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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: TECHNOLOGY FOR PRESORTING APPLES IN THE ORCHARD

Location: Sugarbeet and Bean Research

Project Number: 5050-43640-001-05
Project Type: Trust

Start Date: Jul 29, 2009
End Date: Apr 30, 2012

Objective:
The proposed research is to develop technology for presorting apples in the orchard. Specific objectives are to: 1) develop a cost-effective machine vision-based grading unit that can sort apples into two or three grades (cull, processing, and fresh market); 2) develop a fruit handling unit for loading, transporting, unloading the graded fruit into individual fruit bins; and 3) assemble and evaluate a presorting prototype that is mobile, rugged, and easy to operate in the orchard.

Approach:
Color vision technology will be applied to develop an in-orchard apple grading station which will sort apples into two or three grades (cull, processing, and fresh market). A laboratory machine vision unit will be built and tested. This vision unit will be designed to accommodate a harvest crew of 8 to 10 people. Algorithms will be developed to acquire and process apple images and segregate them into different grades. Our initial goal is to sort and grade fruit based on their size. Additional capabilities such as sorting for color and blemish will be considered at a later time. In the mean time, we will compare different fruit handling designs and select and build a new fruit handling unit that is suitable for use in the orchard. The handling unit will allow fruit pickers to unload the fruit in the picking bags, transport to the grading station for imaging and grading, and then place the graded fruit into appropriate fruit bins. Once the imaging unit and fruit handling unit are built and tested, we will then assemble an in-orchard presorting prototype. This prototype will be tested in a commercial orchard. Finally, a field demonstration to growers will be arranged.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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