BerryPredictor: Improving harvest forecasts, yield predictions and crop productivity by monitoring and optimising zonal phytoclimates in covered strawberry production
There is increasing consumer and retailer demand for high-quality UK-grown strawberries, and this will increase further post-BREXIT as retailers favour British produce. Currently, c. 30% of strawberries consumed in the UK are imported (source: Defra), and so there is a great opportunity to displace these, often inferior, imports during the home-grown season and boost the UK economy. However, achieving consistently high yields and quality across variable and challenging growing seasons is difficult, and new growing innovations are needed if UK fruit production is to be optimised to meet market demand, and imports reduced.
There is much variability in plant yield and berry quality over a typical covered table-top production system, but the reasons for this are not fully understood and the magnitude of the effect has not been satisfactorily quantified, and so it cannot be managed or predicted. This variability confounds growers' best efforts to forecast yields to inform marketing strategies, and inaccurate forecasts lead to under-supply or to surpluses, necessitating purchases from outside the UK or fruit destruction, both of which are very costly.
NIAB, and its partners, will develop new soft fruit growing strategies from an improved understanding of how to optimise individual plant performance across the growing area.
We will refine recently-developed fruit harvest and ripening models by incorporating high resolution, satellite-derived weather inputs, and data feeds will be used to inform growers' polytunnel venting strategies to better control growing conditions. Variable ripening rates and yields will be captured using a new app, and algorithms will be developed and embedded in a cloud-based BerryPredictor tool that will enable growers to forecast yields with much greater accuracy and precision than currently possible, across the entire cropping area.
BerryPredictor will also provide POs and UK growers with access to real-time accurate yield prediction profiles for the first time. The majority of the R&D work will be carried out at the NIAB Water Efficient Technologies (WET) Centre, an industry-funded soft fruit precision growing demonstration and KE centre, the remit of which is to showcase the latest innovations in soft fruit growing, and promote the commercialisation of project outputs from our IUK and industry-funded projects.
BGG commercial growers will provide weather data to inform the models, and yield data to ground-truth BerryPredictor. Project outputs will benefit UK growers (yield, premium price, import substitution), POs (better product with enhanced reputation, reliability and improved marketability), supermarkets and consumers (flavoursome, phytonutritious UK-grown fruit) and wider society (sustainable intensification).
Berry Gardens Growers
Environmental Monitoring Solutions
University of Lincoln
University of Reading
December 2019 - November 2022