AI-engineered solutions boost fruit and nut industry resilience

1st September 2023

AI-engineered solutions boost fruit and nut industry resilience

GAME-CHANGER Aerobotics supports farmers globally with “ground-breaking" innovation-forward solutions

The 2023 season has not been without its frustrations for fruit and nut farmers, says Aerobotics GM Ken Treloar.

“A host of challenging conditions domestically and across markets have pressured producers and all industry stakeholders. These include rising input costs, ongoing loadshedding, strain on demand, deteriorating municipal service delivery, corruption in public offices, and setbacks across network industries including roads, rail and ports –  thorns in the side of the food and beverage industries that have constrained agribusinesses for years.”

Treloar suggests that a balance of technology, engineering, and tailored expertise can mitigate and curb inefficiencies across these networks and simultaneously enhance, improve, or wholly displace traditional operational practices born in an era less fraught.

Aerobotics, one of South Africa’s most celebrated agritech startups, supports farmers globally with “ground-breaking innovation-forward solutions created by the brightest minds in software, data, and computer vision engineering”.

Drone-derived aerial imagery, cloud-computing, and artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered mobile applications (apps)  bring digital intelligence and precision agricultural tools to producers, adding a higher level of certainty to the interface between farm, pack house, marketers and exporters.

A significant pressure on farmers has been the sharp increase in costs of doing business, which has eaten away at margins, and slowed progress for new agribusinesses or those looking to expand, mechanise or digitise sections of their production operations, says Treloar.

Digital tools offer a tremendous amount of consumer surplus, especially where solutions solve specific pain points, he notes, adding that, when paired with a comparatively low barrier to entry and machine learning, digital tools engineered for optimised farming methods have a marked impact on mitigating the pressures all farmers face.

With Aerobotics’ release of their new yield management tools, producers can now measure, manage and protect their fruit and nut yields directly from a cloud-based platform and mobile apps.

An all-new mobile app focused on yield monitoring using AI, allows producers to digitally collect fruit count and size measurements in the field. It also enables them to collect data at sample points that are AI-generated based on tree insights gained from a drone survey.

“These sample waypoints are more representative than ever before, and data capture happens at a higher frequency than traditional means. Data collection is seamless with zero pen-and-paperwork or double and triple data captures, which would inevitably introduce human error into a critical data-collection process that informs real-time and forecasted yield insights.”

The increased efficiencies allow producers to act at the ideal time to manipulate their crop load, and in turn fruit sizes. “Obtaining the right sized fruit for the preferred market demand, at the highest quality possible is top priority.”

The Aerobotics AI tools have been specifically engineered to address these priorities and build in a level of insurance against a reduced return on investment considering the sharp rise in input costs and challenging farming environment.

The significance of data- and vision-engineered AI powered solutions is far reaching.

“The Aerobotics mission addresses sustainability challenges and one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (responsible production and consumption) by not only empowering producers but also assisting to reduce waste – a massive problem in the areas like the citrus industry – by helping farmers get their produce to the right size at harvest with specifically engineered digital tools to improve the quality of their yields and manage stress and variance in orchards or vineyards, all with added precision.”

Insights into yield, paired with drone surveys and industry expertise, helps farmers better manage nutrition programmes (including rising inputs), improves water management, and empowers staff with powerful tools they can use to make a real impact on their industries.

The latest addition to the basket of AI solutions includes macadamia nut sizing and yield forecasting and will be showcased at the International Macadamia Symposium later in September, to be hosted in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.