Managing crop growth in the digital age

Cutting-edge farm management software helping growers of fruits and vegetables enhance productivity and improve traceability

By Sean Tarry

When it comes to growing fruits and vegetables, farmers across the country are starting to turn toward tools and resources that can not only help them succeed and grow within today’s hyper-competitive market, but will also support their efforts in an increasingly digitized world. With this in mind, Canadian software developer Croptracker is dedicated to make global food production safer, more efficient, and more profitable through the continuous development of its integrated software and hardware solutions. In fact, according to Jeff Chemeres, the company’s Business Development Lead, the suite of tools that Croptracker offers the producers of fruits and vegetables is about as complete as it can be.
“Our system runs on modules that provide users with a number of different applications, with a host of benefits,” he explains. “Our technology can provide details about yields, right down to the row. Our technology can also be used to provide excellent product traceability, tracking everything including the location of the field, grower who placed it in the field, the place it’s shipped, how it’s packed, and everyone else who touches the product along the way. We’re also very good at helping farmers track and manage their labour, including orchard managers and crew leads, making our software solutions some of the most comprehensive that you’re going to find.”

Quite the vision
In addition to these types of modules, including Croptracker’s farm, cultivation, and orchard management software solutions, the company also offers its industry leading computer vision technology. Aimed at helping growers increase the efficiencies of their operations, the size of their yields, and the quality of their product, it’s technology that’s helping growers at all stages of production to quickly, objectively, and accurately assess their crops. It represents a powerful piece of the Croptracker offering, one that Chemeres says helps the company make the biggest impact for its clients.
“Our Harvest Quality Vision is probably our most used and relied on module,” he asserts. “It’s an extremely powerful tool that allows growers to determine the colour and size distribution of harvested produce within seconds, capturing hundreds of data points for each piece of detected fruit in seconds. The scans, which are conducted via mobile device, are accurate within 3 mm in optimal conditions. And, they can be shared with and viewed by a grower’s entire team to ensure that everyone is on the same page, enabling key decisions to be made quickly and with confidence. It’s also an incredibly useful tool in helping growers standardize quality control practices and procedures within their operations.”

The power of AI
Chemeres goes on to explain that as a result of the inordinate amount of data that’s generated through the Croptracker modules, it can all be leveraged by its clients to track their progress and the performance of their crops year-over-year in order to better inform future crops and practices. It can also be used to course-correct picking during harvest, and allows for the recognition of like fruit which can be loaded together on the same truck for shipping, and prioritization regarding which bins leave the orchard and in what order. Data can also be used to route truck loads to the most appropriate storage locations, removing the guesswork on arrival. It’s an incredible suite of tools and digital capabilities that Croptracker provides for its users, and one that Chemeres says would not be possible without the involvement of artificial intelligence (AI).
“Our entire suite of modules leverages AI in order to provide users with the most effective scanning and assessment tool possible,” he says. “However, our Harvest Quality Vision module is driven heavily by the power of AI. It works by using LIDAR camera technology in conjunction with trained AI models in order to be able to quickly and accurately identify any type of fruit, any abnormalities that it might contain, as well as other characteristics that are beneficial for the grower and their teams to be aware of.”

Digitizing the operation
Because the large amounts of data that’s being captured through the use of Croptracker technology is being stored and backed up using cloud software, incredibly powerful centralized reporting is available to growers and their teams, enabling an extensive amount of post-harvest analysis to be conducted, benefitting growing operations immensely. And, they’re benefits that Chemeres suggests would not be realized if it weren’t for the power of data-informed, AI-driven technologies like those developed and introduced by Croptracker.
“I evangelize about the wonders of technology and AI-driven solutions every day,” he says. “And, I actually think it’s kind of funny that with Croptracker technology, we’re still sort of at the early adopter stage and have not quite yet reached mass adoption. But I believe that we’re nearly at the point where growers, despite the size of their operation, are going to need to integrate technologies and embrace their use, or they risk being left behind the rest of the industry. Digital technologies removes a lot of the guesswork from growing, helping operators manage their workforce more efficiently, predict outcomes with greater accuracy, and generally improve their businesses and bottom lines. In the end, digitizing the growing business today is becoming more and more essential, and will soon be the differentiator between successful growers and the rest.”

Further advancements
Looking ahead over the course of the next one to three years or so, and beyond, it seems as though Croptracker has the tools necessary for growers to digitize their operations and begin reaping the benefits of this type of AI-enabled and -driven technology. However, Chemeres suggests that it’s only the start for the Kingston, Ont.-based company, alluding to some innovations and developments that have not yet been introduced to the market, but which seem to be ready to add to the impact that Croptracker’s modules have already made on the industry.
“We’re absolutely committed to continuously enhancing and improving the efficacy and accuracy of our current tools and digital modules in efforts to help growers maximize the quality of their yields and optimize the data and information that their working with to improve their businesses,” he said. “To that end we’re about ready to introduce the ability to not only scan the top of bins, but to scan trees as well. It’s a capability that will move data availability related to the grow even further back down the vertical chain, before the apples have even been picked. We’re also looking to digitize the traditional starch test which lets growers know when best to pick their crops. These are advancements that are going to eliminate the need for cumbersome processes, reducing the time required to achieve some of the results that Croptracker technology can arrive at in seconds. Essentially, what we aim to do is continue improving and enhancing our visualization technology and the solutions that we provide in order to further decentralize the growing operation and create greater efficiency along the way.”

Check Also

REPORT: Interest and Curiosity in Cellular Food Continues to Grow Among Consumers

The Canadian Food Innovation Network recently released a report titled Canadian FoodTech Trends: Interest and …