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Georgia growers turn to newest technology


A number of produce professionals are turning to cutting edge technologies to create more value with less inputs in the field.

For example, the MyIPM app, developed at Clemson University in cooperation with the University of Georgia and other universities, is a free app allowing users to access integrated pest management strategies from their smartphone, which includes problem identification through high resolution photos and advice on feasible solutions.

Georgia’s Federal-State Inspection Service has developed onion software to help record data from grading and inspecting onions, currently an arduous manual process. The software supports varying procedures for inspectors and faster access to reliable data.

Another innovation is from Dr. John Olds and his team of engineers from Spaceworks Enterprises in Atlanta, who are moving “BlinkR,” a low-cost, satellite-based data monitoring system.

Even those living outside cell tower range can use the system, which monitors soil moisture, temperature, and humidity down to the plant level and has been successful in field trials. Olds believes the technology will “game changing.” The first dedicated payload of BlinkR satellites, which are only about the size of a loaf of bread, goes into space this fall.

To keep up with labor constraints, Georgians are rolling out mechanical harvesting of blueberries in cooperation with the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The harvester, built onto over-the-row harvester, shakes plants and catches fruit on soft catchplates, though researchers continue to work on limiting bruising and ground losses.

In another bid to alleviate labor problems, the Vidalia Onion Committee is funding the University of Georgia research on Tanimura & Antle’s PlantTape automated seed transplant system, to help reduce its very labor-intensive production process.

On the retail side, grocer Bells Foods in Athens is testing a shelf-scanning robot named Fetch, designed by the Trax Image Recognition and Fetch Robotics. The robot roams aisles overnight, using three cameras to upload information to the store’s planograms (shelf stocking models).

The data is then sent to store employees on phones or tablets, alerting them to potential stocking issues. Trax plans to upgrade Fetch’s cameras as the technology develops in the future, allowing for a full-store audit in about 20 minutes.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.


Cathy Poynton is a Chicago-area writer focused on issues of public policy as they relate to the food industry, including fresh produce.