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CA, WA, and Netherlands Partner up to form 'Orchard of the Future'

Announcing the Washington State, California, and Dutch Collaboration

Today, Feb. 3rd, 2021, marked the day of the Collaboration Agreement Ceremony for a bi-lateral public/private AgFoodTech partnership between Washington State, California, and the Netherlands (CAWADU). The partnership includes Dutch and US companies (including Automated Ag, innov8.ag, Davis Instruments), the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, the Dutch Fruit Growers Association, Dutch technological association FME, NLWorks and several universities from both sides of the ocean (Washington State University & Oregon State University). Forming a collaboration like this will break down previous barriers and inspire a joint effort between these countries to enable the acceleration of technological solutions for improved fruit cultivation.



“We view international public-private partnerships, such as the Orchard of the Future collaboration, as essential building blocks to successfully develop orchards for the future,” - Jim Doornink, Chair-Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission

Due to the need of keeping up with increased consumer and government demands regarding sustainability, environment and food safety in the fruit sector combined with the declining availability of workforce, this collaboration understands that intensified efforts to speed up innovations and secure a sustainable future for the tree fruit sector is imperative.

“Technology implementation into orchards has to accelerate to enable our state’s tree fruit industry to remain viable and prosper into the next decade,” -Ines Hanrahan, Exec Director-Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission

We'll do this by combining the innovative strengths of both Dutch & American agrobusiness ecosystems to establish new business models and solve the major challenges we are both facing in the areas of workforce scarcity, efficiency, environment, sustainability, and food safety. The Netherlands is leading in sensor technology and data management and Washington is leading in robotization/automation and shaping of the orchard. Because both regions have developments in all four themes, they can reinforce each other, which makes acceleration possible. You can work more efficiently, because there is no duplication of work, and it helps tree fruit producers on both side of the Atlantic Ocean to remain competitive and profitable.


“Globally, producers face many of the same hurdles. The practical solutions being developed through this international coalition hold promise for more robust, healthy, and efficient industries in both countries." -André-Denis Wright, Dean- Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, & Natural Resources Sciences


innov8.ag CEO Steve Mantle underscores

the importance of agtech, researcher, & grower collaboration


Challenges for Growers:

  • A large labor force is needed to handle the picking and harvesting process. This labor force is increasingly hard to find. At the same time the rules for worker protection are getting stricter, so the use of current tools like ladders will become increasingly difficult,

  • There is a growing concern regarding the effects of crop protection products on the environment and biodiversity. This has led to strict legislation specifying the use of crop protection products. This means that application of agrochemicals must continue to adapt,

  • Natural resources such as water are becoming more scarce due to climate change,

  • To ensure food safety, grocery stores and government bodies (e.g. FDA in the US and NVWA in the Netherlands) are increasingly demanding transparency and information on production methods and standards from the growers. At the same time consumer demands for clean and sustainably produced fruits are increasing. This requires growers to find innovative and sustainable production methods to address these societal shifts.


Objective & Vision:

Making fruit cultivation more efficient, intelligent, sustainable, and future proof requires us to be able to monitor, manage, and make decisions at the level of individual trees. Smart Technology will enable getting the most out of an orchard through targeted, efficient use of crop protection agents, plant hormones and fertilizers, while saving on labor costs and minimizing food waste. This all contributes to the creation of a sustainable fruit cultivation system.

  • A validated prototype precision sprayer for several fruit crops, which is directed at nozzle level based on smart algorithms and decision models and combined with stress, disease, and pest detection,

  • A validated and functional prototype robot for pruning and harvesting,

  • Validated sensors and algorithms to collect physiological and phyto-pathological characteristics of apple and pear,

  • Validated decision models based on collected data and expert knowledge; targeted on production optimization, crop protection and storage,

  • Data standards and protocols for data exchange,

  • Economic validation and stimulation of adoption of the developed new technology.


OVERALL OBJECTIVES IN THE COLLABORATION:

  • Connecting universities and other knowledge institutes in WA, California and The Netherlands for joint programs and setting up structural exchange programs for education and research collaborations,

  • A strong connected Washington State and Netherlands Fruit sector & technology ecosystem,

  • Build a strong business network of companies and growers on both sides,

  • Create an innovative field lab network that can be used as local field labs and testing grounds for both sides, i.e. the experimental farm Proeftuin Randwijk in the Netherlands and the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee,

  • Creating access to public and private funding for the development and adoption of the necessary innovations with a strong focus on solid business models (ROI) for technology development companies and growers who need to invest in the solutions,

  • Crafting government policies and aligning with relevant policy objectives through continued dialogue.

Project Partners: