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Engineers working in fruit harvest mechanization lack the modeling tools that would enable them to investigate the coupled effects of orchard layout, tree structure, fruit distribution, and harvester design on fruit picking productivity. Instead, engineers rely on a prototype-building and field-testing cycle, which is slow, costly, and cannot explore the above-mentioned interactions.
Our goal is to build and validate an open-source design tool that integrates mechanical simulation with validated models of fruit-bearing orchard trees, in order to evaluate the fruit picking productivity of selective fruit picking systems. As a first step in this direction, a novel method is presented, which utilizes high-frequency radio signals and trilateration to measure the locations of thousands of fruits at a rate of approximately one fruit per second. Location data were collected in numerous California pear and cling peach orchards for thousands of fruits. Based on these data, fruit maps and statistics—such as height distribution and horizontal distance distribution from the row centers—were computed.