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NatureSweet to boost crop yields with new camera technology

NatureSweet is using artificial intelligence to better control pests and diseases in its greenhouses.

In a recently article on CNN Money, NatureSweet's hief innovation officer Adrian Almeide discusses the use of a new technology  developed by the Israeli digital farming company Prospera. According to Almeida, the Propspera camera at their farm has already improved harvests and reduced labor costs. NatureSweet began testing the technology almost a year ago at one of its farms in Arizona. It plans to roll the tech out to all of its locations soon.

The Prosepera camera can detect diseases such as late blight. 

Adrian Almeida believes artificial intelligence will eventually improve his greenhouses tomato yields by 20%. "It'll be better for the environment and for the customer," Almeida told CNN.

Farms are increasingly using technology to grow crops, from task-tracking systems that monitor watering and seeding to drones that capture aerial images.

So far, NatureSweet's weekly harvests have grown 2% to 4%. This may seem modest, but the results makes a big difference when growing millions of pounds of tomatoes a year.

To use the method, NatureSweet installed 10 cameras in greenhouse ceilings. The cameras continuously take photos of the crops below. Prospera's software has been trained to recognize trouble, such as insect infestations or dying plants.

Previously, some of NatureSweet's 8,000 employees were tasked with walking through the greenhouses to identify struggling plants. But the process was slow and expensive. NatureSweet did this only once a week.
The cameras from Prospera monitor the plants 24/7 and provide instant feedback.

NatureSweet has also experimented with using the cameras to forecast when plants are ready to be harvested.

Although Almeida said that aspect of the technology is still a work in progress, improved efficiency is apparent. He estimated NatureSweet's headcount would have to grow by 4% without it.

Publication date: 8/7/2017



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