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HELIOS

Maximising light interception in orchards ...

Thinking Outside the Box

Hutchinsons horticultural team continue to think ahead and outside the normal realms of agronomic advice, by initiating and investing in a ground breaking 10 year project in top fruit, called HELIOS (Hutchinsons Enhanced Light Interception Orchard System).

The HELIOS project is based on the simple premise that the ultimate yield of apples is relative to how much light the tree can get.

The HELIOS Concept

The theory: whether consistently higher crops of quality fruit is achieved if the tree is able to capture more sunlight.

How: By redesigning the canopy and tree architecture, it should be possible to intercept more light which should result in higher yields.

The HELIOS project has been set up to test if this theory can be proven – how yields can be increased and an orchard can be established more cost-effectively.

There are two orchards of Gala set up, one in the West Midlands and one in Kent. Growers will be invited to the sites for opportunity to keep track of how the project is progressing.

Setting Up From Scratch

“We are planting trees from different root stocks, thinking of different support systems and redesigning the way the trees grow so that less light is wasted by getting to the orchard floor. We have thought about more of a canopy in a simple horizontal plane with little depth i.e. flatter canopies more open to the light,” – Rob Saunders, Hutchinsons Agronomist

Putting Precision Into the Mix

Hutchinsons is looking and investing into the fundamentals of fruit growing, so we can offer advanced developments. We’re developing the pioneering Omnia Fruit Vision system, which counts and measures crop yield as it moves through the orchard.

The imaging process is the first step to automated picking. With labour costs doubling every ten years, automated picking will be a huge step forward to more profitable fruit growing.

Fruit Vision has been further developed in the Southern hemisphere, and is back in the UK for final configuration and testing. When the system is fully developed it could revolutionise fruit growing.

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