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Year 3- The 2023 WA Fruit Smart Orchard Project

The 2023 Smart Orchard scope is changing a bit! We are turning over to focus on irrigation and chemical thinning task maps to inform variable rate applications. This project involves the use of various technologies such as LiDAR, Green Atlas Cartographer, SmartGuided Systems (SmartApply), Swan Systems, Nutrien Ag, WSU AgWeatherNet, FloraPulse, SmartApply, Soiltech, EWING, Swan Systems, PocketiNet, SoilOptix, Burro, and Burrow Tractors to inform and optimize different aspects of apple orchard operations, including sunburn prevention, herbicide application, chemical thinning, and irrigation. The project also aims to collect and aggregate data on various orchard parameters such as soil moisture, soil temperature, sap flow, and nutrient trends, among others, to inform variable rate applications. The project involves collaborating with various researchers, vendors, and stakeholders to gather and analyze the data, and potentially expand the project to other orchards.​

2023 Field Day- August 2nd

We are excited to announce that we are continuing the legacy with the upcoming 2023 Smart Orchard Project Field Day, organized by, WTFRC, & WSU, which will take place on August 2nd, 2023 at 3124 N. County Line, Grandview, WA. This event is an opportunity for farmers and agricultural professionals to learn about the latest technologies and data-driven approaches to orchard management.

The Smart Orchard Project is a cutting-edge farming solution that incorporates sensors, drones, tractors, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning algorithms to optimize crop yields and reduce waste. By providing farmers with real-time data on environmental factors like soil moisture, temperature, and humidity, the Smart Orchard Project can predict the ideal timing for irrigation, fertilization, and pest control, maximizing crop yields while minimizing waste and reducing costs.

At the 2023 Field Day, attendees will have the opportunity to see 2023 Project Outcomes in action and learn from experts in the field. The event will feature live demonstrations of the technology, as well as presentations from industry leaders on best practices for orchard management.

This event is a must-attend for farmers looking to increase efficiency and profitability while reducing their environmental footprint. You can register for the 2023 Smart Orchard Project Field Day by visiting

Don't miss out on this opportunity to learn about the latest technologies and data-driven approaches to orchard management. We look forward to seeing you at the 2023 Smart Orchard Project Field Day!

2023 Project Leads

Dr. Lav Khot- Associate Professor Ag Engineering Dr. Khot works in the Agricultural Automation Engineering research area of the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. His research and extension program focuses on “Sensing and automation technologies for site specific and precision management of production agriculture.” Special emphasis is towards integration of: • Remote Sensing (Unmanned and Manned Aerial Systems) • Ground-based (Proximal) Crop Sensing • Decision Support Systems and Information Delivery Technologies • Precise Applications of various Production inputs • Agricultural Machinery and processes • Data-based modeling


Bernardita Sallato- Tree Fruit Extension Specialist WSU IAREC Bernardita’s program provides leadership in applied research, extension, and outreach for the PNW tree fruit industry. Her goal is improving orchard efficiency and fruit production through horticultural management practices and technology. Main areas of interest are 1) Soils and plant nutrition; 2) Tree fruit stress management; and 3) General horticultural practices for tree fruit production. Education M.Sci. Physiology and Fruit Production Area – PUC, Chile (2006) B.Sci. Agriculture Engineer – Horticulture – PUC, Chile (2004)


Steve Mantle- CEO/Founder of Steve is the founder of, a Walla Walla Washington-based agtech startup and Microsoft-partnered company. Prior to embarking on the startup, Steve spent 12 years at Microsoft where he most recently focused on Microsoft’s fastest growing product line, Azure Cloud. His leadership skills contributed to growing Azure from a $100M to a $10B+/year business over 6 years. After his time spent at the Microsoft headquarters in Seattle, Steve decided to relocate his family of four to Walla Walla, Washington, in the summer of 2018. He envisions this location as the perfect base for ag startups given the convergence of progressive farmers and three colleges with strengths in agriculture, engineering, science, established ag manufacturers, strong connectivity providers, and a highly collaborative business climate. An Australian by birth, Steve has his MBA from the University of Washington.


2023 Researchers

Dr. Lee Kalcsits- Assistant Professor, Tree Fruit Physiology

  • Tree fruit physiology

  • Abiotic stress

  • Plant nutrition

  • Impacts of preharvest environment on postharvest physiology

Program Objectives

  • Develop new tools for identifying the nutritional status of fruit trees

  • Advance the understanding of how environment (light, temperature, water, nutrients) affects fruit tree physiology, growth and development

  • Create management strategies to mitigate physiological problems that are associated with abiotic stress in fruit treesAdd text to your email.

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Tree Physiology, University of British Columbia

  • M.S., Tree Ecophysiology, University of Saskatchewan

  • B.S., Horticulture, University of Saskatchewan

Tory Schmidt- WTFRC Horticultural Associate

Tory was hired by the WTFRC in 1998 and currently serves as a Project Manager. He heads up the Commission’s research programs in crop load and canopy management, as well as managing ongoing studies of pesticide residues on apples and cherries, and is a member of the Washington Tree Fruit Extension Team.

Gwen Hoheisel- Professor / Regional Extension Specialist / County Director

  • Viticulture

  • Tree Fruits

  • High-Value Specialty Crops

  • Entomology

  • Sprayer Technology


  • M.S., Entomology, Pennsylvania State University

  • B.S., Zoology, University of Maryland

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