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Satellite images predict the NT’s next mango harvest yield

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Images sent back from space are helping Northern Territory farmers plan their mango harvests – this includes predicting the equipment and number of staff that may be needed. 

“Our Plant industries – including our famous mangoes, melons and Asian vegetables – is valued at $445 million and this trial presents another exciting opportunity for the Territory,” minister for Agribusiness and Aquaculture, Nicole Mansion said. 

“We actually produce around half of Australia’s crop, which is why it’s so important to support projects like this that help our farmers do what they do best – produce fresh, Territory-grown produce for interstate and overseas markets.” 

The three-year trial is winding up this harvest and has studied images of mango trees at different stages of growth to estimate whether farmers are in for a productive season. 

The trial involved five commercial growers across seven Top End orchards and is jointly funded by the Northern Territory government, the federal government and Hort Innovation. 

The University of New England’s Applied Agricultural Remote Sensing Centre is the project lead, with CQ University Australia, the Australian Mango Industry Association and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland also providing input. 

The Territory growers had several different varieties of mango, different management techniques and trees of varying ages. 

“Through this collaborative project the UNE’s AARSC team have identified two methodologies for predicting mango yield from satellite imagery, both of which are producing accuracies that exceed current commercial practice; and as such have attracted great interest and participation from many Australian growers,” University of New England Applied Agricultural Remote Sensing Centre director Professor Andrew Robson said. 

“These results have established Australia as a global leader in the adoption of satellite imagery for the yield estimation of horticultural tree crops.” 

The information provided from satellite imagery was also used by growers to make decisions around logistics, including labour, equipment, packing, storage and transport, as well as product sales. 

“This trial has provided a unique opportunity for growers to integrate various new technologies into their businesses to contribute to helping drive the productivity, profitability and sustainability of their businesses,” Hort Innovation CEO Matt Brand said. 

“Importantly, this project also provides the wider national mango industry with vital information to apply similar practices into their operations, and achieve similar positive results.” 

The data from the research was presented at the 2021 Developing the North Conference hosted in Darwin and the Australian Mango Industry Association’s August roadshow.  

The researchers will now carry out further analysis of the information at the end of the harvest, with the data to be published by the project teams and distributed to growers. 

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