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Northern Australia

Switching crops and use of technology aids fruit growers in adapting to worker shortage

Hectares of trees on Western Australia's largest banana plantation have been replaced with fields of cotton; critical labor shortages are making the fibre more economically viable than the fruit.

While crop changes are possible for some, mango growers in Australia's north are turning to technology to help manage staffing deficits. New "machine vision rigs" can scan through orchards while attached to a moving vehicle, using light detection and ranging, machine vision and time-of-flight cameras to make crop estimates from the time of flowering. It means growers can better forecast crop yields and how many staff they will need to harvest their fruit.

"If you know how much volume you need to harvest at a particular time, you can really, really fine-tune how much staff you need at that given time," Central Queensland University researcher and former mango farmer Martina Matzner said.

"We're all in some way competing for these resources, so if we can better align our forecast and we all know the crops we're getting off at what particular time, well rather than competing we actually can share these resources."


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