The start of 2022 has been a busy time for Outfield across the company. The Operations Team in particular were busy with a trip to Cape Town in South Africa, and the whole team travelled out to work with fruit farms in the Western Cape. Outfield is fortunate to have partnerships with several innovative and forward looking growers in South Africa and it was great to reconnect with them while we were there. We were able to demo some new features of the Outfield system for growers as the harvest period starts, including drone based yield estimation.
For me, this was my third trip to the country, and Dylan was born in South Africa. For Emil though, it was his first trip to Africa. As the Outfield system is used by growers in more countries around the world, the Operations Team is going to be travelling to plenty of new locations!
South African growers are embracing precision farming systems in several areas, in particular soil mapping and pest monitoring. One change that I noticed from previous visits is a wider adoption of precision fertiliser application spreaders. There was a lot of interest in Outfield’s tree size mapping system and how this could be used to guide fertiliser application, especially in light of rising nitrogen prices.
During our visit the farms were buzzing with harvest activity, with picking on Gala just completed and other varieties getting underway. This meant we were able to get quick feedback on block yield estimates, and hopefully also on fruit counts and tree sizing. We took the opportunity to gather some additional training data to help the Outfield system handle large bushy tree canopies – which South African farms have many of. We selected several orchards that fit our requirements, and took a whole series of measurements that will improve the performance of Outfield’s yield estimates and tree size maps.
It wasn’t all work though. We had the chance to explore Cape Town, including a trip up the Table Mountain cable car and a visit to the penguin beach at Simon’s Town. On the way to the penguin beach we also had to dodge a troop of baboons in the road, not something you often get in Cambridge! The team enjoyed several beach evenings after returning from the farm, and both Dylan and Emil got to show off their skills at the braai – South African for barbeque.
I look forward to continuing our development with our South African partner farms through the rest of this season and into the new season starting in August/September. We have an exciting list of features we plan to test and roll out this year, many of which have been developed in partnership with South African farms. From the end of March this year, Dylan from the Outfield Operations Team will be based in the Western Cape area. Outfield will then be able to provide in-person support to our South African platform users, helping them get the most out of Outfield. Please do get in touch if you would like to know more.