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Project HG09044

Review of Mechanisation, Automation, Robotics and Remote Sensing (MARRS) for Australian horticulture
Author - Russel Rankin Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd Horticulture Australia Ltd

January 2010

Commercial-In-Confidence

HG09044 – Mechanisation, Automation, Robotics and Remote Sensing (MARRS) in Australian horticulture
January, 2010 Project Leader: Russel Rankin, Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd, Contact Details: 1264 Mt Samson Rd, SAMSONVALE QLD 4520 Mobile. 0411178227. Email: Russel@food-innovation.com.au Internet: www.food-innovation.com.au Purpose: This Literature review was prepared as an outcome of Milestone 105 of project HG09044,” Scoping study to review Mechanisation, Automation, Robotics and Remote Sensing in Australian horticulture”. The Literature Review aims to provide a broad overview of MARRS type technologies being applied to horticulture here and around the world. Case studies have been included to provide examples of the value and advantages of MARRS applications in horticulture, and of the issues that need consideration. Both pre-harvest and post-harvest applications have been included. Note that this is not intended to be a definitive report of MARRS applications in horticulture. Acknowledgment of funding sources: Food Innovation Partners acknowledge the financial support for this project from Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL). Disclaimers: Any recommendations contained in this publication do not necessarily represent current HAL Limited policy. No person should act on the basis of the contents of this publication, whether as to matters of fact or opinion or other content, without first obtaining specific, independent professional advice in respect of the matters set out in this publication. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this report Food Innovation Partners are unable to make any warranties in relation to the information contained herein. Food Innovation Partners disclaims liability for any loss or damage that may arise as a consequence of any person relying on the information contained in this document.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
MEDIA SUMMARY ......................................................................................................................... 5  TECHNICAL SUMMARY ................................................................................................................ 7  INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................ 9  Australia’s horticulture sector .................................................................................................... 10  Productive capacity ................................................................................................................ 10  Drivers in Australia’s horticulture Industry ............................................................................. 11  Robotics and automation ....................................................................................................... 12  HORTICULTURAL FIELD/ORCHARD APPLICATIONS .............................................................. 14  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) ...................... 14  Remote Sensors ........................................................................................................................ 14  Electromagnetic sensors ........................................................................................................... 16  Automated/Mechanical harvesting ............................................................................................ 16  Case Study - Automated Broad Acreage Harvesting of Broccoli: Matilda Fresh Foods ........ 18  Case Study – Robotic Harvesting in Orchards: Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute .................................................................................................................................. 19  Case Study - Autonomous Robotic Kiwifruit Picking: Massey University .............................. 22  Case Study – Autonomous Robotic Strawberry Picking: Magnificent Pty Ltd ....................... 23  Case study - Automatic Weed Control System for Transplanted Processing Tomatoes Using X-ray Stem Sensing: USDA Agricultural Research Service .................................................. 25  PROTECTED CROPPING (GLASSHOUSE/GREENHOUSE) APPLICATIONS .......................... 26  Case Study – Protected Horticulture Robot Harvesting: Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution ........................................................................................................ 26  Case Study - Robot Picking of Sweet Peppers in a Greenhouse: Kochi University of Technology, Japan ................................................................................................................ 28  PACKHOUSE APPLICATIONS .................................................................................................... 31  Computer Vision Systems ......................................................................................................... 31  Near Infra-red (NIR) technology ................................................................................................ 32  Case study – Near Infrared detection of disease states in whole potatoes: Taste Technologies. ........................................................................................................................ 32  Case study – NIR internal detection, blemish external detection .......................................... 33  Case Study - Impact Recording Devices. .............................................................................. 34  Robotics/Automated Packing .................................................................................................... 35  Case study – Nut sorting: Key Technology. ........................................................................... 36  Case study – Robotic packing of Fruit. .................................................................................. 36  ASSOCIATED MARRS TECHNOLOGIES ................................................................................... 40 

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Traceability Systems ................................................................................................................. 40  Radio frequency identification (RFID) system ........................................................................... 42  Case Study – Traceability in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry ........................................... 43  RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................................................................................. 44  Future MARRS technologies ..................................................................................................... 45  Sensors.................................................................................................................................. 45  Near Infra-red technology ...................................................................................................... 46  X-ray detection....................................................................................................................... 46  Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) Imaging ........................................................................ 46  Future traceability technologies ................................................................................................. 46  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................................. 48  CITED LITERATURE .................................................................................................................... 49 

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Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044

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MEDIA SUMMARY
The objective of this project HG09044, “Scoping study to review Mechanisation, Automation, Robotics and Remote Sensing (MARRS) in Australian horticulture” is to provide a broad review of work being undertaken in developing MARRS technologies and solutions, and how these might address the drivers affecting the competitiveness of the industry. As the extent of MARRS developments are vast, varied and the horticulture industry consists of many crops from lettuces and carrots through to grapes, apples and bananas, an overview approach was adopted to enable the project to gain a broad understanding of progress globally in relation to developments and potential barriers to successful commercialisation. In Australia the horticulture industry is made up of 47 separate sectors. Case studies have been included to show the value and advantages MARRS applications can provide horticulture in Australia and to raise awareness of the issues that need consideration in the development and implementation of these types of solutions. Both pre-harvest and post-harvest applications have been included. This review identified a number of critical factors that need to go hand-in-hand with the development of MARRS technologies in horticulture. They are; 1. Agronomy and growing systems that are designed for the effective and efficient application of a mechanisation, automation or robotic system. This is important, in particular for harvesting and crop management systems. 2. A clear path to commercialisation of the technology solution. This activity needs to also consider the business model that a firm will create to make the technology viable. 3. Maintenance and service infrastructure. The development of a supporting infrastructure is also crucial to successful deployment of MARRS solutions as the horticulture industry is located in rural and regional Australia where traditional skill levels in these regions are not focused on MARRS technologies although this is rapidly changing. The development and application of remote sensing technologies is maturing and its implementation and usage increasing. Advances in the technologies and increases in their applications will continue. There are fewer challenges to the application of remote sensing technologies due to the fact that these types of the technologies are non-contact. This is not the case with development of automated harvesting, pruning and plant management systems. This report identified that for applications of MARRS technologies where plant contact is required such as harvesting; there are significant challenges to be overcome. For example the development of robotic harvesting systems will require developments in agronomy in parallel. The elements of agronomy that in many cases will be critical in successful development and implementation of automation solutions will be plant structure and size through both variety selection as well as modified growing structure. For example the development of robotic apple harvesting may require apples to be grown under a trellis system. The orientation of these trellis systems will also be important in terms of maximizing the sunlight exposure for plant growth and fruit ripening. This report has also highlighted the critical importance of developing appropriate business models for successful commercialisation of any MARRS technology. The business model can be seen as the way in which the commercialiser of the technology will make money in the market place. Companies can create and capture value from their new technologies in three basic ways: through incorporating the technology in their current businesses, through licensing the technology to other firms or through launching new ventures that exploit the technology in new markets. Maintenance and service infrastructure is the third critical dimension to successful implementation of MARRS solutions in the future. The development of a support infrastructure is
5|Page Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09

6|Page Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . thought will need to be given to the development of this infrastructure through training and remote support processes. as the horticulture industry is located in rural and regional Australia and traditional skill levels in these regions are not based around MARRS technologies.Commercial-In-Confidence crucial to successful deployment of MARRS solutions. Going forward.

For example the development of robotic harvesting systems will require developments in agronomy in parallel. This activity needs to also consider the business model that a firm will create to make the operation viable. and how these might address the drivers affecting the competitiveness of the industry. The orientation of these trellis systems will also be important in terms of maximizing the sunlight exposure for plant growth and fruit ripening. Case studies have been included to provide examples of the value and advantages MARRS applications provide horticulture in Australia and raise awareness of the issues that need consideration in the development and implementation of these types of solutions. For example the development of robotic apple harvesting may require apples to be grown under a trellis system. automation or robotic system. In Australia the horticulture industry is made up of 47 separate sectors. This report identified that for applications of MARRS technologies where plant contact is required such as harvesting. Maintenance and service infrastructure. Agronomy and growing systems that are designed for the effective and efficient application of a mechanisation. They are. Robotics and Remote Sensing (MARRS) in Australian horticulture” is to provide a broad review of work being undertaken in developing MARRS technologies and solutions. pruning and plant management systems. “Scoping study to review Mechanisation. The elements of agronomy that in many cases will be critical in successful development and implementation of automation solutions will be plant structure and size through both variety selection as well as modified growing structure.Commercial-In-Confidence TECHNICAL SUMMARY The objective of this Report for project HG09044. This is not the case with development of automated harvesting. 7|Page Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . 2. This report has also highlighted the critical importance of developing appropriate business models for successful commercialisation of any MARRS technology. Automation. 3. Both pre-harvest and post-harvest applications have been included. This review identified a number of critical factors that need to go hand-in-hand with the development and introduction of MARRS technologies to horticulture. Advances in the technologies and increases in their applications will continue. These Case Studies also demonstrate some of the critical factors identified below. in particular for harvesting and crop management systems. 1. The development and application of remote sensing technologies is maturing and its implementation and usage increasing. through licensing the technology to other firms or through launching new ventures that exploit the technology in new markets. A clear path to commercialisation of the technology solution. The business model can be seen as the way in which the commercialiser of the technology will make money in the market place. varied and the horticulture industry consists of many crops from lettuces and carrots through to grapes. The development of a supporting infrastructure is also crucial to successful deployment of MARRS solutions as the horticulture industry is located in rural and regional Australia where traditional skill levels in these regions are not focused on MARRS technologies although this is rapidly changing. apples and bananas this approach was adopted to enable the project to gain a broad understanding of progress globally in relation to developments and potential barriers to successful commercialisation. As the extent of MARRS developments are vast. there are significant challenges to be overcome. Companies can create and capture value from their new technologies in three basic ways: through incorporating the technology in their current businesses. This is important. There are fewer challenges to the application of remote sensing technologies due to the fact that these types of the technologies are non-contact.

Define the structure of the company’s value chain which is required to create and distribute the offering and determine the assets needed to support the firm’s position in this chain. linking suppliers and customers 6. Identify market segments.Commercial-In-Confidence The functions of a business model are as follows: 1. thought will need to be given to the development of this infrastructure through training and remote support processes. the critical issue will be the payback period on their investment and on-going maintenance: servicing and spare-parts related to MARRS technologies. Articulate the value proposition (the value created for users by the offering based on the technology) 2. At a firm level. Assess capability required to achieve commercialisation. 7. Describe the position of the company within the value network. The development of a support infrastructure is crucial to successful deployment of MARRS solutions. Formulate the competitive strategy by which the company will gain and hold over rivals. as the horticulture industry is located in rural and regional Australia and traditional skill levels in these regions are not based around MARRS technologies. Maintenance and service infrastructure is the third critical dimension to successful implementation of MARRS solutions in the future. Going forward. Users to whom the technology is useful and the purpose for which it will be used. Specify the revenue generation mechanism for the company 5. 3. 8|Page Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . 4.

in the case of postharvest operations the structure remains significantly constant. Australia is well placed to achieve significant gains by taking up MARRS-related technologies. flowering. Bearing in mind that Australia currently competes with other emerging economies with significantly larger and ‘cheaper’ labour pool. crop yield monitors could use precision agriculture and crop sensor applications (remote sensors) allowing growers to provide more accurate water and fertiliser regimes critical in times of drought and high fertiliser costs. In some cases OH&S issues may also need to be addressed. the degree of structure varies significantly across the types of crops. determine whether to harvest or not. As an example. the ripeness quality and size.Commercial-In-Confidence INTRODUCTION The National Horticultural Research Network (NHRN) was established in 2001 and comprises the Horticultural R&D managers from the State Departments of Primary Industries. For harvest operations. and Remote Sensing” (MARRS). and most importantly predict market yield for domestic and export markets. vary to a great extent. some crops do not lend themselves to bear fruit in a structured way.1 However. Automation. Therefore. to performance rates are of utmost importance. a cucumber ‘harvester’ deployed in a protected plantation may be used to determine an individual plant’s nutrition or pest incursion level for directed fertilizer and pesticide application. major agronomical input is necessary in the area of plant research. maturity indices) enabling them to better manage spray regimes. In the case of crop production. In 2008 the NHRN undertook a review of all the Horticulture Industry reports received from within its network for the review of prospects in “Mechanisation. then during harvest conduct an instant fruit inspection for blemishes and other defects. fruit set. particularly in the crop production and harvest operations of structured crops. hence the success rate of MARRS uptake and application is varied. However. The committee was of the opinion that there are a number of opportunities to introduce MARRS-related technologies and advances at all levels of Australia’s horticultural operations. glasshouses/greenhouses. harvest and post harvest operations. worker schedules. The grower would also be better informed to predict physiological events (eg. NHRN formally meets three times per year – primarily with Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL). grade and package. the rate of success and the commercial viability of the possible solutions. highly defined field rows. In such situations. crop layout structure (eg. Robotics. Hence the prospects of MARRS usage in postharvest operations are much higher (certainly in the short-term) than those of harvest operations. harvest and postharvest. As extreme examples. thorough investigations are necessary to reduce/eliminate or combine crop production. CSIRO and University of Tasmania. pest incursions. MARRS-related opportunities can be broadly categorized into three areas – crop production. To achieve commercial advantages in other crops. From an engineering point of view. Despite structured crop layout. intensive orchards etc) is the most fundamental aspect for MARRS solutions to be applied most effectively to secure a commercial advantage. The NHRN review indicated the possibilities of process integration to minimize costs and increase throughput so that a competitive solution with minimum labour can be achieved. The main aim of undertaking MARRS research in horticulture is to achieve competitiveness in the Australian industry in relation to that of international markets. The focus of the NHRN is collaboration and strategic leadership for R&D to support viable horticulture industries in Australia. The technology and software associated with many of these applications is still very much in its infancy and would usually require the producer to be technology literate in order for them to obtain the greatest use from these systems. 9|Page Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . baby leaf and lettuce can be laid out in a very structured manner while avocado may not be able to be grown so as to present its fruit in a structured way that will facilitate automated harvesting. the solutions proposed must be able to match the traditional manual production rates.

the Sunraysia district of Victoria/New South Wales. The Review undertaken by the NHRN also recognized that much could be learnt from other industries that have already embraced these strategies both here in Australia as well as overseas programs around automation in agriculture. Banana. are also part of the sector. canning fruit and processing tomatoes in Victoria. but well above the combined average contributions of the wool and dairy industries2. State and Commonwealth investment (via HAL) in the development and application of MARRS technologies to Australian horticulture. the Riverland region of South Australia. Robotics and Remote Sensing (MARRS) in Australian horticulture commissioned. Most often the assessment is carried out only on the part that is first considered for automation. it was agreed that they would seek to commission through Horticulture Australia (HAL) a scoping study on the application of Mechanisation. In December 2008. Any MARRS assessment must be carried out on the entire process with and without automation to determine the commercial and economic advantages. The vegetable GVP has been more 10 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . avocado. pineapple. Automation. Hence there is a need to assess all industries to ensure replication does not occur and that knowledge of new applications is shared amongst the whole of the horticulture industry as much as possible to reduce costs. Table and dried grapes. being slightly less than the grains industry. The fruit GVP increased every year apart from 2003-2004 which followed a severe drought. This scoping study would also develop the Business Case for commercial. Productive capacity The two largest product sectors of horticulture. at the meeting of the National Horticultural Research Network (NHRN). In this way. Robotics and Remote Sensing (MARRS) technologies to horticulture in Australia. smaller industries will likely benefit from technologies developed by larger industries. fruit and vegetables have generally achieved increasing GVPs (Gross Value of Production) since 1999-2000. but not wine. industry. the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area of New South Wales. The major growing areas for edible horticulture include the Goulburn Valley of Victoria. Horticulture is also geographically diverse – with horticultural commodities undertaken in almost all 56 catchment areas across Australia. Horticulture is diverse incorporating 140 commodities. A Terms of Reference for this scoping study was prepared and Project HG09044: Mechanisation. Automation. so it is important to thoroughly assess a situation prior to investment. cut flowers and extractive crops. mango and fresh tomato production is concentrated in Queensland. nuts. stone fruit and oranges in New South Wales. northern Tasmania. processing potatoes in Tasmania. fruit. The committee also noted that there are crop groups that lend themselves to MARRS solutions however. turf. including industry such as vegetables. southwest Western Australia and the coastal strip of both northern New South Wales and Queensland. fresh pears. they more than likely do not have the financial strength to fund the development of MARRS solutions that may benefit them. nursery. Nursery and turf production generally occurs within or close to the capital cities and regional centres.Commercial-In-Confidence It is of utmost importance that Australia’s horticulture industries start to recognize MARRS solutions as part of the entire process. Victoria and South Australia. It is also quite possible that MARRS solutions may introduce additional MARRS-associated problems to be solved and hence the entire process may have been adversely affected with its introduction. The study was given the working title “Re-engineering horticulture: using MARRS technologies to radically improve the international competitiveness of Australian Horticulture”. and apples and fresh vegetables in all States. in particular New Zealand. Australia’s horticulture sector The horticulture sector is the second largest sector within Australian agriculture. mandarin.

interpretation. Since 2000-2001. The inadequacies of national data on industry employment requirements and the absence of aggregated vacancy data mean that it is difficult to systematically document the labour shortage issues in rural Australia. during harvesting. while a Yarra Valley berry grower says labour shortages in 2004 forced him to ‘drop’ 6 tonnes of raspberries from his vines. Fruit growers from around Bunbury in the southwest of Western Australia say demand for orchard workers outstrips supply. Such problems are not confined to Queensland. It has also experienced a significant market downturn for processing vegetables. There has been some 11 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . A leading Australian fruit exporter says the lack of a reliable supply of seasonal labour significantly inhibits industry growth in the Murray Valley irrigation region and limits export income. there is a need to ensure consistency and reduce the risk of duplication in future funding. Industry location. automation. robotics and remote sensing capability. The increasing costs of production associated with a strong dependency on a secure labour force. automation. says that for the last three years production at their Shepparton cannery has been lower than it might have been because fruit has been left on the trees as there aren’t enough people to pick it. SPC-Ardmona. Food safety and security. greater scrutiny of food safety issues and consumer expectations for environmentally responsible production processes. are driving the industry to better understand. Low water availability from natural rainfall and restricted irrigation water allocations have been the key production-limiting factors. particularly during harvest season. and application within the industry is vital as the industry comes to terms with a wide range of challenging global issues. the main constraint on the industry’s productive capacity has been climate variability and the impact of two severe droughts in quick succession on production and farm profitability.Commercial-In-Confidence variable and vulnerable to droughts. measure and strategically respond to issues involving mechanisation. Future Focus process. Mechanisation. robotics and remote sensing in the horticulture industry are a high priority for the HAL Postharvest and Emerging Technologies Portfolio.5 The Australian Horticulture Industry cannot afford to take a fragmented approach to MARRS and so consistency of knowledge. The Australian Horticulture industry is looking to have a thorough and up-to-date understanding of the MARRS capabilities within Australia (and overseas where applicable) and what it can offer to this industry. It is therefore critical that this study is developed and accepted by the Horticulture Industry as a whole (which includes major Agribusinesses) and that it is capable of delivering meaningful outcomes for all stakeholders. and HAL Postharvest and Emerging Technologies Portfolio have all identified the need for an across-industry approach to the development of MARRS capability and applications. In Victoria.3 Drivers in Australia’s horticulture Industry The key drivers effecting Australia’s horticulture industry in today’s economic environment have been widely recognized as: • • • • • Competitiveness. labour shortages. Many other agricultural industries and industry businesses are already down the path of developing these capabilities.4 The Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (Growcom) estimates that due to labour shortages. However. Despite the challenges facing Australia’s horticulture industry it has experienced strong growth over the past decade. and Consumer choice. The NHRN. its members lose up to 10 per cent of their crops – produce estimated to be worth $900 million. Green technologies and sustainability.

straw and chaff using a rotary fan making the entire harvesting process automatic. pollinating. Obstacle avoidance: computer vision recognition of obstacles such as people. robotic pollination is most efficient when only female flowers with a suitable spacing are selected for pollination. Ideally. wires. he built a prototype made of old metal scraps and farm tools. This report is the result of a review and assessment of existing technologies that been applied to horticulture both here and overseas. however HAL wants to ensure a consistency of approach and cost effectiveness of any future investment in this area as the industry moves forward.Commercial-In-Confidence significant investment in this area already. with the latest increase in computational power combined with a cost reduction. because of their low operation speeds. can handle rough terrain. computer vision recognition of the target such as the trunk. Intelligent inspection to decide which targets are appropriate for robotic manipulation. Swarm behavior management: to allow multiple autonomous robots to function together in one area without interfering with each other. many horticulture products need to be handled very gently once they have been harvested as a drop over even a small distance may cause bruising. keeping track of where the robotic task has already been completed and where it remains to be done. stumps and rocks so that an autonomous robot can navigate safely around these. Produce handling. the fruit/produce. For example. Cost. robotics applications are spreading. Australia. poles. etc. no harvesting robot has reached the stage of commercialization. With the help of his brothers George and John. sloping ground. a 17 year old. in order to extend the useful work period of the machine and ensure a reasonable payback period. It was an immediate success because it separated the grain. cherry and other fruits. such as picking followed by bud count followed by pollination followed by fruit count. robots should be capable of performing many different operations. robots have been applied to harvest citrus and apples. such as fruit picking. and high costs. The key areas associated with the application of automation to horticultural that have significant challenges to be addressed are: • • • • • • Path finding. tired of turning the heavy handle on his fathers’ winnowing machine in country Victoria. only last for a few months of the year and it is not cost effective to use a robot for such a short period. The development of mechanical assistance or automation in harvesting systems began as early 1883 when Hugh Victor McKay. pruning. mushrooms. and • • • • 12 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . the flower. wondered if a harvester could be made to winnow as well. navigation both within the rows of an crops and orchards and in order to get to the field. Mapping. Robotics and automation Robotics and automation in Agriculture is not a new phenomenon: In controlled environments it has a history of over 20 years. cucumber. Building an automation platform which is cost effective. Currently there are automated harvesters in the research phase for cherry tomatoes. This platform needs to be adaptable to other tasks and other crops. It was finished in 1884 and called the Sunshine Harvester. So far. However. spraying. robotic picking is vastly more efficient if only produce of the correct size and colour is picked. Vision. low success rates. mud. The design of the mechanical system or robot which will perform the task of picking. The study of robot applications for plant production also had an early start in 1984 with a tomato harvesting robot6. In horticulture. most of the horticultural tasks. soil and rain. the bud. etc. Similarly.

Commercial-In-Confidence • Maintenance. 13 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . it is important to be able to provide the MARRS maintenance and servicing infrastructure. But it also provides an opportunity to retain and attract a younger workforce to rural Australia that have an interest in computing and the associated skills involved with automation. As the majority of the horticulture industry is located in rural Australia often in remote areas. This introduction of MARRS technologies will require a significant up skilling and training program in order to maintain these new and emerging technologies and systems.

As a result. load cells etc. magnetism. Site Specific Farming (SSF). Its development makes high accuracy spatial data easier to obtain in less time.Commercial-In-Confidence HORTICULTURAL FIELD/ORCHARD APPLICATIONS Precision farming is defined as the application of technologies and principles to manage spatial and temporal variability associated with all aspects of agricultural production. and remote sensing is taken to encompass aerial and satellite imagery used for farm planning and vegetation monitoring/management. However the raw GPS signal is not sufficiently accurate to determine position within a field. ultrasound. surveying and GIS data capture. motion. surveying and mapping. such as tractor mounted sensors (even if they are not in contact with the target) and. Global Positioning System (GPS). By definition. so any of the visual imagery. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Geographic information systems (GIS) are a means of integrating data acquired at different scales and time and in different formats and can be considered to be a collection of spatially referenced data that act as a ‘model’ of the field. those that actually make contact. 14 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . and other factors that affect production. Management decisions are based on the requirements of each zone and tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). yield rates. The most common remote sensing options are aerial and satellite imagery. It uses satellite and computers to compute positions anywhere on earth. They have been developed to measure and monitor soil properties. machinery. but technically speaking. remote sensing takes place without physical contact with an object. atmospheric properties. Precision farming has also been termed as Precision Agriculture (PA). GPS based agriculture. pest infestation. Variable Rate Technology (VRT). and proximal sensing is taken to cover all those things that are "close" to the target. Site Specific Management (SSM). pressure and sound. as is usually the case in agriculture. it would include things like tractor mounted N-sensor. of course. An additional signal from a known position (reference) is needed to provide the necessary accuracy. Proximal sensing makes use of contact sensors such as buried soil moisture sensors. used in precision agriculture. It has a tremendous amount of application in GIS data collection. etc. numerous observations and measurements can be taken at specific positions and GIS can be used to create field maps based on GPS data to record and assess the impact of farm management decisions. are used to control zone inputs. A GPS receiver requires at least four satellites to determine its position. In Precision Agriculture. They provide the grower with instant (real time) information that can be used to adjust or control operations. nobody takes a lot of notice of the strict technical definition. yields. However. Weed seeker and close range laser etc. which can come from a land-based reference signal. water. growth conditions. spatially variable farming (SVF). nutritional status. pest and disease infestation. Remote Sensors Sensors are devices that transmit an impulse in response to a physical stimulus such as heat. or as an airplane or satellite photographs the field from the sky. the field is broken into “management zones” also called ‘grids’ based on soil pH. light. and reflectance etc processes fall under this category. It is a comprehensive approach to farm management designed to optimise agricultural production through the use of information technology that brings data from multiple sources to bear on decisions associated with agriculture production. They can be contact or remote ground based or space based and direct or indirect. crop stress. which provides unequalled accuracy and flexibility of positioning for navigation.. A Global Positioning System (GPS) is a burgeoning technology. They can be used to measure soil and crop properties as the tractor passes over the field.

new novel handheld Vis/NIR spectrometers for quality assessment of fruit. Comparison of satelite Imagery to Unmanned Aircraft 15 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . crop development. The company has developed high performance. The company has now expanding its product range into agricultural applications such as product quality assurance and on-line process monitoring and control. Figure 1.intspec.com). V-TOL has a range of commercial and military grade products and services that provide basic point-to-point to sophisticated networked surveillance. field boundaries. In this case. roads. it can be either Passive RS where sensors detect the reflected or emitted electro-magnetic radiation or Active RS where the sensors detect the reflected responses from objects that are irradiated from artificially-generated energy sources such as radar. hyper spectral imaging spectrometers for earth resources remote sensing and field portable NIR spectrometers. Integrated Spectronics is an Australian based company established in 1989 to develop and manufacture electro-optical instrumentation for the mining.v-tol. One such company providing Remote Sensor technologies both for fruit quality assessment as well as airborne large scale Near Infrared (NIR) assessment of agriculture production is Integrated Spectronics Pty Ltd (http://www. An aerial photograph is optical sensors that can show variations in field colour that correspond to changes in soil type. water. and remote sensing capabilities for the horticulture industry.com/). Another Brisbane based company providing airborne remote sensing services to the agriculture and horticulture industry is V-TOL Aerospace Pty Ltd7 (www. The company also supplies Airborne Hyper-spectral Imaging. Integrated Spectronics also provides electro-optical consulting services and contract R&D services. etc. remote sensing and environmental industries.Commercial-In-Confidence Remote sensors are generally categorised as aerial or satellite sensors that can provide instant maps of field characteristics. The company’s products include Field Portable Spectrometers. The company has a focus on collecting and networking spatial information using Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Ground Sensors (UGS).

showing its huge potential for the harvesting of cauliflowers. Scarfe et al. Commercial support has been received to take the project forward and develop the complete product from one of the largest lettuces grower in the United Kingdom. Different farming systems. lettuces and other similar crops. terahertz and the far-infra red. Researchers at NPL began by modifying microwave measurement systems to measure a cauliflowers structure. In automatic weed control systems. different horticulture production systems and different products will usually require vastly differing harvesting systems. The final technology will be developed for a first generation harvester and tested in a real farming environment. Briefly. A successful demonstration of the imaging technology was given recently at the Fanuc Robotics site in Coventry.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 2. 16 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . A series of measurements made on real crops in the laboratory and field enabled a statistical range of measurements for precise size identification. and enable precise size identification. microwaves. This can be used to develop a fully automated harvesting robot. Typical flight paths of Unmanned Aircraft. Automated/Mechanical harvesting Automated harvesting is governed by the environment in which a particular horticulture crop is grown. the key area still requiring development is in weed detection and identification11. These four parts of the electromagnetic spectrum all have potential to safely penetrate the crop layers and identify the size of the harvestable material for a relatively low cost.9 The most appropriate technologies to use are radio frequencies. one of the hardest crops to measure due to the large amount of leafage that covers the vegetable. This data is then designed into an algorithm to enable a simple size indication from a raw measurement with uncertainties. precision in-row weed control and mapping) are used commercially in non-robotic agricultural applications. the reviewers note that while three of the contributing core technologies (guidance. identify the differing materials. they describe a manure spreader with GPS guidance that is capable of spreading manure on a field under remote control by an operator 1 km away from the field10. which can look beneath the leafy layers of a crop. United Kingdom. (2009) briefly reviewed the literature for semi-robotic systems to not only harvest crops but also in the on-going preparation and maintenance of the crop prior to harvest. NPL are developing a methodology for crop identification and selection focusing specifically on cauliflower crops. Electromagnetic sensors Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the United Kingdom are working with KMS Projects and Vegetable Harvesting Systems (VHS) Ltd8 to develop technology as a foundation for intelligent harvesting machines.

000. HAL project VG05073.000 to 52.000 to 45. harvester development. mechanized /automated minimal processing. 12 A study undertaken by Dr Allan Twomey. brussels sprouts and cauliflower.000 $20.000 19. For the Australian horticulture industry.000. These estimates are presented in the Table below. with the associated cost reduction in salaries. materials handling systems.500 Depends on type $5.000. and (4) the ability to work at night.Commercial-In-Confidence The development of an effective and efficient harvesting system relies on a mechanical harvester matched appropriately to a modified growing system.000.000 48. among others. training. celery.000 to 20.000 $6. iceberg lettuce. primarily: (1) decreased risks of contamination by human contact at the field. and (3) the navigation of the harvester or autonomous robot through the orchard or field (which rely on GPS technology or computer vision)14. leafy greens and tomatoes. Some of these aspects are considered in the case studies for this section.000 $24.000.000 $4. These characteristics make mechanical harvesting a very appealing proposition for farms which traditionally experience labour shortages during the harvest season. Project VG 05073 provided some benchmark cost benefit estimates for mechanical harvesting. the main issues with automated harvesting in orchards or in fields is (1) the precision capability of the visioning system for recognition of the ripe produce for harvest. (2) the selection of a grasping device (‘end effector’) which will not damage the produce. potatoes. The results show a particularly attractive proposition for cauliflower. Crop Benchmark yield range (kg/ha) % harvesting cost reduction targets 70-78 65-75 68-75 55-65 50-70 55-65 45-55 Estimated improvement Asian brassicas Broccoli (fresh market) Broccoli (processing market) Celery Cauliflower Leafy greens Tomato Roma and bunches 17 | P a g e Depends on type 15. sanitary measures on field and lifting aids. "Mechanical harvesting of selected vegetables -feasibility study"13 investigated the feasibility of mechanical harvesting of selected vegetables. (2) decreased labour needs. Mechanical harvesting provides a number of advantages over traditional hand-picking. The report also indicated that there was less interest in the development of sensors to evaluate the readiness of crops for harvesting. logistics and marketing.000 20.000 $30. The report indicates that for each crop an expenditure of about $3 to $5 million over a 3 to 5 year period should be expected.000 $5. This report found that the main interest in Australia is for mechanical harvesting which is targeted at in-field harvesting.500 to 24. The cost also includes system development in at least two regions (thus including variation of geographydependent factors).000 40. This cost includes agronomics.000 to 27. based on marketable production with the specific quality required by buyers.000. In summary. Mechanical harvest systems have been developed for carrots. grading and further processing all at the one site. the major points of interest are the ability to increase harvest rates and the reduction of workers in the field.000. This modified growing system can be in the form of plant varieties “tuned” to the harvester or plant structure trained to match mechanical harvesting processes. The report also provided some estimated gains achieved through mechanical harvest. beetroot. radishes.000 Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . (3) flexibility on speed and timing of harvesting. The Matilda Fresh Foods case study demonstrates this requirement (see below). cabbage.

The Harvester capability exceeded the anticipated output which led to a complete revision of the handling and processing systems. Dr Estrada-Flores from Food Chain Intelligence has compiled of list of over 225 patents globally on harvesting system inventions for the horticulture industry from 1969 to 2009. 5% of damage rate to the existing spears. Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 18 | P a g e . 80% of spear recovery rate. An appropriate Business Model was being developed to enable the commercialisation of the Broccoli harvester within the Matilda Farm business. 28% from Japan and only 2% were Australian registered patents. The different models considered were.16 The critical issues to consider here is: of these patents how many have been successfully commercialised? Of these 225 cited mechanical harvesting patents 40% were registered US Patents.Commercial-In-Confidence A recent study in the US15 compared selective and non-selective mechanical harvesters for asparagus in terms of efficiency levels. chilled broccoli and cauliflower florets under the “You’ll Love Coles” brand to Coles supermarkets throughout Australia. sell and service Broccoli Harvesters. The innovative components of their production system were: • Varietal selection using international benchmarks for productivity and harvestability. This effectively reduced harvest cost and the transport of the biomass. lower than the profit observed for manual harvesting ($1. and 5% of damage rate to the harvested spears) the profit generated by mechanical harvesting was $1. – – License an existing harvester manufacturing company to build.000 broccoli heads per hour and in addition allowed the automated harvest of material that would previously have remained in the field. However. Case Study . A bio-economic model was used to determine the impact on profits and harvested yields by the two mechanical harvesters and their levels of profitability compared to manual harvesting. The harvester could harvest 56. The development of automated and mechanised harvesting systems for the horticulture industry has been underway since as the late ‘60s.497/ha. • This Case shows the essential element of the development of automated harvesting is to match the crop agronomy system with the automation. The machinery could harvest heads and stems and mechanically separate and floret them in field. the results suggested that further development of the selective mechanical harvester would likely lead to higher profitability ratios than those found for manual harvesting.666/ha). The innovation was in the development of a production system that integrated with the mechanical harvesting system. profitability.e.Automated Broad Acreage Harvesting of Broccoli: Matilda Fresh Foods Matilda Fresh Foods was Australia’s largest private exporter of broccoli and onions. harvesting. Located on the rich pollution free volcanic soils of the Darling Downs. Matilda created a strong Asian presence through high quality products and excellence in delivery to customers. The Mechanical harvester was the centre piece of their innovative system. growing. processing. Growing systems developed for mechanical harvesting that would build on existing technology for GPS cultivation. ready to cook and eat. The results showed that at the efficiency levels observed for the selective mechanical harvester (i. seed treatment and irrigation. Matilda was also the major producer of fresh. and yield harvested. The agronomy system required the selection of the appropriate broccoli varieties that were tall enough for the harvester and growing practices that involved planting the seeds and seedlings in rows relative to the path of the sun to encourage further tall growing plants. Establish a new business to manufacture and sell harvesters. Matilda utilised a systems approach to the selection. transport and logistics and marketing of broccoli products.

The Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops (CASC) Program is led by Sanjiv Singh. 19 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . Both projects will investigate new designs for mechanical harvesters. Washington State University. monitor and respond to food safety hazards. Separate license agreements for different markets.4 billion. Education & Extension Service with matching support from industry and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance. These states alone have 200. identify threats from pests and diseases. and Purdue University CASC is developing methods to improve production efficiency. research professor of robotics. Figure 3. rather than replacing them. The Syndicate consists of the Carnegie Mellon University.Commercial-In-Confidence – – Build a limited number of harvesters and establish a contract harvesting company. CASC is a syndicate of research and commercial companies that have been funded by the USDA Cooperative State Research. Washington and Oregon. One is for apple growers and one is for orange growers. and.000 acres of apples (60% of the US fresh apple production) produced on about 6. Broad acreage Broccoli Harvester Case Study – Robotic Harvesting in Orchards: Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute Two groups of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute received $10 million in grants from the U. but both are designed to improve fruit quality and lower production costs.000 farming operations with a farm gate value of US$1.18 Harvesting remains one of the most labor-intensive operations at orchards. Vision Robotics Corp. CASC will focus on apple and ornamental and tree fruit nursery production in Pennsylvania. but it also is very challenging to automate because of demanding handling requirements and the associated cost requirements. but the emphasis will be on aiding human harvesters. These crops are representative of specialty crops grown across the US. detect.17 The projects are funded through the USDA’s new Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops (CASC) program is a multi-institutional initiative led by Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute to comprehensively address the needs of specialty agriculture focusing on apples and horticultural stock. Oregon State University. including a vacuum-assisted device that the CASC will use for apple harvesting.S. The Pennsylvania State University. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to build automated farming systems. Consideration of the potential business models that are required in order to successfully commercialise outcome of any MARRS development is crucial to successful adoption of these technologies in terms of economic returns.

monitoring of plant health. The existing prototype has been able to demonstrate a proof-ofconcept.to high-density orchards. Design of the first full prototype is currently underway. and color of each piece of fruit in the orchard. which will include the form and function of the anticipated design but requiring more evolution to reach the production design. Figure 4.19 The system scans fruit trees to determine the total crop yield. mobility. CASC’s goal is to work with the specialty crop industry to fulfill its vision of significantly reducing the cost of production of US fruit. Much more research work is required before the system is ready for commercial application. the size. assessing their socioeconomic utility. which is fundamental for its survival. and transferring results to the end users via commercialization and extension. reduction in the amount (and cost) of sprays and nutrients. 20 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . and assessing a carefully chosen set of information. The goal is to create a system that accurately detects more than 95% of the fruit in a typical orchard. and reduction of damage to crops at harvest. increase in the efficiency of labor. based on a Toro Workman MDE utility vehicle CASC are also developing a crop load estimation system for medium.Commercial-In-Confidence The key industry needs that are being addressed are: early detection of diseases and insects. integrating. manipulation and plant science technologies. assessment of crop value. testing. location. Autonomous Prime Mover for deployment of sensors. deploying. Objectives include developing.

Vision System detection of Red Apples. This could be apples grown in a trellis arrangement to provide better access for vision recognition and robotic manipulation for picking. Development of methods to mechanize thinning is a top priority for the tree fruit industry. Provide technology transfer by pilot testing in orchards with commercial growers. 21 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . state governments and other funding sources. The NREC’s Integrated Automation for Sustainable Specialty Crop Farming Project will deploy a fleet of networked. typically performed by hand. This management practice. The Integrated Automation for Sustainable Specialty Crop Farming Project. higher quality product. is a labor-intensive and expensive activity. received a three-year. In addition to SGC. Develop and integrate electronic and mechanical technologies for higher precision and selective thinning. collaborators include researchers at the University of Florida. of the Robotics Institute’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). Cornell University and John Deere & Co. This project will develop and test new mechanical thinners. Tree fruit are thinned at the blossom or early fruit development stages to ensure larger. one of Florida’s largest growers. unmanned tractors in the orange groves of Southern Gardens Citrus (SGC). Specific project objectives are: • Integrate mechanization and tree canopy architecture (as growing systems evolve from a three-dimensional to two-dimensional structure) by investigating training modifications to make flowers or fruit more visible/accessible and new methods of targeting optimum level of crop load adjustment at various stages of bloom/fruit development. Both project grants are being matched dollar for dollar by industry. Further develop and modify two prototype non-selective fruit thinning devices to improve prototype efficacy and commercialisation potential. Penn State University in the United States is also undertaken related work on innovative technologies for the thinning of fruit trees. US$4 million grant to develop systems for the citrus industry.20 • • • The Case Study demonstrates the complexity of some of the MARRS solutions that will be required in the horticulture industry.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 5. It also demonstrates that development of robotic picking of apples will require again developments in the agronomy and growing systems.

picking fruit. Uses a variety of recovery strategies to deal with faults such as getting stuck. A video showing the unit operating one of the four robot arms is available at http://www. goes to the end of the row and unloads the bin. Case Study . discriminating for size and gross defects. Identifies fruit. Operates 24-7.ac. returns to the last position and resumes picking. Checks the fruit level at each point in the bin and adjusts fruit placement to fill the bin evenly. teaching empty bins and protecting the picked fruit from rain. and maintaining power only to the main (monitoring) computer and radio link. learning to navigate and to recognise and pick fruit. and unloading full bins of fruit. approximately 30% of the fruit is rejected on the basis of size and quality. the robot is able to pick at one fruit per second. The fruit growers pay the pack house a packing fee which is based on the gross tonnage with a fine for rejects. two are mounted looking toward the rear to locate and handle the fruit bins. Fruit picking and handling are still in the experimental phase and development will continue during the 2010 harvest. misshapen or marked makes the system economically attractive to the growers. The robot receives instruction by radio link and operates autonomously as it navigates through the orchard. checks for light level and operates floodlights if necessary. switching the unnecessary power systems off. Checks for rain or dew and covers the bin with a tarpaulin when this is detected so that picked fruit is protected. Goes into secure mode (for example when the fruit is wet). Collects data on the fruit yield from a particular orchard.html 22 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . The robot platform being developed is an autonomous 4-wheel drive robotic vehicle which performs the following functions: • • Uses GPS and intelligent vision to navigate kiwifruit orchards. moving the robotic arms to a safe position. There are also a number of cameras that look up at the canopy to coordination with the picking arms. Wakes up when appropriate and resumes picking. manoeuvring around obstacles such as posts and recognising braces at the end of each row. Briefly. Decides when the bin is full. The ability of the vision software to recognise fruit which is undersize. It also shows the gap between research and successful commercialisation. vision becoming obscured. Picks the fruit and places it gently into the bin.Commercial-In-Confidence This case also demonstrates the amounts of funding that the United States industry and government are willing to apply to the development of MARRS solutions for horticulture. etc. • • • • • • The kiwifruit picking robot has spent the six months in an orchard. Searches for and picks up an empty bin with its forks. Receives and responds to communications via radio link and uses voice recognition to respond to verbal commands.Autonomous Robotic Kiwifruit Picking: Massey University New Zealand researchers at Massey University have made significant progress into the development of an autonomous kiwifruit picking robot.21 In existing kiwifruit Packhouses. The Massey University researchers have developed a robot with intelligent vision system that ensures that only ‘good’ fruit is picked. Neither of these is yet commercially viable and both use human operators to position the picking robot. the kiwifruit picker employs a panoply of cameras: two are mounted looking forward and enable the picker to make its way around the orchard. unripe.massey. Currently. Similar ‘agrobotic’ systems include a prototype orange picking robot being developed in Italy and an apple-picker being developed in Belgium.nz/~rcflemme/current%20projects.

transport. Pollination is an expensive and difficult operation in kiwifruit orchards and unexplained bee-hive deaths are a considerable worry to orchardists.23 Harvest labour costs are the single largest cost item for strawberry growers. medical care. language barriers. payroll administration. spraying and other crop maintenance activities. provision of accommodation. Case Study – Autonomous Robotic Strawberry Picking: Magnificent Pty Ltd Faced with the ever increasing issues in the labour market. 23 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . accounting for more than half of the total cost of production. To increase the utilization of the robot.22 This particular case study demonstrates that developing MARRS solutions that have more than one function makes the introduction of the technology economically viable. Glass House Mountains strawberry farmer Ray Daniels of SunRay Strawberries Pty Ltd. on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane. The large seasonal labour force that is required also brings many management issues that dwarf the challenges of strawberry cultivation. social order costs. unreliability of low-paid labour. researchers now intend to focus on the robots to also pollinate flowers. The platform will also have spillover effects into the wider horticulture industry as it is adapted to harvest other crops such as apples and oranges. pollinating flowers. discovered a solution to the challenges faced by strawberry growers while listening to a presentation on robotic harvesting by agricultural engineer Rudi Bartels at a strawberry growers meeting in 2007.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 6. The pruning of kiwifruit vines is another expensive and time-consuming operation for the industry. Issues include the time and costs involved in labour recruitment. illegal migrant issues. The vision system on the automated kiwifruit robot will be developed to recognise female flowers and apply pollen precisely to the flower in an optimal manner (leaving sufficient room between pollinated flowers for the fruit to develop in an unobstructed way) using a customised pollen delivery system attached to the robot hand. management of rapidly fluctuating labour requirements. Autonomous Kiwifruit Picking Robot. Manual applications do not apply the pollen efficiently. The autonomous robotic system will be adapted to perform this function. The robotic arms of the system will be adapted to pick other types of fruit such as apples and oranges. In this case the same autonomous robot platform for Kiwifruit will be used for fruit picking. therefore some orchardists apply pollen manually so that they are not reliant on bees.

T y This project will take th harvester from a field prototype to a machi that t he r e ine can be utilised in a co ommercial s strawberry p production environment with a des e sign life of at least 5 a years (16 m million berries).Commer rcial-In-Confidence training and supervisio costs. in ncluding autonomous r row tracking foliage displacement strawberr locating and g. ad dministering and payin large wor forces is further com g ng rk mpounded by the fact that while l labour costs continue t rise. reco g y ognise ripe strawberrie remove a place berries in es. It is common for the sma management team of strawber farms on n all rry to spend m more than 70 of their time simply managing all these ancillary labo challeng 0% y our ges. The autonomous machine that is bein develope must e e ng ed be able to travel along strawberry rows. St trawberry ide entification us sing Vision S System. The project is focused on adaptin a field pr y d ng rototype har rvester so th it can hat become a successfully commerc cialised auto onomous machine that can harves field grow t st wn strawberrie in a cost effective m es manner. Ro obot Arm pic cking Field St trawberries. ry a strawberry handling. 24 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . Figure 8. A basic field prototype machine h already been deve e has y eloped to de emonstrate the technical subsystems. e g hrough proje BS08014 “Robotic s ect 4 strawberry Horticulture Australia is providing support th harvesting” for SunRa Strawber ay rries Pty Ltd to engage Magnificen Pty Ltd to develop a robotic d e nt o strawberry harvester. the s s to strawberry price has re emained lar rgely stagna over ant the last 30 years. t. and b picking tray and utilis telemetry to alert fie personne when the machine n ys se y eld el e needs to be turned at the end of the row. Figure 7. The pressures of hiring.

6 km/h. This research was conducted through the USDA Agricultural Research Service for the project “Sorting agricultural materials for defects using imaging and physical methods”. Prof Nagata leads the University of Miyazaki research however has to date been limited to laboratory testing of a robotic gantry.26 25 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . These competitors do not currently pose a direct threat to Magnificent Pty Ltd as they target a niche market that accounts for less than one per cent of world strawberry production.Automatic Weed Control System for Transplanted Processing Tomatoes Using X-ray Stem Sensing: USDA Agricultural Research Service Recently. which are angled and block only some of the photodiodes. which is a significant advantage for safety reasons. A field trial was conducted in a 15 meter section of row containing 39 tomato seedlings. This Case Study demonstrates that there is a large gap between MARRS technologies developed in the research environment and what is required to operate in a commercial environment.Commercial-In-Confidence The Universities of Okayama. the detection system identified all 39 stems of standing plants with no false positives. the Miyazaki Harvester is not perceived as a competitive threat in the medium term24. 7 mA).25 Briefly. decreasing the detected signal and allowing stem detection even in the presence of leaves. As this research is academically focused and with Prof Nagata semi retired. At a speed of 1. Case study . This configuration helps differentiate branches. The detector consisted of a linear array of photodiodes aligned perpendicular to the soil. Minimizing the source to detector distance as the system moved along the row allowed for differences in signal strength between stems and background as high as 180 mV (vs. The plant’s main stem absorbs x-ray energy. and stems which have the same vertical alignment as the array and hence block all photodiodes. the University of Utsunomiya and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid are all developing harvesters for hydroponically grown strawberries. background noise levels around 30 mV) at low x-ray energy and current levels (25 keV. a portable x-ray source projected an x-ray beam perpendicular to the crop row and parallel to the soil surface. It also highlights the importance of researchers being able to understand the commercial operation associated with growing and harvesting produce. a stem detection system was developed for automatic weed control in transplanted tomato fields. This signal is used to control the operation of a pair of weed knives. The University of Miyazaki in Japan and Robotic Harvesting LLC (Limited Liability Company) in California are also developing robotic strawberry Harvesters for field grown strawberries.

(2008) describe research for an autonomous robot for harvesting cucumbers. Belforte et al. grafting and transplanting as well as the final phase of crop production including sorting and packing the harvested produce are already mechanised. Those tasks do not require much human intelligence and/or fast and accurate eye-hand coordination.Commercial-In-Confidence PROTECTED CROPPING (GLASSHOUSE/GREENHOUSE) APPLICATIONS Horticulture Australia estimates that Australia has 1. the cycle time is too slow for commercialisation and the problems associated with moving the plants rather than the robots are large29. cutting. All indications are that the protected cropping industry is growing fast. However. 26 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . lettuce and strawberries in greenhouses and note that these are not commercially viable because they are too specific in their purpose (picking is typically a very short period in the life of the crop) and have an unattractively slow pick-rate. at a rate of at least 6% per annum. This trend is supported by the commercial development of a strawberry harvester in Japan and a rose harvesting robot and tomato de-leafing robot in the Netherlands. extended and optimised.J. The structured environment of protected cropping with its high plant density and high product value. Although the dual functions of the robot mean that it can be used for a greater portion of the plant life. It is expected that the planted area will treble by 2017. The next ten years will show the advent of the next generation machines that combine smart mechanical design with sensors and ‘artificial intelligence’ to achieve the fast and accurate eye-hand coordination needed for these difficult tasks. The next ten years. only 80% of the cucumbers are picked and the average pick-rate is 45 seconds per cucumber27. Case Study – Protected Horticulture Robot Harvesting: Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution In Japan. often justify the expense of robotic picking applications. Progress in the field of greenhouse robotics therefore will not only rely on innovations in the field of robot technology but also on necessary innovations in the field of growing systems and plant breeding to reduce variability and thus to simplify the task. They developed a proof-of-concept stationary robot capable of under-leaf spraying and precision fertilization of potted plants which were moved on a conveyor past the stationary robot with a cycle time of 7 to 8 pots per minute. van Henten concluded that progress is slow in the field of robotic harvesting due largely to uncertainty in the working environment of the robot as a result of biological variability and the typical structure of the growing systems used. (2006)28 undertook a review of robotic harvesting of mushrooms. protected horticulture has traditionally relied on small-scale. The trend toward larger greenhouses could be accelerated by the development and introduction of MARRS solutions. and serious enterprise-like management with an emphasis on productivity and employment is spreading. Protected vegetable production is currently focused on cucumbers. hydroponic lettuces. In their brief review of the literature. AUSVEG data indicates that in 2006-07 there were 870 ha of protected crops. E. Scarfe et al. capsicums. herbs and tomatoes. The middle phase of crop production including crop maintenance and harvest has little or no automation as yet. particularly in SA and NSW. labor-intensive cultivation practices managed mainly by family members.600 ha of protected cropping systems for vegetables. van Henten30 in an analysis of a generic crop production process combined with a review of the state of the art in greenhouse mechanisation revealed that the first phases of plant production such as seeding. the available line of machines will be redesigned. However. The available machines are largely based on principles of industrial automation consisting of mechanical solutions with only a limited amount of sensors and ‘intelligence’ used. Maintaining the crop and harvesting rely on human intelligence and ability and are much more difficult to automate. large-scale greenhouses are gaining popularity.

The vision detection algorithms and the harvesting endeffectors were designed to suit each of the target fruits. and tomato in the Greenhouse environment. Detection of ripen strawberries with vision system. shape.Commercial-In-Confidence The Horticultural Engineering Department at the Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (BRAIN) and the National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science of the National Agriculture & Food Research Organisation in Japan have developed 3D vision and harvesting systems for strawberry. and size was used for eggplant. and size) and the development of appropriate crop maintenance and environmental conditions. Figure 9. 27 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . eggplant. The final design of harvesting robots for practical commercial use needs information on crop features (color. The Research teams have developed three types of prototype robots for mechanisation of protected horticultural production. Hydroponic Strawberry Harvesting robot Figure 10. Color information was used for strawberry and tomato.

and a cutting device. researchers used image processing with lighting and stereovision. but the success rate of cutting the stem became low because leaves covered the stem. a recognition system and a cutting system. the picking robot has an image processing system with a parallel stereovision. Experiments were initially conducted in the laboratory. a positioning system to follow the recognized sweet pepper by visual feedback control. Japan A picking robot for sweet peppers in greenhouse horticulture has been developed by the Intelligent Mechanical System Engineering Department in Kochi University of Technology. The second experiment was carried out with leaves. Eggplant-harvesting robot Figure 12. Japan. 28 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . First experiments were carried out without leaves. 31 To achieve their objectives. recognition was successful.Robot Picking of Sweet Peppers in a Greenhouse: Kochi University of Technology. Case Study . The developed prototype robot has the following. Robot Arm picking Egg Plant. In the recognition system. and recognition of the fruit and cutting the stem was successful. In this situation.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 11.

Example of image processing to identify Sweet Peppers. Figure14.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 13. Structure of Laboratory Prototype Sweet Pepper picking robot. 29 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 .

30 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . Variation in plant structure and growth is more controlled in this environment and the technology can be protected and have control functions reduced in complexity if operated on fixed tracks. Sweet Pepper visual feedback control image. Both of the above Case Studies demonstrate that development of MARRS solutions maybe achieved quicker by operating in the more structured environment of a Greenhouse.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 15.

Images captured from light reflected off fruit. The 9000 series uses infrared light to detect blemishes of prescribed size which are not located near the stalk or the calyx. shape (elongation. near infra red (NIR) and magnetic resonance/imaging. nutrients and texture. Infra red. users observe that they do rather better in subsequent seasons as they gain skills and experience. the stalk or a defect. Spectroscopic examination means that the energy in each wavelength is determined and this in turn is influenced by the internal structure of the fruit. two diametrically opposed blotches are inferred to be the stem and calyx and anything else to be a defect. while these systems may be able to find a defect. However. they are incapable of forensic analysis of defects. This gives a monochrome (black and white) image which can be assessed based upon threshold values.32 Anecdotally. producing dark blotches which are sufficiently dark and large enough to be the calyx. these systems remain less reliable than humans and tend to be used for initial inspection with final inspection by humans.Commercial-In-Confidence PACKHOUSE APPLICATIONS Post harvest manual sorting and grading in the packhouse requires identification of quality factors such as appearance. ultrasonics. This means that such inspection techniques have severe limitations. However commercially. The company states that the 5000 Series used on apples measures colour (up to 16 user-defined colours). A zone around the stem and calyx is left uninspected because current inspection systems are incapable of distinguishing between features within the zone which should be there (the stem and the calyx) and features which should not be there (such as mold. The technical challenge of inspection is very difficult and the normal approach is to inspect for defects using only IR light. a puncture or bruise). i. fruit inspection systems see only the surface in colour or in Infra Red light (IR). Computer Vision Systems Computer vision inspection systems have made the transition from theoretical work to practical solutions and are used on many packing lines. it is possible to shine a focused beam onto a fruit and then examine the area around the beam to look at light which has entered the fruit and then been reflected back out. images in the visual or infra red (IR) spectra. Drs Rory and Clair Flemmer in their paper on Mechnisation in Apple Packhouse in 200933 observed that using straight imaging (cameras). while blemishes such as ‘rub’ in kiwifruit may look unsightly but can be tolerated in the final packed produce. Near infra red (NIR) spectrometry is a technique whereby NIR light is injected into the fruit and some of the light which has passed through some portion of the fruit is recaptured and examined spectroscopically. Compac cite fruit handling rates of 12 apples per second and 10 avocadoes per second. Based on the geometry of the inspection. 31 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 .1mm accuracy) and volume (2mls standard deviation) as well as blemish sorting and can handle up to 25 images per fruit. cannot detect internal defects such as bruising. they do not distinguish between rubs.e. which is to say. stem punctures etc. flatness and symmetry). However.. but it is NIR that has demonstrated the most potential in the last few years for practical use. It also uses Near Infrared (NIR) spectrometry to measure sugar content. this requires a fibre optic cable be placed against the fruit in order to project light and this makes it difficult to deploy for continuous high volume fruit inspection. This is because they bounce off the surface and do not sample the volume where the bruise exists. shines. This is not as good but provides some valuable information. Compac34. Detailed analysis is necessary because blemishes such as stem punctures are ‘fatal’ because they may lead to rot. diameter (+/. flavour. Potential non-destructive measuring equipment includes X-ray. the InVision 5000 and the InVision 9000. New Zealand offer two inspection systems. For best results.

which provides potatoes to potato chip giant Frito Lay. A New Zealand company. Many industries are using NIR including agriculture. potato has non-uniform quality and non-uniform maturity at harvest. mostly to US growers. Some of the light penetrates the fruit and is retransmitted. Similar to many other agricultural products. (This effect can be observed by holding a fruit to a bright lamp in a dark room. This colour difference. pharmaceutical and food processing. used to measure the color difference in the transmitted reflected light. has been using the technology to spot zebra chip at its Texas base in the United States since 2008. Currently with the Taste Tech T1 NIR model we can successfully test for water-core. Part of the light will be either absorbed or reflected by the potato.Commercial-In-Confidence Near Infra-red (NIR) technology Near-infrared (NIR) spectrometry and calibration are powerful. Taste Technologies and sister company Compac Sorting Equipment36.) The colour of the transmitted/reflected light is affected by the internal properties of the fruit. Case study – Near Infrared detection of disease states in whole potatoes: Taste Technologies. forestry. too subtle to be seen by the human eye. potato. contains information about the internal properties of the fruit. In this case the business model was based around generating a profitable business for the manufacture and supply of sorting technology for the horticulture industry. The NIR sorting equipment works as follows. internal rot. 32 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . Post-harvest quality evaluation and sorting is required for potato in order to provide reliable and uniform quality of the final processed product in the market place. This is an extremely sensitive color detector. have sold about 200 sorters with NIR technology. Zebra chip refers to dark. Most are used for spotting defects in fruit but about 18 sorters had been sold to test for zebra chip with potato processors. NIR can be set up on each lane of an existing sorting machine as the fruit is being graded. internal browning and zebra chip. for either rapid laboratory analysis or as part on in-line sorting processes. with application for apple. 1. This Case Study demonstrates the importance of developing an appropriate business model for commercialisation of the MARRS technologies. A light source is focused to illuminate a piece of fruit as it passes under the NIR system. A digital signal processor (DSP) is used to process the information from the spectrometer and estimate the brix acid or other internal properties. The fruit will grow at a distance from where the light is shining on it. growers can tell if there is soluble sugar in the potato. Taste Technologies “Taste Tech's NIR” technology boasts sorting capabilities for brix and internal flesh color and is capable of being integrated into most fruit and vegetable sorting machines. The fruit reflection is measured by a spectrometer. especially when cut and fried to make chips. non-destructive tools for monitoring. The information is processed by the Internal Quality Sorting software and used as part of the fruit sorting information. unsightly stripes that appear inside afflicted tubers. a sign of zebra chip. By measuring the ratio of absorption to reflection. onion and pomegranate. The solution is based upon near-infrared (NIR) technology and works by shining a light on the potato as it travels through the sorter. with more produce coming on line regularly. 2. regulating and controlling processes that determine product quality. CSS Farms. A high brix fruit will absorb more light at certain wavelengths than a low brix fruit. Taste Technologies has developed a sorting method that can find out if potatoes have the Zebra chip disease before they are sent to manufacturers35.

and can be installed with other electronic detection systems of weight. ripening grade expressed in scale between 0 and 100. kiwis. firmness expressed in kg/cm2. To assess overall fruit quality the UNITEC system has introduced two different categories of attributes for every single fruit. external quality and can be customised according to each packing house needs. one internal and the other external quality parameters. The company’s electronic sorter QS_On Line 902 measures the quality parameters of fruits without stones such as apples. Images of apples that have been sorted for internal browning by the Taste Tech T1 NIR. citrus fruits. UNITEC products are distinguished in the market due to their ability to rotate the fruit while being analysed. Taste Tech’s Near Infrared cameras in-line. etc. Case study – NIR internal detection. Figure 17. colour. optical size.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 16. 33 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . pears. thus obtaining a complete measurement. blemish external detection UNITEC Group is an international group leading in manufacturing systems and plants for the processing and sorting of all types of fresh fruit and vegetables37 and has invested significantly on the research and development of non-destructive technology to measure fruit internal quality. The sensor is based on NIR technology and can measure parameters such as: • • • • sugar content expressed in Brix degrees. and acidity of a fruit in g/l. The use of multiple sensors to measure these attributes and some clever software allows the system to make decisions on the fruits overall quality.

A recent advance in this area is the use of portable ‘electronic fruit’ instruments which can detect impact problems in the postharvest process. The most widely used device internationally is the Impact Recording Device (IRD) from Techmark Ink40. velocity change. Case Study . GarciaRamos41 used the device to compare the performance of three types of sizers (electronic/cup. The cost of damage in horticulture from bruising is enormous. In the acceleration-type category. There are 2 broad types of these. Quality attributes assessed on-line. time of event) when the device is placed with the fruit in the produce handling system. comes in a number of moulded shapes (for example potatoes. mechanical roller and finger sizers) handling peaches and apricots and found that the fruit impact values varied from 31g in the roller sizer to 207g for cup sizers. Bolen38 in 2006 reviewed both types of devices. use a tactile film to measure contact pressures on fruit. 34 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . It consists of a tri-axial accelerometer mounted inside a soft plastic sphere with a microprocessor embedded in the sphere to record data (maximum acceleration.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 18. The latter. namely those that sense accelerations and those that sense compression.Impact Recording Devices. They also found that the main/worst impact occurred when the sized fruit is transferred from the main conveyor to the ‘drop’ packing conveyor. a device developed by Sensor Wireless Inc in Canada39. Techniques for assessing product damage have traditionally been based on ‘survey type’ studies where a sample of 100 fruit is put through the handling system and any fruit damage is then assessed manually. the ‘smart spud’) and uses an accelerometer sensor and radio communication to stream data to a handheld data capture device. which are still in the research phase.

food processing plants and palletising plants have automated their application with a palletising robot. The Impact Recording Devices are expensive.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 19. Robotics/Automated Packing Palletising refers to the operation of loading a pallet with an object such as a corrugated carton in a defined pattern. papaya. citrus. not very durable. Flexi picker Robotic tray packer. Palletising robots are also common in packing plants in the food processing industry as they eliminate OHS issues (strain injury) and work consistently and methodically 24/7. bell peppers. Figure 20. Many factories. Depalletising refers to the operation of unloading the loaded object in the reverse pattern. Robotic palletising technology increases productivity and profitability. avocado. mangoes and onions. They are useful for showing the critical areas in fruit handling. A robot control system with a built-in palletising function makes it possible to load and unload without spending a lot of time on teaching. Robotic palletising systems allow for more flexibility to run products for longer periods of time. Impact Recording Device (IRD) passing through an apple handling system. but do not respond exactly like the particular produce being studied and the output is not related to any level of bruising. apples. This device has been used to record impact intensity in commercial packing lines handling tomatoes. 35 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . pineapple. and are difficult to position between fruit.

automated and robotic packaging of many fruit is common place now. fresh cut salads. For throughput rates between 10 nuts/s and 40 nuts/s. Overall control of the system using point and click menu’s. The complete system is due to run.Commercial-In-Confidence However. Vision systems and automated handling technologies are well developed for many of the major nut products such as almond s and peanuts. accuracy was 95% at 10 and 20 nuts/s and 89% at 40 nuts/s. 20. A prototype sorter was tested at throughput rates of 0. It has been built initially with one out of nine robots and one out of four lanes. An algorithm was developed using both amplitude and frequency information to classify the signals. Automated handling of empty and full trays. avocados. color defects and sizing. produce higher frequency signals than impacts between the plate and the kernels. The algorithm activated an air nozzle to divert in-shell nuts away from the kernel stream. Signal amplitudes.33.1g Visual inspection to grade to Zespri standards including blemishes. watermelons. 10. berries. Labeling – better than 99 out of 100 labels to stick. Robotic placement in any of the standard trays. bottles and jars). correct classification ranged from 84% to 90% for in-shell nuts. 4 lanes) potentially would pack 250 . pears. Impacts between the steel plate and the hard shells. Recently. Fruit weighing to 0.44 Case study – Robotic packing of Fruit. One such technology supplier is Key Technology in Washington USA42. doing repack. citrus. and nuts. which means the handling system will need to accommodate different weights and product conformations. were highly variable and by themselves were not useful for the separation of samples. Case study – Nut sorting: Key Technology. kiwifruit. Systems based upon vibrating conveyors and air jets are able to sort nuts on quality parameters such as chipped/scratched. tomatoes. a sorting system has been developed for the separation of small in-shell pistachio nuts from kernels without shells on the basis of vibrations generated when moving samples strike a steel plate. as measured using an accelerometer attached to the bottom of the plate. Many growers utilize the same packhouse and often send different produce types throughout a season eg. rockmelons. picking and placing in the packhouse in the horticulture industry is more difficult than packing identical units into boxes (as is the case with cans. The Massey University School of Engineering and Advanced Technology have developed a prototype packing line for Kiwifruit45.43 This research was conducted through the USDA Agricultural Research Service for the project “Sorting agricultural materials for defects using imaging and physical methods”. Key Technology also have developed grading/sorting and packaging systems for vegetables. These systems have been designed to automatically pack fruit into trays at commercial rates and the systems are “off-the-shelf”. and other fruit and vegetables. The completed system (9 robots. including automatic management of the pick for multilayer trays. The fruit goes though the following processes: • • • • • • • • Softness measurement to give an equivalent penetromer reading for each fruit. on the other hand. potatoes and onions. Despite the dimensional variations of a natural product such as fruit and vegetable. classification accuracies were 96% for in-shell nuts and 99% for kernels.400 trays per hour with only one worker. Soft spot determination. For kernels. stone fruit. At the lowest throughput rate. 36 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . and 40 nuts per second using a mix of 10% in-shell and 90% kernels. Solutions have been developed to automate handling and packing systems for apples. shape and colour. citrus. later this year.

potatoes and onions. An air stream rotates the apple until the stalk stands vertically upright. This is determined in real time. Their system is based around the ABB IRB340 Robot and FlexPicker package and is able to reach speeds of 180 pick and place cycles per minute (product dependent). can complete this task by combining data about the fruit gathered from a vision system and manipulating apples with electric linear drives during packing to ensure the ripe skin of the apples face upwards. pick. and the fruit is rotated. The apple is then rotated through 360° while being inspected by the vision system. kiwifruit. Figure 22.Commercial-In-Confidence A New Zealand company. citrus. The FHS Tray Picker combines the fruit handling capability with robotic speed and flexibility to produce a system that can singulate. However. identify. orientate and place the fruit into the waiting tray in the correct pattern. pears. Apples are delivered on a conveyor belt. tomatoes. Apples packed for uniform display of color for consumers. stone fruit. supermarket produce buyers are requiring suppliers to undertake this positioning during packing. while it is transferred and lowered onto the packaging pallet. track. Figure 21. ABB FlexPicker packing Kiwifruit. The apples are 37 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . backward or forward. present. a robot introduced at the Hannover Fair 2004 in April. and a suction cup on a belt-driven actuator picks up each one. This task usually means considerable expense in packing millions of apples by hand. The Robotic Tray Picker has been designed to automatically pack fruit into trays at commercial rates. Fruit Handling Systems Ltd46 has also developed automated handling systems for apples.48 Hoerbiger a German automation company has also developed an automated apple packing machine called the Apfelrobo. and other fruit and vegetables. Fruit Handling Systems Ltd has a Kiwifruit packing system installed at Seeka Kiwifruit Industries in New Zealand47 Food retailers have discovered that displays of apples with uniform layers of ripe skin facing shoppers sell better than non-uniform displays. Consequently. which seeks the reddest area.

as well as simultaneously offering the option of classifying the apples into three userdetermined classes. only standard white balancing supported by the camera’s own device driver. and measurement lenses are not required. color CCD FireWire camera from The Imaging Source.5 s per apple. the machine is about twice as accurate as a person. The Apfelrobo apple manipulation-and-handling systems robot consisting of five distinct stages. Station 3: inspectcamera inspection and digital image analysis to determine most attractive side. Due to the robust image-processing system. specialized equipment such as linescan cameras. This is roughly equal to the performance of a worker. The camera acquires images at a rate of 15 frames/s at full resolution. a target figure often used when converting a manual process into an automated one so that bottlenecks are not created further downstream. and quality. Station 4: position-turned through 90° so that the attractive side lies uppermost. Station 1: pick-the suction cup grasps the fruit from the incoming conveyor belt. Additionally. The system finally packs the filled pallets into boxes and places them onto an exit conveyor belt to continue to the stores. Digital image analysis covers the classification of the apple’s size. color. Figure 23.Commercial-In-Confidence arranged to point backward. No special color correction is needed. The arrangement can cope with different types of packaging. so that a productivity of 300 kg per hour can be maintained. Station 5: The apple is transferred into the packaging carton. 38 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . structured lighting. The apple is illuminated by four white 5-W LEDs. The vision system is based on a progressive-scan. The total time allowed for apple packing system to complete all of its functions is 2. Station 2: align-a current of air turns the apple over to align it in its vertical stem-goblet axis. away from the final customers’ viewpoint. It is expected that speed increases will follow over a period of time as the industry becomes used to automation.

which makes a calibration process necessary. One human operator can simultaneously manage up to four Apfelrobos systems. typically replacing five people under the present manual sorting arrangements. resolution decreases toward the side of the apple. Due to the curvature of the fruit. Suction cups orient the apples so that the stem and reddest surface have uniform direction. The Apfelrobo system is designed for use at fruit wholesalers. The apple is illuminated by four white 5-W LEDs. Therefore.Commercial-In-Confidence Figure 24. Progressive-scan. while the y-axis corresponds to the apple height along the surface. 39 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . color CCD FireWire camera images the apples at 15 frames/s at full resolution. where the image’s x-axis corresponds to the apple circumference. images have a maximum resolution of 5 pixels/mm. At the given object distance. This approach avoids the need for more-expensive equipment such as linescan cameras or structure lighting. the shape of the apple is estimated. The acquired image is re-sampled using the shape information to form an image of the apple.

Traceability is an issue of business systems. this is being used as a competitive advantage both domestically and internationally. like many other countries. harvesting and packaging systems to many more of the ancillary operations and associated technologies in the industry. The Traceability Arrow Business philosophy To Global traceability Strategy Enhanced opportunities Competitiveness Whole chain traceability From enterprise traceability Company wide traceability Single business unit traceability One up/ one down traceability Compliance Productivity Business value Driving forces Quality Safety Figure 25. Consumers need to be assured of the safety of a product. we face the challenge of continually improving food quality. In Australia’s horticulture industry. traceability systems should be viewed as an opportunity. not an imposition. Traceability Systems Australia’s horticulture industry enjoys a high level of food quality from a clean safe environment.Commercial-In-Confidence ASSOCIATED MARRS TECHNOLOGIES The opportunities for automation in the horticulture industry extend beyond crop planting and maintenance. of its origins. From the producer’s point of view the prime concern must be protection of their brand because the loss of consumer and buyer confidence in their product can result in far reaching consequences. However. Traceability and business drivers. it is not just a technical matter. Two major factors compel the need for food traceability. that it consists of appropriate ingredients and that the food is true to label. The adoption of traceability systems provides an opportunity for increased efficiencies and better management. consumer safety and brand protection. that it was made by approved procedures. 40 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . It is not merely an impost forced by compliance. In Australia traceability is being used to reinforce brand and position at the forefront of the consumer’s mind.

where and when). bar codes and automatic radio frequency identification (RFID). generally owners’ codes). When all three aspects are in place this is defined as chain traceability. These elements are: • • • • • • Product traceability defines the physical location of a product at any stage in the supply chain. supplier) of inputs.g.). additives used for preservation or transformation of the raw materials into processed products. of which bar codes seem to be the most frequently used systems currently. e. potential to enter premium markets. thus requiring no paper records. two new standards that define the requirements for a traceability system within a food safety management system and the data that needs to be retained. Process traceability ascertains the type of activities that have affected the product during the growing and post harvest operations (what. operation and application. The ultimate aim for traceability systems is that they work totally electronically and integrate with technologies such as RFID. Although not a new technology perse. which may contaminate horticulture products. Genetic traceability includes information on the type and origin (source.Commercial-In-Confidence The three major aspects of traceability are: • • • Primary traceability of raw materials and ingredients Secondary traceability within processing and packaging Tertiary traceability of the end product. RFID is still evolving in terms of features. processes used. Inputs traceability determines type and origin (source. 49 Traceability systems provide companies with competitive advantage through the ability to better to manage supply chains to ensure maximum product quality and freshness along with reduced waste. fertilizers. For example. Measurement traceability relates individual measurement results through calibrations to reference standards and assures the quality of measurements by observing various factors which may have impact on results (such as environmental factors. 41 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . The data accuracy and reliability required as well as cost can guide the selection of the traceability tool. A simple example is that of identifying goods with tags or bar codes. the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) introduced. These are used in the production sense to provide the retailer with a means of identifying the goods and of following their history of from production. Products and services have customarily been controlled by different paradigms. operator etc. Standards and general frameworks for setting up traceability systems have been launched during recent years. Information is the new valueadd. the transport and cold chain and the packaging. Disease and pest traceability traces the epidemiology of hazards and pests. In practice the tools of traceability are labels containing alphanumerical codes (a sequence of numbers and letters of various sizes. in the beginning of 2006. supplier). but they can also be thought of in the service sense as providing information to the end user and thus enhancing the product’s value. product sensors and traceability systems and the integrating technologies of intelligent device networking can now serve to bring them together and a product and a service supplied simultaneously. There are six essential elements of traceability constituting an integrated agricultural and food supply chain traceability system. but the advent of smart packaging.

The system uses low-cost. It gives consignors continuous access to the identity. continuous trace of their perishables during delivery. but provides a source of enhanced information to feed into a traceability system proper. Ceebron Pty Limited. 52 Smart-Trace™ provides its consignor customers with a near real-time. In the wider food industry.g. wireless sensors and mobile phone technology. Motorola Inc. and additionally more effective resulting in reduction of profit losses caused by e. disposable. RFID readers can scan numerous tags at the same time.g. The ‘Smart-Trace System’ is currently being developed by the Australian company. RFID systems (e. library books. 42 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). Smart-Trace™ is not a traceability system per se. and an antenna that enables the electromagnetic coupling between the microchip and a reader device. Applications and Products in Data Processing (SAP) Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system have also adopted the SAP traceability module. Graphical representation of “Smart-Trace” system. Identification is very simple and rapid. temperature. and location of their consignments at pallet load level via a web or mobile phone interface. In radio frequency identification. The tag consists of two parts: a microchip with memory and other electronics.. The tag memory is typically used for storing product information. The system provides customers with the 'first to know' advantage in the event of product abuse. many companies have implemented their own traceability systems by effectively automating paper-based traceability records (such as Muddy Boots50 and Theta Technologies51 InformationLeader). car tolls. either direct information in readable format or a product code. and Minorplanet Asia Pacific. Figure 26. vendor fraud or administrative error.) reduce labour costs as no manual scanning operations are required. DVD hire. a transponder or ‘a tag’ is attached to a product. tags on clothing etc. For especially food industry. employee and customer theft. in which the information can be retrieved from a database.Commercial-In-Confidence Radio frequency identification (RFID) system Another technology for managing product identification is radio frequency identification (RFID)system. RFID provides improved management of perishable food items. Others have extended their existing enterprise software applications and a growing number of users of the Systems.

With growth in the volume of trade and rising consumer awareness of food safety guidelines. accounting for over 90 million trays of exported kiwifruit every year.Commercial-In-Confidence Dr Silvia Estrada-Flores principal of Food Chain Intelligence looked at the emergence. 43 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . Kiwifruit continue to be a key export for New Zealand.3 per cent of all horticultural exports in the year to December 2007. requesting GS1 UCC. European customers began to focus on fresh produce logistics and traceability. with exports accounting for 60. adoption and cost benefits of traceability systems being implemented in the horticulture industry in their report VG08087 “Opportunities and challenges faced with emerging technologies in the Australian vegetable industry”53.6 per cent of all fruit and nut exports and 27. the kiwifruit supply chain encapsulates major logistical challenges that must be met to ensure the New Zealand kiwifruit industry’s competitive position in the marketplace. Istari Systems Ltd54. As early as 2001. a leading New Zealand developer of supply chain management systems who specialise in the labeling and tracking of products. Mandatory labeling would also protect the investment that New Zealand industry participants were making in improved quality processes. Europe is one of the key markets for New Zealand-grown kiwi fruit. Kiwifruit operators in New Zealand needed to be able to guarantee a high level of traceability for tracking their cartons and pallets. built on consistent and timely delivery of quality fresh fruit. were well placed to research and develop a system that would ensure full traceability of fruit from orchard to final customer given their wellestablished reputation in supplying specialist solutions to the domestic kiwifruit industry.EAN-128 Barcode at pack levels to ensure fast and accurate tracking of inventory and other specific data in the supply chain. Case Study – Traceability in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry The New Zealand kiwifruit industry is export driven.

44 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . The orientation of these trellis systems will also be important in terms of maximizing the sunlight exposure for plant growth and fruit ripening. and ease of access to the canopy. Advances in the technologies and increases in their applications will continue. The business model can be seen as the way in which the commercialiser of the technology will make money in the market place. This report shows that for applications of MARRS technologies where plant contact is required such as harvesting there are significant challenges to be overcome. The elements of agronomy that in many cases will be critical in successful development and implementation of automation solutions will be plant structure and size through both variety selection as well as growing structure. As the extent of MARRS developments are vast. aiming for commercially acceptable yields from the third year. but rather a high level review of key developments. The agronomy system required the selection of the appropriate broccoli varieties that were tall enough for the harvester and growing practices that involved planting the seeds and seedlings in rows relative to the sun. The development and application of remote sensing technologies is maturing and its implementation and usage increasing. pruning and plant management systems. Ease of management of workers. This report is not meant to be a definitive review of the current usage and development of MARRS technologies in horticulture. Earlier return on investment. This is not the case with development of automated harvesting. A further example of the importance of integrating automation and agronomy developments is demonstrated by the Case Study . Easier canopy management. This report has also highlighted the critical importance of developing an appropriate business models for successful commercialisation of any MARRS technology. • • • • • • • • Earlier production.Commercial-In-Confidence RECOMMENDATIONS This document has looked at the level of MARRS developments that are occurring in Australia’s Horticulture Industry’s as well as those internationally.Automated Broad Acreage Harvesting of Broccoli: Matilda Fresh Foods (Page 15). as less training is required for key tasks such as pruning. the main drivers for adopting high density trellis systems for fruit orchards are as follows. as fruit is easy to see. Under Australian conditions. For example the development of robotic apple harvesting may require apples to be grown under a trellis system. Higher and more uniform fruit quality. There are less challenges to the application of remote sensing technologies due to the fact application of the technology is non-contact. This Case showed the importance of developing an automated harvesting system that matched the crop agronomy system to ensure commercially production rates and harvest yields. Ease of picking. as pruning systems are simplified. varied and the horticulture industry consists of many crops from lettuces and carrots through to grapes. Companies can create and capture value from their new technologies in three basic ways: through incorporating the technology in their current businesses. For example the development of robotic harvesting systems will require developments in agronomy to be undertaken in parallel. to encourage further tall growing plants. through licensing the technology to other firms or through launching new ventures that exploit the technology in new markets. and Layout and structure is more compatible with the implementation MARRS technologies such as automated harvesting. Higher overall yield potential per hectare. In Australia the horticulture industry is made up of 47 separate sectors. apples and bananas this approach was adopted to enable the project to gain a broad understanding of progress globally in relation to developments and barriers to successful commercialisation.

The development of a support infrastructure is crucial to successful deployment of MARRS solutions as the horticulture industry is located in rural and regional Australia and traditional skill levels in these regions are not based around MARRS technologies although this is rapidly changing in this age of computers and the Internet. These are discussed briefly below.Commercial-In-Confidence The functions of a business model are as follows: 8. machine vision. There are a number of current and future technologies that have great potential for future implementation in both harvest and post-harvest horticultural operations. These sorters improve the quality of fresh or packaged foods. near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy. Formulate the competitive strategy by which the company will gain and hold over rivals. The Western Regional Research Centre (WRRC) Imaging and Sorting Lab. and laser imaging. Identify market segments. Define the structure of the company’s value chain which is required to create and distribute the offering and determine the assets needed to support the firm’s position in this chain. Sensors Sensing the “readiness” of crops for harvesting is likely to employ the same sensing technologies as those used in other areas such as ripeness sorting in packing houses or in crop harvesting of tree-crops. Going forward. 14. Future MARRS technologies MARRS technologies will continue to be developed and refined in line with advances in computer integration systems. Maintenance and service infrastructure in the future is the third critical dimension to successful implementation of MARRS solutions. x-ray imaging. This lab's research spans a wide variety of imaging and sorting technologiesincluding algorithm development. Collaboration between WRRC and other international researchers with similar or complimentary interests and capabilities would benefit the development of applications for Australian horticulture. Describe the position of the company within the value network. new imaging equipment and capability. For companies implementing new MARRS technologies the critical issue is the payback period on their investment and on-going maintenance: servicing and spare-parts. thought will need to be given to the development of this infrastructure. 45 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . remove unwanted transmission of materials deleterious to agriculture or health. sampling theory. Articulate the value proposition (the value created for users by the offering based on the technology) 9. acoustics. the application in one area of the industry is expected to lead to applicability across the supply chain. contaminated or otherwise undesirable product from agricultural project streams. Assess capability required to achieve commercialisation. Users to whom the technology is useful and the purpose for which it will be used. 11. is a research group within the US Department of Agriculture that develops sorters and physical/chemical methods to detect and remove defective. and/or improve the competitive position55. In addition. linking suppliers and customers 13. 10. Specify the revenue generation mechanism for the company 12. Thus. some of their current projects have been outlined as case studies in this document.

Since horticulture products have varying optical characteristics in various spectra. However. This allows the observation of specific quantum mechanical magnetic properties of an atomic nucleus. which cause the nuclei to absorb energy from the EM pulse and radiate this energy back out.58 Future traceability technologies Even though the traditional bar codes are the most used systems in marking the products. The device consisted of a superconducting magnet with a 20 mm diameter surface coil and a 150 mm diameter imaging coil coupled to a conveyor system. In addition. enabling more data to be included. These improvements can be expected to continue into the future. The NMR spectra were used to measure the oil/water ratio in avocados and this ratio correlated to percent dry weight.Commercial-In-Confidence Near Infra-red technology This technology is already being used in-line for detection of sugars. the correlation coefficient varied between 0·97 and 0·89 and decreased with increasing speed. such as in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). NMR is also routinely used in advanced medical imaging techniques. and infrared regions. fluorescent imaging can aid in the detection of defects in fruits and plants. Improvements in technology. X-ray detection The ability of x-rays to traverse through matter and reveal hidden contaminants or defects has led to their extensive use in manufacturing industries for quality control inspection. The application of NMR technology to the assessment of fruit and vegetable quality is in its infancy. The energy radiated back out is at a specific resonance frequency which depends on the strength of the magnetic field and other factors. and quality attributes. but will progress rapidly in the near future. One-dimensional magnetic resonance images of cherries were used to detect the presence of pits in cherries. are becoming more popular. The conveyor was run at speeds ranging from 0 to 250 mm/s. high speed computing. from the visible region to X-ray. The NMR spectra of avocado fruits and one-dimensional magnetic resonance images of fresh cherries were acquired while the fruits were moving on a conveyor belt. but it also has significant potential for sorting using other detection parameters such as protein and starch and external and internal blemishes (such as rot). these parameters need to be calibrated and tested for high-speed operations and specificity. especially more compact and affordable high voltage power sources. The disadvantage in using barcodes is that they must be read in a certain position which requires human 46 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . and high resolution detector arrays. An algorithm based on the change in shape of the one-dimensional image between a cherry with and without a pit yielded good classification of the fruits under static and dynamic conditions. Researchers at the Chonbuk National University in Korea had developed and tested an on-line nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) quality evaluation sensor. the need for non-destructive internal product inspection has motivated considerable research effort.57 Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is a property that magnetic nuclei have in a magnetic field and applied electromagnetic (EM) pulse or pulses. Many scientific techniques exploit NMR phenomena to study molecular physics. The difficulties inherent in the detection of defects and contaminants in food products have kept the use of x-ray limited to the packaged food sector. newer technologies. nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology has been also applied to bio-products. have made many x-ray detection tasks possible today that were previously unfeasible. The latest technologies use Terahertz (THz) imaging through the development of new light sources and detectors. crystals and noncrystalline materials through NMR spectroscopy. Whereas hyper-spectral images are effective for food quality and safety monitoring. UV. many types of imaging techniques and devices have been developed. Nevertheless.56 Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) Imaging Proper lighting is an essential component of any vision system.

g. For a low-price food product the cost may be too high. As an alternative to conventional barcodes and RFID. identification is simple and rapid. Read range and flexibility of the system is not comparable with RFID. The standard is known by name EPC-Gen2. A label is also easily damaged59 as borne out by common experience at supermarket checkouts. it may be useful to use a marker that dissolves after a particular amount of time or after it has been heated to a particular temperature. as well as improved management of product recalls. one step back” traceability protocols with reach-through and real-time documentation of the origin and subsequent history of a product. safer. There has been a great lack of standardization for all technical systems (numerical.61 47 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 .g. or (3) mixing the particles into a material that is subsequently mixed into or applied to a food. resulting in reduction of profit losses caused by e. RFID Tag is also more durable and enables reading in e. dirty and cold conditions. Improved tracking and tracing of quality problems by using individual product codes. In the near future. The information has to be encoded on the surface of a fairly rigid microscopic particle and the particle attached to food by either (1) electrostatic attraction. new electrically readable coding techniques have also been developed. polydactyl acid or celluloses can be used for producing food markers by extrusion. An RFID reader can scan numerous tags at the same time. RFID systems reduce labour costs as no manual scanning operations are required. Its larger memory enables individual recognition of products. The size and concentration of these markers must be such that they have no detectable effect on the tare or the texture of the marked product. E. It is also possible to embed some sensor properties into these codes as with RFID tags. Electrical code itself can be invisible and is not as sensitive to dirt and other visible disturbances as a conventional barcode is. also to monitor the quality of the products and the supply chain itself. (2) use of wetting agents. which may in case of bar codes be almost impossible.g. Generally binary codes are scored and embedded onto and within a fibre. employee and customer theft.g. the online spoilage detection of vacuum-packed food products and the continuity of cold chain60. In the food industry. Electrically readable code can be attached to a product using conventional printing techniques combined with special inks. When placed on/ in food. proteins. edible bar codes that can be applied directly onto foods to make them more secure. though. These electrically readable codes are cheaper than RFID tags but still have some major benefits of RFID technology. In comparison. In some cases. RFID-based remote sensing will enable e. the markers by definition become Food Additives and must be safe for consumer at maximum level at which a consumer would be exposed. In the end of 2004 an ISOstandard 18000-6C came in force for UHF tags used in RFID technology. in addition to tracking the goods. The main limitation of RFID is the costs of tags. RFID provides improved management of perishable food items (continuous monitoring of item routing reduces waste and improves customer service levels). This increased the use and sale of UHF tags quickly followed by reduction of price. or lipids as adhesives. and also less expensive by replacing “one step forward.Commercial-In-Confidence intervention (thus time and effort) and there is a possibility for error and inefficiency. but the situation has been substantially improved. vendor fraud or administrative error. or bar codes or TAGs). Innovative technology utilizes microscopic. RFID-based systems will be used.

Postharvest & Emerging Technologies Manager for Horticulture Australia Limited for her guidance and advice on development of the Review and for access to HAL Reports. University of Southern Queensland. and ARC Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Vehicles. University of Tasmania. guidance and financially One Harvest. MAR (Machinery. SPC Ardmona. Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Research. Plant & Food Research New Zealand. experience. Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia. Fibre King Pty Ltd Grape Exchange Pty Ltd. Primary Industry South Australia. Zespri International. The Author would also like to thank the following MARRS Syndicate Members for their input and contributions to the project both in terms of knowledge. University NSW. CSIRO ICT. Automation Robotics) Pty Ltd. DEEDI. Future Farming Systems.Commercial-In-Confidence ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Author wishes to thank Helen Sargent. University of Wollongong. 48 | P a g e Food Innovation Partners Pty Ltd HG09044 November 09 . Victorian Department of Primary Industries. Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries.

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