Another year and another season has flown by. As 2023 draws to a close, it’s the perfect opportunity to look back on the year that’s just passed before we prepare for all of the exciting things ahead.
It’s been a packed year for Outfield, with new features, new fruit types, and new customers in new places. We’ve been surveying apples, pears, and now also grapes around the world, from the USA to India. There have been a range of challenges to overcome, but also loads of big wins.
Here are just some of our highlights from 2023:
- In May the Outfield platform reached a significant milestone when the 1000th crop survey report was generated. The report was a fruit variability map for an apple grower near Brewster in Washington, USA, and since then we’ve issued another 200+ reports.
- As in previous years, during the 2023 season the most popular report type was fruit variability / fruit counts, which accounted for 45% of all reports generated. The next most popular report type with growers was blossom variability, 24% of reports were users looking at how blossom loading varied across their orchards. This year, most Outfield surveys (42%) were carried out by growers themselves, but over the last 12 months we have also partnered with amazing third party drone pilots in Italy, Morocco, and Washington.
- This season we launched our on-tree fruit sizing system, trialling it with two farms in the UK and one farm in Michigan. The system generates maps that show the distribution of fruit in an orchard by size band as well as hot spots of over- and undersized fruits, and next year this will be available to all Outfield users.
- The other new report type we launched for users was thinning recommendation maps, which use Outfield fruit counts to guide thinning teams in the field. 21 thinning maps were generated for growers in the UK, USA and Italy this year. We will be integrating these reports with more precision application systems in 2024.
- For an exciting look into future technology, we carried out the first test integrating Outfield with a drone in a box system. Working together with Idiployer and their IDI Dock system for the Mavic 3 drone, we hope to carry out the world’s first fully automated orchard survey next year, stay tuned for more!
- In September we officially kicked off Project VISTA together with a consortium of industry partners. The project will create digital maps for commercial vineyards, allowing growers to tie together data from a huge range of different systems. We also have another very exciting innovation project in the works, but unfortunately we can’t announce that one just yet!
- In 2023, we ran research projects with a wide range of different research organisations, including Agri-EPI Centre in the UK, Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts in the USA, CTIFL in France, KOB in Germany and the Laimburg Research Centre in Italy. All of these institutions have been trialling and proving Outfield’s systems for growers in their local regions, whilst integrating Outfield with the latest fruit tech research and development.
- We raised another funding round in the second half of the year, in what was a very challenging funding market. Thank you and welcome aboard to all the new investors who joined Outfield on our journey in 2023! We are also very pleased to be welcoming three new board members in the new year – Sean Butler, Rob Wylie and Jeff Colegrave will be adding a huge wealth of expertise and experience to the team. They are a great compliment to our longstanding board member Sarah Calcutt, who many in the fruit industry will already know.
- We held an all team meet up in Cambridge in May which was a huge amount of fun. The weather was excellent all week, and in between development planning meetings we found time to tackle an escape room, visit the Cambridge Beer Festival, and enjoy some punting on the river Cam.
- Over the summer the team was joined by three summer interns. Joanne, Tom and Tomasz joined us for two months to work in Machine Learning, Operations and Software Development respectively. They were a blast to work with and all of them were able to contribute to the success of the platform, from new upload functionality to improved terrain following for drones to new models for locating trees in images.
- Finally, in 2023 the Outfield system has been used in 10 countries across 5 continents. Over this year we have trialled the platform on nectarines, peaches, guavas and pomegranates, but the core focus has been to develop our systems that support growers of apple, pear and grapes.
All that is left to do is to say a big thank you to all of our users, trial farms, research partners and Outfield team members who have made all of this possible. It’s been such a busy year, and we can’t wait to get stuck into everything that 2024 has to offer!
See you in 2024.