Digital orchards: capturing pruning expertise in digital twins, data, and models

January 18, 2024

While various researchers and companies are working on robotic picking solutions, the OnePlanet Research Center is focusing on preserving the knowledge of expert growers. As growers retire, their invaluable expertise is at risk of being lost. OnePlanet is digitising real orchards and crop management decisions, creating digital twins and models to secure pruning expertise for future generations.

OnePlanet, a collaboration between Wageningen University & Research, Radboud University, Radboudumc, and imec, integrates the newest chip and digital technologies into advanced data-driven solutions. The "Digital Orchard" research programme aims to develop solutions for preparing existing orchards, starting with apple orchards, for future food production.

OnePlanet developed a farmproof sensor suite/set to create digital twins of orchards, employing two single RGB cameras for stereo vision, LiDAR for georeferencing, and SLAM technology. This lightweight and versatile sensor suite/set, mountable on vehicles or drones, scans orchards multiple times a year to monitor tree and fruit growth and assess the impact of pruning operations.

The digital twins serve as the basis for creating models of human pruning decisions, allowing for the training of autonomous robotic pruners. The goal is to achieve precision pruning that can enhance fruit production and reduce labor costs. The unique sensor suite/set also holds potential for disease and yield prediction, precision spraying, and other applications in various types of fruits and berries.