British researchers hope to make harvesting many vegetables easier and a lot less expensive utilizing imaging technology in an intelligent harvesting machine.
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is readying a harvesting machine they say can look beneath the leafy layers of a crop, identify differing materials and even provide precise size information. They believe the machine will save money otherwise invested in physical laborers, according to ScienceDaily.
The most appropriate technologies to use are radio frequencies, microwaves, terahertz, and the far-infra red. These four parts of the electromagnetic spectrum all have potential to safely penetrate the crop layers and identify the size of the harvestable material for a relatively low cost. NPL has developed a methodology for crop identification and selection focusing on cauliflower crops, one of the hardest crops to measure due to the large amount of leafage that covers the vegetable.
The researchers at NPL began by modifying microwave measurement systems to measure a cauliflower’s structure. A series of measurements made on real crops in the laboratory and field enabled a statistical range of measurements for precise size identification. This data is then designed into an algorithm to enable a simple size indication from a raw measurement with uncertainties. The final technology will be developed for a first generation harvester and tested in a real farming environment.