Machine vision to help optimise mango yield

Mangoes March 3, 2020

A Central Queensland researcher using machine vision to optimise mango harvesting is among a new crop of researchers who have received an innovation grant from the Queensland Government.

CQUniversity’s Dr Zhenglin Wang has received a $180 000 Industry Research Fellowship for a project with fruit grower-marketer Perfection Fresh Australia and mango growers in the Burdekin, Mareeba and Childers regions.

Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones said the Research Fellowship funding for Dr Wang would contribute to a cloud-based system for planning the mango harvest.

“Horticulture is Queensland’s second largest primary industry, employing more than 25 000 people,” Ms 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,” she said. 

Dr 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, Dr 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.”

Dr Wang has teamed up with PF Australia, which holds the rights to the Calypso mango, and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 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,” he said.

Perfection Fresh Australia Head of ICT Francesco Oliveri hopes that Dr 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.

The Fellowship activity is undertaken within a CQUni team supported by a complementary research project (Multiscale Monitoring of Australian Tree Crops, funded by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, through Hort Innovation) that aims to implement these technologies into an automated mango harvester.

Queensland and the Northern Territory produce about 95 per cent of Australia’s mango crop which is worth $180 million a year.

Dr Wang’s work with the mango industry is one of 35 projects across the state supported by the $7.62 million Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships.

Source: CQ University

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