Apple growers looking to adopt tractor-mounted camera technology to bring a new level of precision to their orchard management could save 60% of the cost, thanks to a new Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) grant.

Following representations from Agrovista Precision and Aurea Imaging, the government is making FEFT funding available for any make of tractor-mounted, high-resolution sensor system plus an in-cab terminal that provides on-board, real-time processing of data that can be uploaded to a computer or the cloud.

Pricing based on Aurea Imaging’s TMS TreeScout suggests that growers could net £12,900 towards the cost of the equipment.

Agrovista Precision manager Graeme Barrett said: “This funding offers a great opportunity for orchard managers to take a big step forward in precision management.

“TreeScout, Aurea’s tractor-mounted sensor that was launched in the UK last summer, is owned and operated by growers and replaces drones as the primary source of information gathering.

“It provides a quick, reliable and economical method of collecting and analysing data, such as blossom density and tree vigour, to help growers pinpoint inputs to maximise production of first-class fruit.

“We are delighted that our efforts to obtain a grant have paid off, particularly at a time when interest in precision orchard management is growing quickly.”

Agrovista Fruit agronomist Tom Johnson said the funding would help open the door to significant economic gains.

“Managing each tree as an individual helps to create a more homogenous orchard. In collaboration with their agronomists, growers can more accurately match inputs to need using GPS-guided variable rates, producing a more uniform fruit set and improving quality and yield consistency.”

Work on precision thinning by Aurea Imaging in the Netherlands showed a typical yield uplift of 6t/ha, worth over £2,600/ha.

The first application window runs until 11 April, with two more windows expected in the current year.