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Tractor-mounted orchard sensors eligible for sizeable FETF grant

16 March 2024, UK: Apple growers intending to adopt tractor-mounted camera technology to bring a new level of precision to their orchard management could save 60% of the cost thanks to a new Farming Equipment and Technology Fund grant.

Following representations from Agrovista Precision and Aurea Imaging, government funding has been secured that covers any make of tractor-mounted, high-resolution sensor system, plus an in-cab terminal that provides on-board, real-time processing of data that can be uploaded to a computer or the cloud.

Pricing is based around Aurea Imaging’s TMS TreeScout, which could see growers net £12,900 towards the cost of the equipment.

Agrovista Precision manager Graeme Barrett says: “This funding offers a great opportunity for orchard managers to take a big step forward in precision management.

“TreeScout, Aurea’s tractor-mounted sensor that was launched in the UK last summer, is owned and operated by growers and replaces drones as the primary source of information gathering.

“It provides a quick, reliable and economical method of collecting and analysing data, such as blossom density and tree vigour, to help growers pinpoint inputs to maximise production of first-class fruit.

“We are delighted that our efforts to obtain a grant has paid off, particularly at a time when interest in precision orchard management is growing quickly.”

Agrovista Fruit agronomist Tom Johnson says the funding helps open the door to significant economic gains.

“Managing each tree as an individual helps to create a more homogenous orchard. In collaboration with their agronomists, growers can more accurately match inputs to need using GPS-guided variable rates, producing a more uniform fruit set and improving quality and yield consistency.”

The potential economic benefits from using TreeScout are considerable. Work on precision thinning by Aurea Imaging in the Netherlands showed a typical yield uplift of 6t/ha, worth over £2600/ha.

“With funding now available, the potential return on investment is even more impressive,” says Tom. “It could be the catalyst for a large increase in precision operations in UK apple orchards this season.”

Agrovista head of fruit Mark Davies adds: “There is much activity in this precision orchard space at the moment for very good reason.

“But with Aurea, Agrovista Fruit has found a partner that has already completed the development work, with a ready-for-market solution to help growers optimise their orchard performance on a tree-by-tree basis, now.”

FETF 402 – Tractor mounted sensor for precision orchard management

Expected average cost of item: £21,500
Percentage paid towards item: 60%
Grant amount (based on a quantity of 1): £12,900
Score: 72

This item is new for 2024. Item must:

  • be a tractor-mounted sensor for precision orchard management
  • recognise individual trees
  • record blossom level and fruit loading on trees
  • be ISOBUS compatible
  • have WiFi connectivity
  • link to an existing GPS system
  • provide data for blossom mapping, vigour mapping and fruit load mapping

Cost includes:

  • purchase of high-resolution sensor system mounted on the tractor
  • purchase of in-cab terminal with on-board, real-time processing of data and ability to upload data to a computer or the cloud

The first application window is now open and runs until 11 April. Two more application windows are expected in 2024.

Funding will be allocated starting with the highest scoring applications until it is fully allocated. This will set the minimum threshold for the application window.

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