JUNE 29, 2015 12:00AM
Brothers and co-owners of Pinata farms Stephen and Gavin Scurr with kelpie Honey. Picture: Megan Slade.
Farms are starting to get pretty futuristic.
Queensland’s mango growers have been the first to pioneer new picking and sorting technology, using hi-tech LED and camera’s to improve productivity.
Piñata Farms has developed a new machine allowing their army of workers to pick fruit at night out of the hot sun, more than tripling their crop yield every day.
The new harvest aid comes equipped with seven advanced LED lights which allow workers to see ripe mangoes, whereas past technology would still make fruit hard to see.
Piñata Farms owner Gavin Scurr said with night time temperatures much lower than during the day, crops are also a better quality and pickers can go for longer without harsh heat.
“Temperatures can get into the low 40s and even 50s in the sun,” Scurr said.
“So from a temperature perspective is a lot better for staff to work in those conditions, but just as importantly it's a lot better for the fruit as well.
“When mangoes are cooler they’re more firm, less susceptible to bumps and bangs which means we can get better quality fruit.”
Pinata farms workers picking mangoes at night in their farm in North Queensland.
The new machines are larger than the typical mango harvest aids and allow up to 10 pickers to work on both sides of the machine.
“In a day we can now pick up to 70 bins,” he said.
“On our older machines we would have five pickers and they would pick maybe 20 bins a day.”
Scurr said new advances in LED technology have made the new method possible but he isn’t content to stop there.
They are also looking at sophisticated camera sensor technology which could pick out the best fruit and filter out imperfections better than a human could.
“Things like camera technology is really making blemish sorting on grading lines possible now,” he said.
“Technology has a huge part to play in the future of agriculture.
“Australian farmers have always been innovators, but going forward I think we will see a lot more things like drones being used, to assess crops by counting the amount of fruit on a tree so we know how many staff we might need, right through to pest and disease management.”