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Integrated Systems Research and Development in Automation and Sensors for Sustainability of Specialty Crops


Adapt biological concepts associated with specialty crop production, harvest, and postharvest handling into quantifiable parameters which can be sensed Study interactions between machinery and crop to provide basis for creating optimal mechanical and/or automated solutions for specialty crop production Develop sensors and sensing systems which can measure and interpret the parameters Design and evaluate automation systems which incorporate varying degrees of mechanization and sensors to assist specialty crop industries with labor, management decisions, and reduction of production costs

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The increase desire for a safe and high quality food supply, and the need to minimize the environmental footprint, represents challenges for specialty crop sustainability in the US. Producers and processors are urgently seeking new devices and systems which will aid them during harvesting, sorting, storing, processing, packaging, marketing, and transportation while also minimizing input costs (energy and water). Currently, there is a lack of effective and efficient sensors and automation systems for specialty crops after harvest and during storage. For example, ideal monitoring of drying of walnuts during storage is still non-available, and better understanding and forecast of sweet cherry splitting is needed. This is because many of the underlying biological processes related to quality and condition of fruits, nuts, and vegetables are difficult to translate into engineering concepts. Biological variability, and storage facilities design makes it difficult to develop sensors and automation systems for effective implementation at various stages of harvest, and during postharvest handling. Additionally, obtaining measurement of internal biological attributes is difficult using external, nondestructive sensors, as such devices or processes used must adapt to a wide variation in shape, size, environment of use, and maturity of the commodity being processed. Thus it is imperative to develop better sensors and automation systems using an integrated systems approach. In addition, it is important to train and educate users of developed technology (growers, and processors), so designing extension and outreach activities and workshops is imperative.

Donis-Gonzalez, IR
University of California - Davis
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