Development of an optimal harvest date prediction and control technology for just-in-time production of strawberries

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has developed a technology to accurately predict and control the harvest date for the realization of just-in-time (JIT) production of strawberries, one of the greenhouse vegetables with a large market scale, and verified it in an artificial climate chamber. This innovative technology will serve as a foundation for next-generation agricultural production, enabling producers to accurately and precisely adjust the harvest period based on trends in crop demand and to plan shipments. In the future, we will demonstrate the harvest time adjustment technology at production sites such as greenhouses and verify the improvement of income of strawberry farmers.

In Japan, strawberries boast a large market scale, and Japanese strawberries are widely popular both in Japan and overseas. There is a constant demand for strawberries throughout the year, but the timing of an increase in demand varies depending on the sales method and its destination. Therefore, if we can adjust the harvest time accurately to match the demand period, it will contribute to the promotion of sustainable agriculture by reducing production & food loss and building a stable supply chain.

In strawberry production, many technologies have been developed so far to predict the shipping period by combining growth information with weather and environmental data. However, these technologies make predictions based on obtained weather forecast data. Since the harvest dates were dependent on actual weather conditions, the realization of shipments that appropriately corresponded to the demand period was found to be difficult.

NARO has developed a just-in-time (JIT) production system that can match the harvest time to the demand season based on the concept of robotics, which combines sensing, prediction models, and control technology. This time, a highly accurate harvest date prediction model was constructed. In this model, by means of controlling the fruit development period, the harvest peak can be controlled with an error of ±1 day from the target date. This was confirmed through experiments in an artificial climate chamber that recreated the environment of past greenhouses. By introducing this JIT production system, producers will be able to identify market demand fluctuations and match the harvest date of the fruit to the desired shipping date.

At present, the prediction accuracy of the strawberry JIT production system is being verified for its application to actual greenhouses. From FY 2023 onwards, further verification and dissemination of the JIT production system will be carried out with the aim of contributing to the stabilization of strawberry production and improving the income of strawberry farmers.

For more information:
Research Center for Agricultural Robotics, NARO 

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