Satellite imagery and fruit scanning devices are just some of the technologies being used in a Hort Innovation supported research project that is modernising the way mango growers harvest.
Data from the from hand-held fruit-scanning devices is being combined with the high-resolution imagery to better map variations in tree health, crop yield and fruit maturity.
The non-invasive, handheld device, dubbed the F-750 meter, was designed to assess fruit maturity in the field without damaging or sacrificing any of the crop, but the information it produces can be also used to help eliminate produce waste and provide insights into the most efficient use of labour.
All these technologies are being used in the project led by Kerry Walsh from CQUniversity Australia. Additionally, Australian Mango Industry Association, which has set specifications on dry matter to achieve acceptable eating quality, is offering a service to growers through Hort Innovation funding to check dry matter in the field before harvest using the device.
Alison Anderson, general manager for research and development of Hort Innovation, said the capabilities of the tool expanded beyond dry matter measurement to include more spatial data and analytics.
“While the tool was specifically designed to assess the ripeness in mangoes, it can be applied to other horticultural crops,” Anderson said.
“The scope of the project has extended from supporting growers in determining optimal harvesting time, to the development of automated picking technology. The device also provides insights to ensure the most efficient use of labour and the technology is already being used in other innovations, including in the development of robotic harvesting.”
Walsh said there was huge potential for even greater efficiencies through this research.
“If fruit is picked too early, with low levels of dry matter content, it will never develop enough sugars during ripening for an acceptable taste. Leaving the fruit on the tree longer creates a better tasting fruit, but at a compromise to shelf life,” Walsh added.
“If the quality is not right, you can’t put the mango back on the tree. This leads to significant waste. We needed to be able to take our technology out into the field, to inform decisions on when to harvest. Measuring dry matter helps growers to do this.”