Radar adds technological turn to age-old cranberry counting process

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It’s a quintessential cranberry scene: Thigh-deep in a flooded swamp full of millions of floating berries, dual farmers boast a merits of products done from a spicy red fruit.

Most of a year, however, a swamp is dry and a ripening cranberries adhere to a unenlightened mixed of woody, low-growing vines.

That’s when people like Ben Tilberg start counting cranberries.

A rancher harvests cranberries from a flooded mire during Cranberry Creek Cranberries Inc. in Necedah, Wisconsin. UW–Madison engineers have invented a device that automates a routine of counting cranberries on a brush and estimating a harvest. Image credit: Jeff Miller.

“When we do stand estimations, we collect all of a fruit in a square-foot area and afterwards we hand-count a berries,” says Tilberg, a Babcock, Wisconsin-based scientist with a grower-owned mild Ocean Spray Cranberries. “There competence be anywhere from 300 to 500 berries per block foot, and we count hundreds of squares any stand year.”

It’s a time-consuming, difficult try — though one that yields critical information about all from berry peculiarity to a projected harvest. “We solidify roughly a whole stand and cranberries are processed via a year,” says Tilberg. “Not usually do we need to sign a freezer capacity, we also wish to make certain a best fruit goes into a freezer.”

In large cranberry-producing states such as Massachusetts and Wisconsin, that’s a large deal: With 21,000 acres of cranberry bogs in 20 counties, Wisconsin is a nation’s tip cranberry producer, flourishing some-more than half of all cranberries in a world.

The perfect labor concerned in counting cranberries a out-of-date approach stirred Tilberg to pursue a some-more efficient, technologically modernized method. After reading news stories about imaging techniques used to investigate rainforests, he contacted University of Wisconsin–Madison electrical and resource engineering professors Susan Hagness and John Booske with his idea.

“It was arrange of a x-ray radar judgment he was envisioning,” says Booske.

The outcome is a new device that radically automates a counting routine — though carrying to collect any berries, and with a intensity to paint a some-more accurate design of a stand and a collect as a whole.

To emanate a device, Hagness and Booske conducted feasibility studies in their lab with electrical and resource engineering connoisseur tyro Alex Haufler. The formula were earnest adequate for a researchers to secure grants from a Wisconsin Cranberry Board and Ocean Spray.

“The appropriation has enabled us to rise a microwave-based cranberry intuiting technique,” says Hagness.

The team’s first-generation antecedent — a tiny box-shaped device dangling above a square-foot territory of cranberry bed — draws on record identical to that used in medical imaging and continue radar.

“We broadcast a x-ray vigilance that is reflected behind from a cranberry bed, and a strength of a reflected vigilance indicates a series of berries within a canopy,” says Haufler.

In continue radar, says Haufler, a strength of a reflected vigilance indicates how most H2O is contained within a clouds. That binds loyal for cranberries, also.

“The cranberries have a poignant H2O calm compared to a surrounding stems and leaves, creation them some-more manageable to a microwaves,” he says.

In a fall, Haufler assimilated Tilberg in plots during a Dubay Cranberry Co., of Junction City, Wisconsin, and a Remington Cranberry Co., of Necedah, Wisconsin, to control a rough turn of information collection regulating a antecedent intuiting device. Located in a heart of cranberry nation in Central Wisconsin, both farms are members of a Ocean Spray cooperative.

A estimable apportionment of Tilberg’s pursuit is operative directly with growers on all from nutritious and harassment government to fruit apportion and quality. He says growers simply would be means to use a device to indicate an whole cranberry bed.

“They wish to know what areas of their beds furnish aloft or reduce yields, and since that is,” says Tilberg. “Accurately mapping a bed gives us a starting point.”

Ocean Spray has a longstanding investigate attribute with UW–Madison. Tilberg also collaborates closely with cranberry geneticist Juan Zalapa, a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigate geneticist and UW–Madison associate highbrow of horticulture who also helped to surprise a cranberry-counting device’s development. Zalapa’s aim is to rise new cranberry varieties that offer increasing yield; softened quality, ambience and nutritive content; and improved response to factors such as impassioned weather, insects and illness pressure.

“We have to name from thousands and thousands of genotype clones,” says Zalapa. “We brand earnest ones by collecting furnish and peculiarity data.”

Zalapa’s vital laboratory consists of hundreds of 5-by-5-foot cranberry plots, all of that annually need a organisation of 10 people many days — or even weeks — to hand-harvest and count fruit. He says a new record could be a outrageous bonus not usually for his research, though for a attention as a whole.

“I’m unequivocally meddlesome since this will severely impact a growth of new varieties,” Zalapa says. “Cranberry growers don’t all plant one and a same variety, though there are many choices and this kind of record can assistance growers adopt new varieties or collect mixed varieties that can be tolerable and furnish good in their sold operation. It would unequivocally change my work and change a attention for yield-prediction purposes.”

Using a information he collected in tumble 2017, Haufler now is optimizing a algorithms used to modify a totalled x-ray signals into estimates of cranberry numbers and improving a record so it’s prepared for another turn of contrast in 2018.

For that phase, a group is formulation to insert a device to a boom, or prolonged cabled beam, that extends 80 feet out over a cranberry bed.

“If we can insert this x-ray intuiting section to a boom, we’d be means to stop during mixed areas opposite a bed and take measurements,” says Tilberg. “We could take as many measurements as we wanted, and we’d be means to accurately guess furnish opposite a whole marsh.”

Ultimately, says Hagness, a idea is to send a record directly into a hands of a people who will advantage from it.

“I consider there’s a resource down a highway for this to be permitted to any grower,” she says.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

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