How Costa Group is investing in artificial intelligence to produce better berries


The Yield features in the May 2020 edition of HortInsights. Written by the Australian Institute of Horticulture, the publication features the Costa Group’s roll out of The Yield’s Sensing+ microclimate solution. Read the full article below.

For fruit and berry growers, producing a high-quality product in Australia’s hot, dry and variable climates can be a real challenge.Many growers of soft fruits such as strawberries and blueberries invest in costly protected cropping systems such as tunnels to moderate the variables that impact on crop quality and yield. 

Blueberries are a popular and valuable crop in Australia.They are also delicate, with their soft texture and light bloom on the skins of the fruit that make them appealing in desserts, muffins and shakes. To produce a good blueberry crop requires carefully balancing irrigation, nutrition,sunlight exposure and duration, and dozens of other factors prior to harvest and post harvest. 

In most operations, managing all these variables is done with the skill and experience of the grower. However, as our climate becomes less predictable, is there perhaps a better way to manage crop variables?  

Leading grower of horticultural produce, Costa Group, has recently implemented a system by The Yield Technology Solutions, based in Sydney, which combines Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in the crop with a centralised, cloud-based analysis system using Artificial Intelligence. 

The aim is to build predictive models that can provide better management options by collecting crop data and running algorithms that point the grower back to the actions that might enhance crop yield and quality.  

The system complements the skills and experience of growers with self-learning tools that take in new data off the crop, compare the results to that of the real-world crop and continually optimise how the model data compared to the real-world crop data. 

“We aim to better understand and manage the specific growing conditions that improve the quantity and quality of our yields,” stated Costa Group CEO Harry Debney. 

It’s a great example of the emerging power available to innovative horticultural producers that link plant physiology with the power of sensors and computing systems in the cloud.

Written by David Thompson, Engagement Manager, Australian Institute of Horticulture.

Sensing+ node inside a Costa Group berry poly-tunnel.

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