Today, 30% of fruit production doesn’t make it into grocery stores due to quality issues and fruit growers have a complex, interconnected supply chain with tight margins. Yield estimates are generally inaccurate and come from a manual count on small orchard samples. These inaccuracies can lead to a snowball effect on the entire supply chain.
Vivid Machine, a technology company based out of Toronto, Ontario, saw an opportunity to digitize production to better manage crop loads and help growers intervene earlier in the season. Their cutting-edge vision technology is simply adhered to a golf cart or ATV and collects data while driving up and down the orchard. This gives growers insights into blossom and fruitlet count which informs their thinning decisions in the spring and provides early yield predictions in advance of their fall harvest. This then helps growers manage crop loads accordingly ensuring consistent quality fruit, increasing marketable yield, sustainability and the amount of food produced on existing acreage.
More accurate yield prediction data from this type of farm digitization, also allows for better contract fulfillment with distribution centers, helping suppliers and retailers get more accurate purchase orders with the ability to then adapt promotional activities as needed.
In a conversation between Linda Fox, CFIN’s Ontario Regional Innovation Director and Tess O’Mara, Vivid Machine’s Director of Partnerships, the team originally thought their technology wouldn’t qualify for a grant as the work they did was at the agricultural level (e.g., at the orchard or pre-farmgate). Through ongoing discussions, Linda worked closely with the Vivid Machine team to really dig into the opportunity as the data generated from their technology had the potential for immense impact through the entire supply chain.
“At CFIN, we welcome members into the network from all parts of the food ecosystem, but only projects that are post-farmgate qualify for grants,” said Linda Fox, Regional Innovation Director, CFIN. “In chatting with Tess, I knew their innovation could impact well beyond the agricultural industry and could revolutionize the fruit supply-chain, so we worked together to explore those impacts and get them started on an application.”
“In speaking with Linda, she really took the time to understand our vision and was fundamental in helping us to truly understand the impact our technology could have, she was instrumental in encouraging us to apply” said Tess O’Mara, Vivid Machines
As a result, earlier this year, Vivid Machines was selected as a Foodtech project to receive funding through CFIN’s Food Innovation Challenge. They are currently working with Algoma Orchard and Blue Mountain Fruit Company to pilot their unique computer vision and intelligence system to collect and analyze data across an entire orchard to digitize fruit crops in real time and create a more agile and transparent fruit supply chain.
By creating digital twins of the orchards, they will better determine crop load management strategies and ideal harvest timings to ensure growers can meet the demands and needs of grocers and food processors. This added insight will also provide early yield predictions to packhouses, marketers, distribution centers, processors and retailers, with the goal of improving all post-harvest logistics such as storage, shipping, yield estimates, contracts and demand planning.
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