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Special counter helps growers size, keep track of apples

Special counter helps growers size, keep track of apples

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Washington Tractor is introducing a new technology into the Yakima Valley that can count and size apples on a tree.

Laurence Dingle is the owner of Intelligent Fruit Vision, a company in England that developed a system with growers to make production easier in the fields.

"The support that we got from growers has helped us develop the whole solution," Dingle said. "It's not developed by scientists, it's developed by growers in conjunction with the way that we're working."

This is the only agriculture fruit counting and sizing system available in the world.

Developers say a scanner is attached to a UTV that growers can drive down orchard rows and video is taken of the fruit to count how many apples and determine the size.

Dingle said knowing the size of their fruit can maximize a growers' profit.

"If you know the number of fruit per tree than you got a good idea about what the size of the fruit is going to be on the tree at the end of harvest," he said. "The right size fruit is worth two or three times what the wrong size fruit is worth."

Washington Tractor Crop Adviser Karl Wirth said this new technology can help reduce the number of people needed to work in the fields.

Wirth said the technology costs around $80,000 but will pay for itself.

"If he can change by one percent of an improvement in the sizes and the counts of the apples per tree, he can pay for the machine in one season," Wirth said.

Developers said this counting system has a 95 percent accuracy rate, compared to counting by hand which can be off by more than 30 percent.

For now the system is just counting and sizing apples but Dingle said they are working on fitting pears into the equation.

Washington Tractor said they are hoping to have 10 of these machines in Washington fields by March.

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