In recent years, the use of citrus mechanical harvesting machines has significantly increased in Florida. In 2007, the total acreage of citrus orchards harvested by mechanical means was 14,420 ha (35,633 acres) which is about 7% of the total citrus production area in Florida up from only 1% in 2004. In addition, the Florida Department of Citrus initiated a program to register abscission compounds for citrus. Abscission compounds reduce the amount of force required to detach the fruit from the stem, making it easier to harvest. According to the plan, the abscission compounds will become available by 2011. It is expected that the trend in adoption of mechanical harvesting machines will accelerate if abscission compounds become commercially available. In addition to fruit, mechanical harvesting machines cause removal of leaves and branches, some percentage of which end up to the harvested load. Currently, the amount of trash, i.e. leaves and branches, in the mechanically harvested citrus load is considerably higher than when harvested by hand and is a major concern for juice processors. While these machines reduce the cost of harvesting and allow citrus growers to be more competitive in the global market, the large amount of fruit they can harvest in a short time can cause issues with load allocations. The implications resulting from these technologies are discussed in this paper, as well as initial results from a computer vision technique to quantify the trash in the load.
Paper published with permission.