.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
There has been an increasing interest in the use of UAS in the horticulture world. These small commercial UAS are set to start in Florida for specialty crop production. With crippling crop diseases such as greening, decay of citrus fruits, predicting and alleviating this disease could be instrumental in saving a crop. When the UAS captures an image of the diseased crop, it is sent to a robot on the ground that goes to inspect the area with higher definition image. Highlands Precision AG will deploy UAS on behalf of their growers. “UAS is simply a vehicle to collect data on crops,” says Steve Maxwell, CEO of the company. “As cameras become more precise and big data becomes more accessible, the imagery will fundamentally change the agriculture industry both environmentally and even in the marketing of crops.”