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Completed project

Developing agri-tech solutions for the Australian apple industry (AP16005)

Key research provider: SwarmFarm Robotics, The University of New South Wales and others
Publication date: Thursday, June 2, 2022

What was it all about?

Running from 2018 to 2022, this investment developed a new technology for performing autonomous flower density mapping and tree canopy measurement for the apple and pear industry. The new system also provides support for decision-making for variable rate spraying, allowing orchardists to make better decisions to improve both quality and yield and reduce production costs including labour and chemical use.

The project team successfully developed and tested a decision support tool that allows orchardists to:

  • Upload data instantaneously to the decision support tool website upon block scan completion
  • Access live processing of flower stage and distribution images
  • Manipulate the latest data on the decision support tool website to obtain an understanding of the orchard’s variability and growth stage
  • Create prescription spray maps via the web interface as the scan is finished.
  • Load a spray map onto the Raven controller and spray a block minutes after finishing a scan
  • Execute the spray map on a tree-by-tree basis
  • Spray the tops and bottoms of trees at different rates
  • Fit the final product onto any existing machinery, such as tractors, side by sides or quad bikes.

The decision support tool has been underpinned by other key technological developments made throughout the project such as:

  • The mobile canopy density measurement system, which collects and processes LiDAR data to produce canopy density, height, and width data to create a mapping tool.
  • A mobile flower density measurement system, which collects image data and on-board processing to produce a flower density and flower stage map.
  • GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) developments, which have enabled farm vehicles to accurately localise within an apple orchard. This has allowed for further precision agriculture practises to be implemented within the orchards, such as variable-rate maps, auto steer and many more field applications underpinning the decision support tool.

Commercialisation is currently being explored for the decision support tool and the “Apple Snapper” software generated within this project.  Several conversations were underway with third parties, to ensure the transfer of the Apple Snapper technology will be widely available to industry.

For commercial opportunities please reach out to Hort Innovation.

Other activities throughout the project included:

  • Orchard walks were held to promote the work done and update growers in the industry on new developments.
  • Six videos were produced to deliver updates on project progress and to the progress of the project and to assist growers in the adoption and uptake of the final product
  • An industry guide was developed that details how to install the variable-rate sprayer to any tower or air blast sprayer.
  • Five articles were published over the course of the project and distributed via APAL and Fruit Grower Victoria industry magazines.
Related levy funds

978-0-7341-4798-1 and 978-0-7341-4799-8

Funding statement:
This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Apple and Pear Fund

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2022. The Final Research Report (in part or as a whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation, except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).