Occlusion Project

Professor Richard Green is heading a new 5 year, $6 million dollar MBIE funded project “Predicting the unseen: a new method for accurate yield estimation in viticulture/horticulture” also known as the “Occlusion Project”.

The researchers on the team will develop a detailed, accurate digital 3D representation of a physical plant system at multiple growth stages to overcome occlusion, solving the greatest challenge to more extensively automating

In this programme, there will be a focus on grape yield, quality and associated management practices. It is a key
issue and inaccurate techniques used today can be costly and destroy grower and winery profits.

The project will help NZ Agritech and viticulture sector to grow and create new export opportunities. Agritech is
valued NZ$1.6B p.a. today and our viticulture sector is one of our most important and valuable horticulture industries, adding nearly NZ$2.4B per year to our GDP.

The immediate outcome of our research will be a new tool for NZ viticulture sector to better estimate and optimizes harvest yields and an opportunity for NZ Agritech companies to develop a new high-tech product for domestic and international markets. It will generate economic benefits up to NZ$70m per year. The next stage will be to align and expand our technology for NZ’s horticulture sector, particularly for fruits like kiwifruit, apples and emerging fruits (avocados/cherries/blueberries).

An important driver for future growth of the viticulture/horticulture sector will be a move of the primary industry towards lower emission activities, especially reducing animal-based food production. E.g. NZ’s Climate Change Commissions 2021 “Advice to the New Zealand Government [on its] emissions reduction plan” assumes in the tailwind’s scenario over 100,000 hectares converted from livestock agriculture to horticulture by 2050, nearly doubling the current area. This will further increase the need for innovative and automated solutions in the horticulture/viticulture industry.