Tracking down fruit

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Tatura Smart farm research director, Angela Avery.

Consumers have been able to identify the orchards that grew some of their fruit, and if scientists are successful, we will soon be able to trace the tree and maybe the branch the fruit came from.

“Traceability” has been a by-word in the livestock industry, to improve food safety and disease control, and soon that chain may be applied to fruit.

Scientists at the Tatura Smart Farm are part of a Victoria-wide, three-year, $11 million program to further develop traceability systems across agriculture.

The horticultural sector of the research is focused on Tatura.

Research director Angela Avery said the more data that was available, the more options that were available for scientists and orchardists.

Traceability will lead to more efficiency, reducing production costs.

It could potentially reduce energy costs, impact on quality, and deliver more data.

“If you can prove, for example, that a certain pear was produced in a carbon-neutral way, then a person in the market can scan the fruit and find out for themselves,” Ms Avery said.

She said it was an opportunity to be able to tell the back-story behind fruit.

Ms Avery said the horticultral tracebility project had been established this financial year and was focused on the Tatura site with the support of the Agri-Bio centre at Bundoora.

The Smart Farm in Ferguson Rd, hosted a field day on Friday, March 25, which brought together agricultural start-up companies, government departments and a small group of farmers.

The day included a tour of the experimental sundial orchard which has been designed to study the effects of lights on yield, fruit quality and ecophysiology. It will also be used to evaluate sensors and sensing platforms, robotics and automation.

Innovative: An aerial view of the “sundial” orchard at the Tatura Smart Farm, which is testing the best orientation of tree rows to capture sunlight.