Supermarkets require cauliflowers to be clean, well presented and consistent in size. Unfortunately, individual plant growth rates vary significantly and it is virtually impossible to estimate the size and position of the curd (the part of the cauliflower you eat) when they are completely hidden by leaves.
Traditional manual harvesting methods rely on a ‘slaughter’ harvest, taking all the plants in one pass and accepting the loss in crop value through some plants being lifted too early or too late.
3DX-Ray Limited worked with two companies, agricultural machine manufacturers Richard Pearson and growers United Vegetables, to find a more economical and less wasteful way of lifting and trimming cauliflowers ready for the supermarket shelf.
Working under a LINK grant research project, 3D X-Ray investigated methods for automatically identifying which growing cauliflowers were the optimum size and to control the cutting heads to crop and later trim the vegetables.
The prototype system developed by the Company uses its own 2DX X-ray Camera. As the system is towed along a row of plants, an image is captured of the cauliflowers and an image processor then identifies which ones are ready for harvesting.
Once cut and lifted on board the harvesting equipment, the cauliflowers pass a second X-ray camera that locates the top and bottom of the curds so that the trimming knives can prepare the vegetables for the supermarket shelf.
Size selection, cutting, lifting and trimming are all completely automated.