Citrus growers in Australia are conducting trials on trellising and robotic harvesting to explore the viability of robotic harvesting.

Labor shortages, work health and safety issues, and advances in technology are prompting Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government to conduct trials into the viability of trellising and robotic harvesting of citrus. NSW’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI) at the Dareton research center is conducting the trials as part of the National Tree Crop Intensification in Horticulture project, according to a Citrus Industry article. Explore the details below.

Trellising and Robotic Harvesting

The trials involve three different trellising systems and a non-trellised control group of citrus trees, according to Steven Falivene, DPI’s citrus development officer. “We’ll be quantifying the production, canopy development and cost of installation,” he said in the article.

The trials are studying trellising and robotic harvesting for three reasons. First, the idea is that trellising will improve yield. “Trellising is one strategy to improve light penetration into the canopy that will produce more fruitful wood and hopefully raise yields,” Falivene said in the article.

Next, both trellising and harvesting through the use of robots will address labor shortages and safety concerns in the grove.

Lastly, researchers want to see if robotic harvesting can be made more viable through trellising. “Robotic harvesting is already being trialed in citrus, but the robots are unable to pick the citrus effectively within the canopy. The trellis structure will enable the robot to pick all the fruit efficiently and effectively,” Falivene said in the article.

“We will be monitoring all labor and physical inputs and yield outputs of the trial, developing financial models to help determine if trellis production is a viable option for Australian citrus,” he added.

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