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EARI13-042: Improving Berry Picking Efficiency during Harvesting Using Precision Agriculture Technologies and Bio-Systems modeling

Applicant: Bleuets NB Blueberries

Project Lead: Dr. Qamar-uz-Zaman

Project Year(s): 2013 -      Status: Complete

Funding Source: Canada/New Brunswick Growing Forward 2 (Non-Business Risk Management Programs)

Funding Program: Enabling Agricultural Research and Innovation

Objective: This research initiative will focus on the acquisition of the background information necessary to support the development and implementation of Precision Agriculture technologies for blueberry industry to increase harvestable fruit yield. The primary goal of this research initiative is to identify innovative and effective options for mechanical harvesting that can be used to increase harvestable yield. The main emphasize of this research is to (i) develop sensor fusion system (SFS) to incorporate into a blueberry harvester (hardware and software) to map variations in plant characteristics, fruit yield, topography and field conditions on-the-go in blueberry fields, (ii) calibrate main components of FSF, (iii) collect field, plant and fruit yield and losses during harvesting data to develop (calibrate and validate) mathematical models for identification of the sources of losses to improve harvesting efficiency (iv) integrate modeling and SFS data to suggest optimal configuration for effective berry picking and recovery and (iv) train highly qualified personnel (HQP’s: post-doctoral fellow, PhD and M.Sc. students), producers and industry representatives.

Deliverables: From a production management perspective, the anticipated deliverables arising from the proposed research project include an integrated harvesting system, the training of highly qualified personnel, and the ability for technology transfer the technology to commercial use quickly and efficiently. The anticipated technologies that will arise out of the proposed research also include providing a custom application service to the wild blueberry industry that consists of harvesting berries with newly developed harvesting tools in commercial blueberry fields. Using new harvesting tools wild blueberry producers will be able to reduce significant amount of fruit losses during harvesting. The envisioned technologies that are expected to arise from the proposed research project will include SFS and bio-system modeling that will improve berry picking efficiency and obviously increase farm profitability. In addition, with the combined involvement of academia, producers associations, industries, and government specialists, it is anticipated the technologies will be adopted quickly and potentially by the entire wild blueberry industry. The proposed research should result in the delivery of peer reviewed scientific publications and producer factsheets associated with improved harvesting techniques, environmental stewardship, food safety, and renewal and risk management.

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