The future of fruit yield estimation

For years, the fruit industry have had to rely on conducting crop yield estimations through physical counting and extrapolating it to the entire crop. This method of yield estimation achieves inconsistent results. The ability to accurately estimate crop yields early in the season however plays a critical role in various critical technical, operational and marketing decisions made in the fruit industry.

FruitSpec, an Israeli agritech company, is at the forefront of revolutionising the way crop yield estimations are performed. FruitSpec deploys patented hyperspectral sensor imaging technology to provide early season crop yield estimations with an accuracy in excess of 90% at a fraction of the time normally associated with this activity.

FruitSpec’s technology accurately forecasts the total number of fruits, the fruit size distribution and the estimated weight of the crop at time of harvest. This information is provided per block, hectare and in total. The yield estimation service is based on data collected by hyperspectral cameras that are mounted on a vehicle that drives through the orchards and/or vineyards and captures images. These images are then securely sent to the cloud where the data is analysed using algorithms to provide accurate estimates of the yield which a particular orchard or vineyard may deliver.

The availability thereof early in the season (6 to 7 month before harvest) enables various players in the fruit production value chain to make more informed decision with regards to agronomic practices, operational planning, logistical co-ordination, packhouse planning, farm level management and ultimately, an optimal sales and marketing plan. In addition, FruitSpec’s technology may also become a game-changer for the crop insurance industry. The potential also exist to provide yield estimates, with customers’ consent, to the crop finance and insurance industries that would lead to more accurately priced products.

Towards the end of 2019, FruitSpec completed an investment round of $4 million. AgVentures, an investment company at the forefront of the agrifood tech revolution in Africa, is one of the investors. With this financial backing, FruitSpec is positioned to have a major impact on the fruit yield estimation market, with a calculated 47 million hectares of fruit orchards globally standing to gain from these developments. This translates to a US$3 billion market potential for FruitSpec, according to company estimates. FruitSpec has since expanded to 4 different continents, with operations in North and South America, Europe and Africa – with plans to expand even further.

Raviv Kula believes that “Africa has very high potential, especially for citrus and its large array of tropical fruits”.  Even though 2020 has taken a different path than anticipated, it forced FruitSpec to rethink their expansion model. Raviv is confident that FruitSpec has adapted their strategy accordingly and is in a better position for growth than they were in the beginning of the year. They plan on expanding heavily in South Africa throughout 2020.

“Obtaining accurate early crop estimates has been a key challenge for the fruit industry for centuries. FruitSpec addresses this global challenge in a sophisticated manner and at scale. Our collaboration with FruitSpec will play a role to unleash Africa’s agrifood potential.” concludes Gerhard Visagie, CEO of AgVentures.

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