Robots will be flower counting and running precision thinning operations in apple orchards with a system being developed by SwarmFarm Robotics and Green Atlas.
These two leading Agtech businesses will offer commercial solutions not previously available for the local apple industry.
The partnership will change the current industry approach to thinning operations by putting cutting edge autonomous technology into the hands of growers.
Current practice within the orchard industry is limited to whole block management, which fails to account for natural variation that exists within each block.
With this blanket approach to what is a highly variable environment, current thinning results do not always achieved at the optimum result.
With SwarmFarm Robotics and Green Atlas developing an autonomous flower mapping system, combined with a precision “tree by tree” spraying operations, growers can uniquely manage spray applications to accurately target variation within each block.
This system will increase grower confidence in chemical thinning applications, leading to increased fruit yield, quality and reducing costly hand thinning operations later in the season.
In this partnership, Green Atlas will focus on their commercial flower mapping system and SwarmFarm will continue to develop and validate technology to assist growers with making better agronomic management decisions for crop load.
And ultimately release a system that allows for variable timing and variable rate thinning to specific zones within a block.
This will involve an autonomous thinning technology solution, including flower and tree canopy vision systems, decision support software tools and variable rate spraying technology.
As part of SwarmFarms’ work, commercial trials are underway to ensure the developed technology is agronomically proven in commercial orchards, and the benefits can be demonstrated from a commercial aspect.
Green Atlas will focus on their commercial flower counting system to provide accurate and timely flower maps into the final solution.
“Working in partnership with Green Atlas is an opportunity to offer additional value and fast track a comprehensive solution to deliver technology into the hands of Australian apple growers.”
“Ultimately, SwarmFarm and Green Atlas have complementary technologies and we will work together to integrate Green Atlas’s core product, Cartographer onto SwarmFarm robots via SwarmConnect”, explained Andrew Bate, CEO of SwarmFarm Robotics.
“Green Atlas is pleased to be joining forces with SwarmFarm to create world-leading automated solutions that will benefit our growers. The synergy between the teams, both with battle hardened, field proven technologies is extremely well matched to the task” added Steven Scheding, Director of Green Atlas.
SwarmFarm, is leading a comprehensive project funded by Hort Innovation using the apple and pear research and development levy funds and contributions from the Australian Government, alongside project partners; Bosch, Adama and the University of New South Wales, Sydney (UNSW Sydney).
The project will continue to extend the work undertaken by UNSW Sydney on flower mapping to investigate other aspects of apple tree agronomy to identify additional metrics which may assist growers in making better flower thinning decisions.