An autonomous vehicle developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, will be demonstrated during a field day at Washington State University’s Sunrise Orchard near Wenatchee on July 22.
The vehicle has been developed as part of a research project on comprehensive automation for tree fruits that is funded with a $6 million federal grant through the Specialty Crops Research Initiative. Project leader Sanjiv Singh is bringing the four-wheel vehicle to Washington for two weeks of testing.
The vehicle, known to scientists as an automated prime mover, is designed to carry other technology through the orchard. It will be tested with a scout developed by Vision Robotics of California that takes images of fruit on the tree in order to estimate the crop or map fruit for robotic harvesting. It could also carry sensors to scout for pests and diseases or devices for measuring the caliper of nursery trees.
During the field day, Dr. Vince Jones, WSU entomologist, will speak about a $2.2 million project, also funded through the SCRI, to enhance biological control to stabilize integrated pest management in western orchards. The goal of the five-year program is to reduce pesticide use, lower costs, and improve worker safety. Nine scientists in Washington, Oregon, and California are working on the project.
Other research topics that will be discussed include:
• Apple breeding, genetics, and genomics — Dr. Cameron Peace, WSU geneticist, Pullman
• Fumigation trials — Tim Smith, WSU Extension agent for north central Washington
• Sprayer calibration and the Pest Management Transition Program — Keith Granger, WSU entomologist, Wenatchee
• Apple crop load management —Tory Schmidt, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission
Growers will also have an opportunity to visit the new apple, pear, and cherry plantings at the orchard.
The field day is scheduled from 2–4 p.m. The orchard is located at Sunrise Lane on the highway between Wenatchee and Quincy. For information, check the Web site at www.tfrec.wsu.edu.