University of Florida

Research: Ag Production Engineering Projects

The following are current CRIS research projects in Information Systems:

Sensing Technologies for Precision Agriculture In Florida

Investigators: Lee, W. S.; Ehsani, M. R.; Burks, T. F.; Schueller, J. K

Precision agriculture is defined as "managing each crop production input - fertilizer, limestone, herbicide, insecticide, seed, etc. - on a site-specific basis to reduce waste, increase profits, and maintain the quality of the environment" (Ess and Morgan, 2003). To implement precision agriculture for efficient crop management, growers need to know the status of crop and soil throughout the crop production periods from planting to harvesting. Once the crop status is known, growers can make correct management decisions, so that they can save time, labor, and money and thereby increase yield and profit. However, currently there are not many sensing systems commercially available for detecting crop status.During the next five years, we are planning to develop different sensing systems that could help site-specific crop management for Florida's major crops, including citrus, sugarcane, and other high value crops. The sensor systems will have to be very user-friendly, so that growers could utilize them easily without much prior training or experience.

Objectives

The overall goal of this project is to develop sensing technologies for site-specific crop management in Florida so that growers can increase yield and profit and maintain the quality of the environment. Specific objectives are:

  • To develop sensing technologies for crop status including nutrient, water, disease, yield, and other crop information.
  • To evaluate the developed sensing technologies in actual crop production.
  • To combine the developed sensing technologies through sensor fusion toward the development of an integrated sensing system that can measure multiple crop information simultaneously.
  • To disseminate the developed technologies in Florida growers through various means (commercialization, website, extension publications, and trade magazines) so that they could adopt the technologies, increase yield and profit, and maintain the competitiveness of crop production.

Enzyme Stabilization and Rapid Methods for Citrus and Fruit Juice Quality

ABE Faculty Participants: Reyes-De-Corcuera, J.I.; Ehsani, M. R

Assuring the production and quality of US agricultural commodities, processed foods and beverages is vital to the country's security and market competitiveness. Fresh and processed foods need to be safe as well as nutritious and good tasting. Maximizing sensory attributes and nutritional value while retaining fresh-like quality and ensuring safety are requirements for all food processors eager to conquer diverse emerging markets. This research will focus on developing novel sensors, biosensors or rapid assays to replace the current assays for pectinesterase and oil content in juice. Physical, biochemical and electrochemical strategies will be used. We also expect to develop biosensors for indirect rapid detection of food pathogens. Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB)is one of the most threatening citrus diseases in the world and it is gravely affecting Florida's industry. Rapid in-field diagnosis of the disease can help in reducing its spread.

Objectives

  • Assuring safety, nutritional value and sensory attributes of foods is vital for the US food processing and agricultural industries. The goals of this project are (I) to carry out exploratory research on stabilization and activation of citrus and other food enzymes and (II) to develop new and improved methods for plant and food pathogen detection, quality assurance of food and beverage products. Most foods are very complex biological systems that undergo metabolic, chemical and physical changes from harvesting to processing. The specific objectives of this research are:
  • To characterize the kinetics of pectic enzymes and lipases, immobilized and in solution under different hydrostatic pressure and temperature conditions.
  • To develop electrochemical enzyme biosensors for selective quantification of fruit juice quality and plant metabolism.
  • To develop rapid methods for the determination of citrus oil.
  • To develop a rapid method for in-field determination of titratable acidity in non-climacteric fruit.
  • Identify biomarkers for rapid detection of citrus Huanglongbing.
  • To develop rapid methods for food microbiology.

Machine Enhancement for Citrus Mechanical Harvesting Equipment

ABE Faculty Participants: Ehsani, M. R.; Lee, W. S

Currently, the majority of citrus is hand-harvested. Citrus harvesting has been a labor intensive operation and labor shortage is a major issue for the citrus industry. The cost of harvesting Florida's citrus now exceeds the total cost of production. This major difference in harvesting cost, which mainly originates from the difference in labor costs, puts Florida citrus growers at a disadvantage in the global market. In recent years, new immigration laws and competition from other labor intensive industries such as construction has caused a significant labor shortage. The recent labor shortage substantially increased the need for cost effective mechanical harvesting systems and focused industry attention on mechanical harvesting technologies that can reduce the costs associated with harvesting. In general, there are two types of harvesting systems commercially used in citrus groves; continuous canopy shake and trunk shake systems. Both harvesting techniques come with or without a catch frame and are suitable for different sizes and shapes of orchards. The overall goal of this project is to enhance the quality of these machines and to identify and propose solutions to remove issues that prevent adoption of these machines for citrus production in Florida.

Objectives

The long term goal of this research program is to enhance the profitability and global competitiveness of citrus production in Florida by reducing citrus harvesting cost. The specific goals are:

  • To study the existing commercially available mechanical harvesting equipment such as continuous canopy shaking machines, fruit pick up machines, harvesting aids, and harvesting trucks to evaluate their field performance and to identify the ways and means of improving their efficiency.
  • To develop tools and equipment for evaluating the performance of mechanical harvesting machines and to study the vibrational characteristics of citrus canopy due to canopy shaker mechanical harvesters under laboratory and field conditions and with or without abscission compounds.
  • To study the effect of harvesting parameters on percent fruit removal and tree damage; also to determine the optimal harvesting parameters for a given orchard and tree variety.
  • To design and develop an automation system for existing mechanical harvesting systems that can increase the productivity of the operator while improve the overall quality of harvesting.

Integrated Systems Research and Development in Automation and Sensors for Sustainability of Specialty Crops

Investigator: Ehsani, R.

The rapidly changing and very competitive agricultural market requires new and innovative farming strategies. Labor shortages, new pests and diseases have increased the cost of production and harvesting and put specialty crop growers in the U.S. at a disadvantage in the global market. The ultimate goal of this project is to increase the profitability of specialty crop production. New sensor technology such as microelectromechanical (MEMS), bioMEMS, nanotechnology, chemical and biological sensors along with advanced communication technologies such as wireless sensor networks can be used for better detection of pests and diseases and better management of risk factors. Also, similar sensors along with advanced automation techniques can be used in developing a new smart generation of agricultural equipment and harvesting machines for specialty crops. These goals can be met through multi-disciplinary and multi-state research. This project initiates a forum to discuss and collaborate on these topics with colleagues at different universities with similar interests.

Objectives

  • Develop sensors and sensing systems which can measure and interpret the parameters
  • Design and evaluate automation systems which incorporate varying degrees of mechanization and sensors to assist specialty crop industries with labor, management decisions, and reduction of production costs

Site Specific Crop Management

Investigator: Lee, W.S.

Coordination of research and technology will be continued among different participating states through various meetings and conferences such as NCERA-180 annual meeting, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual meeting, and International Precision Agriculture Conferences as well as personal communications. Networking will be very important for researchers in different states and cooperation will be planned among them. The overall goal for this networking and cooperation will be to increase profit for growers while maintaining the quality of the environment.

Objectives

The objectives for this project are to:

  • facilitate the continued coordination of multidisciplinary research and technology transfer on SSCM among participating states;
  • use the activities of the NCERA-180 to coordinate a response to the scientific challenges and intellectual opportunities surrounding this concept;
  • develop methodologies and relationships to respond to increasing and volatile input, especially fertilizer, costs and their effects on spatial crop management;
  • continue to facilitate collaborative activities to accomplish scientific publication of research, develop and implement education and technology transfer projects, and the organization of symposia at regional, national and international meetings, and
  • improve the university and college educational and extension programs by bringing together the information from the various NCERA-180 members and sharing teaching modules.

Soil and Nutrient Management to Minimize Water Quality Impacts

ABE Faculty Participant: Lee, W.S.

Economical and environmental sustainability of both tourism and agricultural industries in Florida is critical to the state. While maintenance of soil fertility is critical for economically sustained crop production, tendency to over-fertilize is often strong, particularly as an insurance against yield reductions. Excessive use of fertilizer and lime will result in soil pH and nutrient imbalances resulting in loss of economic yields. However, the resulting environmental impact from inappropriate nutrient management can be significant, particularly with regard to overall economic losses. A greater risk exists when both organic and inorganic nutrient sources are used because lack of reliable estimates for nutrient release and availability. Nutrient management essentially includes water management and management of nutrients from various sources such as soluble fertilizers, manures, waste streams, etc., as its integral components, along with soluble sources management for optimum economic agricultural productivity and environmental viability.

Objectives

The objectives for this project are to:

  • To determine nutrient requirements of agronomic and horticultural crops for optimum economic yields
  • Developing and using calibrated soil-test methods
  • To determine the fate and impact of applied N, P and trace metals from various sources on water quality and natural resources