Exploring the Use of Drones in South African Fruit Production

Status

GCRF AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards Round 4

Location

South Africa

Theme

Crops

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About the project

UK-registered Partner: Outfield Technologies Ltd – Oli Hilbourne
Africa-registered Partner: De Rust Estate Pty Ltd – Karin Cl├╝ver

Outfield is an on-demand system for surveying top fruit orchards. Outfield users use inexpensive off-the-shelf drones to survey their orchards. Within 24 hours, the system provides maps and counts of fruit and blossom loading. Outfield also generates accurate yield forecasts for orchards, helping growers avoid many of the major drivers of on-farm food waste. Outfield crop maps can be used in precision application systems, to apply agri-chemicals and fertilisers across the orchard more precisely.

There are currently very few precision application tools available to top fruit growers in South Africa. Outfield team members travelled to Western Cape in South Africa and visited the De Rust Estate and other South African fruit producers. We gathered data at these farms to train the Outfield platform to work effectively in South African apple orchards. We also gathered data from pear and nectarine orchards and from wine vineyards so that the Outfield platform can be adapted to work with these crops.

We ran several demonstrations of the Outfield system on South African fruit farms and asked for feedback from the farm production staff. We met with several vineyard growers and academic staff at Stellenbosch University to learn about the need for precision crop monitoring in wine production. This feedback and market understanding will allow us to optimise the Outfield platform for South African growers, meaning Outfield can provide them with practical tools to increase production and reduce costs.

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