Representatives of two Florida citrus-growing operations recently shared ways their companies have utilized drones, electronic sensors and advanced spray technology to enhance their operations. Joby Sherrod, director of grove operations for Duda & Sons, and Timothee Sallin, co-CEO of IMG Enterprises, were participants in a virtual Florida-Israel Agriculture Innovation Summit. Duda and IMG have approximately 11,000 acres and 10,000 acres of citrus, respectively.
Sherrod reported that in September 2017, Hurricane Irma blew over some trees and caused flooding in Duda groves near LaBelle. Because of the damage, he said, the company needed to update its tree inventory. It worked with agri-tech company Aerobotics to use drones to count trees and determine the size of each tree. Multi-spectral cameras allowed the company to make determinations about tree health, he said.
“We were able to really get a handle on our tree inventory,” Sherrod said. He added that photos allowed the company to determine color break and other information about the fruit. “We look to do a lot more in the future” through the use of drones, he said.
Sallin told how IMG uses electronic sensing in the packinghouse to determine the color, shape and weight of each piece of fruit. The sensing equipment leads to labor savings and lets the company “make better decisions on how we market the fruit,” he said.
Sallin added that an intelligent spray control system used in the company’s tree nursery has significantly cut spray use and costs.
Sherrod and Sallin participated in a segment of the summit on drones, robotics and artificial intelligence. The session was moderated by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers Yiannis Ampatzidis and Aditya Singh. Also participating in the segment were representatives of companies growing tomatoes, conducting indoor farming and robotically harvesting strawberries.
The four-day Florida-Israel Agriculture Innovation Summit focused on agriculture innovation and technology and collaboration between the two countries.