Driverless tractors are about to make their mark in UK orchards...
At the BIFGA Technical day in January, Nick Seymour reviewed the key machinery available to top fruit growers and looked ahead to the 'driverless' Fendt Tractor which will be operating on a fruit farm this summer.
First on Nick's presentation was the Darwin Mechanical Thinner...
Darwin Mechanical Thinning
This equipment is a front mounted hydraulically driven machine with variable speed spindle head for blossom thinning of suitably planted orchards; unlike chemical options, the Darwin is not weather reliant. The ability to thin without chemicals is an environmental bonus.
The Darwin is labour saving; important with the cost of labour rising under the influence of the 'Living Wage' and potential shortage of labour 'post Brexit'
Thinning with the Darwin has shown to increase fruit size, colour uniformity and yield, while 'importantly' reducing biennial cropping.
Savings have been recorded 'up to' around 80% of thinning costs V's traditional methods.
The first Darwin was Introduced by N.P. Seymour eight years ago and is now being used in the UK by over thirty growers!
Latest Darwin Technology
Fruit-Tec have now gone further and developed 'SmaArt' Automated tree-specific blossom thinning technology, which calculates individual spindle speed for each tree. A camera in front of the spindle detects the flowering density and the data is relayed via an on-board computer.
The system can also be combined with a GPS receiver to capture the location of each tree; the database stores the bloom densities and calculated spindle speed for each tree. The unit can be retro-fitted to existing Darwin blossom thinners.
Click on Darwin Mechanical Thinning
BMV Mechanical Pruning
Cutter bars and saw blades are not new but as modern fruit walls have developed mechanical pruning has become more popular for cost cutting.
Versatile machines are able to cut fruit walls or hedgerows; winter pruning with blades and summer pruning with knives, controls growth and promotes heavier cropping.
Used in conjunction with the Darwin Thinner on fruit wall systems optimises the labour savings and delivers more quality fruit.
Many configurations of mechanical pruners are available, including 'window cutters'
Click on Mechanical pruning to view BMV machine in action
Many options including self propelled models
This simple, economical tractor mounted version is manufactured by us to utilise machinery already in use
Ideal for any maintenance around the farm such as pruning, netting, tying in or picking
The ProbotIQ Xpert package is an add-on system for Fendt Vario tractors allowing the tractor to drive and operate autonomously.
It is basically a robot that you teach and it plays back everything you have taught it!
This system has been working since 2011 in Europe and will shortly be working in the UK.
Click on ProbotIQ Xpert - Driverless Tractor
Due to the reduction of chemicals available, mechanising weed control is becoming necessary. Variable width or swing wing mowers are a popular choice, options include a hydraulic sensor bar to work in and around plantings - Ladurner single or double sided cultivators with rotary heads and automatic tree sensing.
Click on Ladurner Cultivator in action
Using the Braun Rollhacke finger weeder we are working on a wider version for orchards.
The unit is mid mounted and can be used at the same time as other orchard operations for efficiency, it is adjustable in depth, pitch and angle.
The Braun Rollhacke has a working speed of 3 MPH up to around 7 MPH and it is simple to use!
Click to view the Braun Rollhake
And, the future?
Nutrient/spray and tree management using data collected via a number of sources including Omnia Fruit Vision, Lidar, GPS mapping, Darwin SmaArt & Pomme Vision.....
That is all for this week...in one week's time The English Apple Man will join the Under 40's for the first U40 Conference to be held in the Southern Hemisphere - is is also the 50th Anniversary of the U40 Conferences first started by Professor Hudson at Long Ashton research station in 1967
The English Apple Man