UF agricultural engineer develops smart spray technology to help reduce fertilizers and pesticides
IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Growers need to spray efficiently so they can apply pesticides and fertilizers only to crops — and minimize chemicals that can contaminate natural resources.
As they battle the economically devastating disease of citrus greening, farmers should look to control costs wherever possible.
With this in mind, Yiannis Ampatzidis is using artificial intelligence to develop a smart, low-cost arboriculture sprayer that can automatically detect citrus trees, calculate their height and leaf density, and count fruit. This way, farmers target their spray more effectively, so it lands on trees and leaves – and reduces chemical use by around 30% compared to traditional spraying methods.
“These smart technologies can save the tree fruit industry millions of dollars a year by optimizing chemical applications,” said Ampatzidis, UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Southwest Florida Research and Education. Center.
Smart spray technology allows the grower to vary the amount applied based on tree size and leaf density, and will not spray if there are no trees or if 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 enhance the tree profiling systems we have in place today, with the ability to detect and spray only target foliage,” Ampatzidis said. “Our data, collected by smart sensors, can monitor the amount of spray applied to the tree, 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 data as well as software to control sensors.
The technology, cited in new research published by Ampatzidis, can also help farmers predict their crop yields. To test the system, Ampatzidis conducted several experiments in citrus orchards at the center and on commercial farms and found that they used fewer pesticides and fertilizers.
The protection of citrus fruits and their fruits represents an important part of the budget of any producer. In southwest Florida orange orchards alone, crop protection product applications cost about 34% of total production costs.
Industry partner, Chemical Containers Inc, has evaluated the technology and entered into an agreement with UF Innovate | Tech Licensing to license and commercialize smart spray technology.
As they continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the system, Ampatzidis and his team will study how well it detects and sprays trees in fields with tall weeds in more commercial groves. He and his team will also be evaluating the system on other fruits, including peaches, apples and pecans to see how well it works on these tree crop systems.
“We also plan to develop smart fertilizer spreaders to improve nutrient management,” he said. “Objective-based management can help farmers apply nutrients as needed across the field, rather than applying fertilizers evenly.”
About AI at UF
The University of Florida is making artificial intelligence the centerpiece of a major, long-term initiative that combines world-class research infrastructure, cutting-edge research, and a transformational approach to curriculum. UF is home to the nation’s most powerful university supercomputer, according to the 2021 ranking released by TOP500, contributing to innovative research and education opportunities.
The mission of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop relevant knowledge about agricultural, human and natural resources and to make this knowledge available to maintain and improve the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county extension offices, and award-winning UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students and faculty, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the agricultural and natural resource industries. of the State, and to all Florida residents.
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