How Smart-Spray Technology Can Save Citrus Growers on Pesticide and Fertilizer Use

Specialty crop growers need to spray efficiently so that they can apply pesticides and fertilizers only to crops – and minimize chemicals that can contaminate natural resources. As Florida citrus growers battle HLB, they must seek to control costs where possible.

With this in mind, UF / IFAS Associate Professor Yiannis Ampatzidis uses artificial intelligence to develop a smart and inexpensive sprayer for tree crops, capable of automatically detecting citrus fruits, calculating their height and the density of their trees. leaves and count the fruits. This way, farmers target their spray more effectively, so that it lands on trees and leaves – and reduces chemical use by around 30% compared to traditional spraying methods.

“These smart technologies can save the fruit tree industry millions of dollars per year by optimizing chemical applications,” says Ampatzidis.

Smart spray technology allows the grower to vary the amount applied based on tree size and leaf density, and it will not spray if there is no tree or a tree appears. dead. It also does not spray if it finds other objects, such as a water pump, a pole or a person, for example.

“This new technology will further improve the tree profiling systems we have in place today, with the ability to detect and spray only target foliage,” adds Ampatzidis. “Our data, collected by smart sensors, can monitor the amount of spray applied to the shaft, in real time, and is stored in the controller to be downloaded for further processing.”

The system uses machine vision, GPS and LiDAR, a light detection and remote sensing system. Ampatzidis has also developed algorithms to process the data as well as software to control the sensors.

Technology, cited in new published research by Ampatzidis, can also help farmers predict crop yields. To test the system, Ampatzidis conducted several experiments in central citrus orchards and on commercial farms and found that they used less pesticides and fertilizers.

An industrial partner, Chemical Containers Inc., evaluated the technology and entered into an agreement with UF Innovate | Technical license to license and commercialize smart spray technology.

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