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Revolutionary Precision Orchard Project Set to Transform UK Fruit Farming

A pioneering initiative to create a commercially viable method for precisely directing orchard treatments to individual trees, or even specific parts of a tree, has received approval.

This venture will utilise state-of-the-art technology to meticulously analyse fruit trees, enabling the application of treatments in a manner unprecedented in British orchards.

The primary goal of this four-year research is to lessen the environmental footprint of fruit farming by reducing the use of plant protection products and enhancing efficiency.

Digital scanning will be employed to create detailed dosing maps for various processes such as blossom and fruit thinning, fertilisation, growth regulation, pest control, and fungicide application. This will also aid in providing more precise yield predictions for farmers.

Experts believe that combining this with precision dosing equipment will reduce the use of plant protection products, boost yields, and decrease fruit wastage.

The £4.5 million Precision Orchard Management for the Environment (POME) project, spearheaded by Hutchinsons agronomist Rob Saunders and partially funded by Defra, is at the forefront of this endeavour.

Mr Saunders commented, "Our objective is to advance our work to the next phase and develop a market-ready, commercially viable precision orchard management system within the next four years.”

"It's about enhancing the efficiency of all resources involved in fruit production, including the land itself."

The project aims to devise a commercially viable system capable of utilising the data and digital maps produced to adjust treatments based on the unique needs of each tree.

Achieving such precision necessitates consistently high accuracy in both crop mapping and the variable application of treatments, as Mr Saunders elucidated.

This is the reason Loughborough University has been engaged, bringing its expertise in machine learning and location systems, capable of delivering exceptionally precise, centimetre-level navigation accuracy.

Mr Saunders added, “Some may perceive systems like this as complex and costly, suitable only for very large-scale agricultural operations."

"However, the system we're developing will be adaptable for farms of various sizes, offering optional services tailored to each farm's requirements."


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