Aerobotics is working with Zespri as a key technology partner to collect crop estimate calculation inputs, such as fruit size profile and crop density, at scale.

Aerobotics uses computer vision for agriculture to provide a rich array of precision farming insights that support smarter business decisions. Through this partnership, Aerobotics will provide Zespri with a solution to collect yield data across thousands of hectares, growing regions and farming operations in a cost-effective manner.

Zespri strives to work with its grower partners to deliver the best fruit to the best place in the market, at the best price. Accurate crop estimates are an essential ingredient to optimise that outcome.

In 2022, Zespri selected Aerobotics for assistance with a national-level crop density & fruit size estimation project where their biggest requirement was a scalable, cost-effective solution with a clear demonstration of operational viability. At the time Aerobotics already had a commercial AI fruit sizing solution used by citrus and apple growers around the world. The solution consists of a mobile phone application to take pictures of fruit and AI models that use the photos to calculate the size of the fruit, accounting for technicalities such as unique fruit shapes and occluded fruit.

“Adapting our models to size kiwifruit was a natural next step for us,” said Aerobotics CEO James Paterson. “ And by building our software to be used with off-the-shelf smartphones, every kiwifruit farmer will be able to collect their own data, for both the purposes of national crop estimation and to use in their own crop manipulation and farming operations during the season.”

“It has been great working with the Aerobotics team”, said Peter McHannigan, Innovation Leader, Orchard Technology at Zespri. “They have successfully adapted to the unique requirements of kiwifruit growing practices, and their AI and tech expertise has paired well with the experience and knowledge of the Zespri team.”

The first season of the multi-year partnership has focused primarily on the fruit size profile requirements, and the Zespri team has been able to validate the accuracy of Aerobotics’ AI sizing tools. “We’re very happy with the accuracy of Aerobotics’ AI fruit sizing compared to our previous methodologies,” said McHannigan. “We have very high expectations around accuracy for our national estimates and this project has the potential to deliver a solution using cost-effective tools at a national scale”.

The next stages of the partnership include operationalising the AI sizing with Zespri’s growers and providing working crop density measurements as well as sampling methodologies and extrapolation on a national level.

For more information:
Dr Yoav Yichie