Re-envisioning whole field sensing with B-Hive’s tuberscan

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Leading agri-tech business B-Hive Innovations continues to deliver innovative solutions for the fresh produce industry via an open and collaborative approach to addressing supply chain issues. Through developing TuberScan – an above and below ground crop sensing technology – it has taken a major leap towards eliminating potato food waste.

The research and development project for TuberScan is funded by Innovate UK’s Research and Innovation scheme – collaborating with Branston Ltd, The University of Manchester and Harper Adams University to create demonstration units.

Effie Warwick-John, project manager on TuberScan at B-Hive Innovations, says: “Potato growing is not precision agriculture so it can be challenging for growers to understand the performance of the whole crop underground. With TuberScan we are trying to address this lack of clarity.

“The current practice of random sampling followed by data extrapolation to cover the field does not always account for variance within the crop and can lead to inaccuracies in forecasting. At B-Hive Innovations, we asked: why use labour-intensive sample data when cutting-edge technology will achieve more accurate data across the whole field.

“We want to empower growers with meaningful data-led insights to make better-informed management decisions based on potato size, count and variation. When developed, TuberScan will help growers to more confidently identify areas of poor performance, when to make all-important burndown decisions, and where growers should target inputs of fertilizer or irrigation. All these choices can ultimately make or break a crop’s marketable yield.”

In its current iteration, the TuberScan system comprises of radar, GPS units and an in-field camera that surveys the field throughout the growing season. The project has utilised and adapted field-based technologies that were originally developed for the military – reapplying the knowledge and tools to the arable farming environment.

Vidyanath Gururajan, managing director at B-Hive Innovations, says: “At B-Hive our core purpose is fourfold: reduce food and energy waste, increase marketable yield, enhance produce quality and add value to farming fresh produce businesses.

“Placing actionable insights at the hands of growers to minimise wastage supports packers and retailers further along the supply chain and provides additional assurances on the quality of their potatoes, prior to hitting the shelves.

“By both understanding more closely what they will be harvesting and the opportunity to enhance marketable yield, farmers are better placed to market their produce, strengthen supply chain relationships and attain the best value based on their supply of potatoes and relative demand.”

B-Hive is working closely with growers to tailor the product to overcome the issues they face on an individual and everyday basis. As the TuberScan technology evolves, B-Hive hopes it will be a catalyst towards further innovations of precision-based equipment such as intelligent sprayers.

Vidyanath adds: “B-Hive Innovations is constantly refining and developing new technologies – through ground-breaking collaborations – to increase the accessibility for intelligence-led planning to potato farmers of varying scope and scale. By improving marketable yield and reducing crop variation, this technology aims to ultimately reduce the carbon footprint in the potato supply chain.”

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.