TY Node in Costa Polytunnel 1

The Yield node in a Costa berry polytunnel

Costa Group has announced a major expansion of its customer relationship with ag-tech company The Yield Technology Solutions.

The move will see the leading Australian grower-packer-marketer roll out The Yield’s Sensing+ solution across eight berry farms in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania.

Sensing+ combines sensors and analytics to provide information and predictions in easy-to-use apps that help large commercial growers make on-farm decisions like when to irrigate, feed, plant, protect and harvest.

Harry Debney, CEO of Costa Group, said The Yield will play a key role in helping his company become a data-driven business.

“We aim to better understand and manage the specific growing conditions that improve the quantity and quality of our yields,” Debney explained. “Our berries are grown in tunnels and Sensing+ measures the growing conditions in our microclimates and uses AI [artificial intelligence] to give us in-tunnel weather predictions.”

Costa will also utilise the Sensing+ Yield Predictions module, which will help predict berry yields using AI and data from both its own harvest management systems and the microclimate weather.

“We have been impressed with the accuracy achieved to date compared with our current manual approach,” Debney added. ‘Accurate yield prediction allows us to optimise our costs and achieve better prices when negotiating with our customers.”

The Yield Prediction module is the result of work done by the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre, which has involved input from The Yield, Costa Group, and University Technology Sydney (UTS). Its commercialisation comes just six months into a two-year research programme.

Food Agility’s chief scientist, David Lamb, said his research team used The Yield’s platform to create artificial intelligence models that predict the size and time of Costa’s berry yield. The researchers will work on improving the models in the hope of releasing the product commercially over coming months.

“This is a great example of how using data and agile research methods, we can get research results out of the lab and into the field faster,” Lamb said.

Based in Sydney, The Yield uses Internet of Things (IoT), data science and AI to power its technology to solve challenges at farm level and throughout the food chain.

Ros Harvey, founder and managing director of The Yield, said she was “delighted” to be moving to a commercial rollout with Costa.

“Using Costa’s extensive data sets, our platform enables us to quickly and efficiently combine data to create AI models for things like Yield Predictions that will drive significant commercial benefit for Costa Group,” Harvey explained.

Harry Debney & Ros Harvey in berry polytunnel