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The science and business of orchard magic

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  • Post published:July 5, 2022
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Announcing the award of grant funding for “Project Crystal Ball” – A year long IUK funded collaboration between Outfield and Yagro to bring crop value insights and business analytics to orchard management decision making. 

A modern day farmer is a real renaissance man/woman. They are expected to be expert:

Plant scientists – managing their orchards year round despite constant environmental variations to maximise output.

Mechanics – to keep their orchard tractors and hardware operational.

Chemists – to prescribe, mix and deploy the right agrichemicals in the right place at the right time.

Employers – managing seasonal and migrant labour forces in a constantly changing regulatory regime. 

Entrepreneurs – Running this whole operation as a business, with all of the decision making, strategy, finances and planning that requires.

Negotiators – to get their fruit to market based on their forecasts, and manage the uncertainty of that.

Land owners – being responsible for vast swathes of land and it’s stewardship. 

On top of this, they are now also expected to be technical visionaries, and due to increasing pressures in global supply chains, international business experts too.

We are therefore delighted to announce that Innovate UK has granted funding for Project Crystal Ball – a year long project bringing together industry leading growers and data companies to provide business analytics for fruit growers. The aim is help growers with:

  • deeper understanding of the quality and monetary value of forecasted yields based on the current market conditions;
  • up-to-date commodities prices to assess the cost and impact of interventions such as chemical applications; and 
  • taking the guesswork out of orchard decisions to maximise business benefit.

This project will be using Outfield’s existing orchard surveying and yield forecasting services, and advancing these to include accurate quality and grade assessments. Working with YAGRO on this project, we will then integrate yield and quality estimates on the developing apple crops with detailed commercial intelligence.  

This will provide growers with market-level information, enabling them to understand the commercial value of their changing forecasts. By linking data on production costs to date with quality requirements and end-market prices, they will be able to assess their current position, the need for action and the risk involved.

This project will put more science and business information directly into the hands of the growers, helping them to make decisions for their crops AND for their business. Running orchards and growing fruit still needs incredible skilled professionals but hopefully with a science based crystal ball they won’t need to be actual magicians to turn a profit.