December 24, 2014
Growing Olives In Bushes Like Grapes For Automation

Check out this Techcrunch article on how an olive growing company has made the job simpler by aggressive pruning.

By growing olives in rows, like wine grapes, California Olive Ranch has taken most of the human labor out of the harvest.

The company is also doing a large amount of data collection to drive alterations in how they do watering and fertilization. But what I find most interesting is the decision to heavily prune to enable use of automated grape harvesting equipment. Automation can come sooner if an environment can be shaped to be more regular and consistent. The amount of image processing goes down. Also, there's no need to achieve the level of 3-D control of a human arm if the stuff getting reached for isn't as hard to reach.

Perhaps this can be applied to other things Imagine growing lettuce heads or cabbage on rows of square little stands in order to give harvesting equipment a bracket to orient movement. Or make tomato plants sprout flowers and grow tomatoes in a precise row. If plants can be made to line up precisely in 3 dimensions then the requirements for designing a robot harvester become much simpler.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 December 24 10:41 AM 


Comments
John said at December 24, 2014 12:02 PM:

It is not so much the pruning methods, but the choice of olive varieties. Arbiquina is a Spanish variety which growth habits are conducive to mechanization. For apples, size controlling rootstocks serve a similar purpose: allowing the tree architecture to allow intensive production. Pruning serves the architecture giving a certain growth habit which maximizes the bearing habit.

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Dr. Franklyn said at February 16, 2015 7:39 AM:

Still I would love to eat natural olives and grapes....

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