An innovation grant will help support a Queensland researcher using machine vision technology to optimise mango harvesting as part of a project with Perfection Fresh Australia.
CQUniversity’s Zhenglin Wang received a A$180,000 Industry Research Fellowship from the Queensland government. The funding will contribute to a to a cloud-based system used by growers in the Burdekin, Mareeba and Childers regions for planning mango harvests.
Wang is using his expertise in electrical engineering to collect data about fruit maturity and crop load on-farm, using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), machine vision and time-of-flight cameras.
He said current farm estimates of fruit load are based on a manual count of sample trees, but new technologies that allow assessment of the whole orchard have become robust and cheaper.
“We plan to automate how mango growers estimate the spread of flowering as well as estimation of fruit number, weight and maturity,” Wang said.
“Machine vision rigs on-farm vehicles will move through the orchards mapping fruit attributes and, when the images and data are processed, growers will view results via a mobile phone app.
“This Fellowship will allow exploration of LiDAR and Time of Flight technologies in such a system.”
Wang has teamed up with PF Australia, which holds the rights to the Calypso mango to test his technologies on trees planted in different densities.
“The intent of the work is to create an online platform that shares information through the Calypso mango supply chain to improve harvest planning, fruit management and marketing,” Wang said.
Francesco Oliveri, head of ICT of Perfection Fresh Australia, hoped Wang’s work will help growers and wholesalers manage seasonal variability.
“The system he is building could be applicable to many other crops and harvesting situations,” he said.
Kate Jones, Queensland minister for innovation and tourism industry development, said the positive outcomes that could be achieved by a project like this were wide-ranging.
“Horticulture is Queensland’s second-largest primary industry, employing more than 25,000 people,” Jones said.
“Farmers and marketers have the challenge of knowing how much crop is on tree and when it will be ready for harvest.
“China, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore love Queensland mangoes and this project will support export marketing.”