Autonomous Mechanical Thinning Using Scanning LIDAR
Hand thinning is a labor-intensive and expensive peach production practice. Mechanical thinning has been shown to be an economical method of reducing thinning cost. However, current mechanical thinning systems applied to perpendicular V systems require the operator to constantly steer the tractor to maintain engagement. This paper presents a system using a LIDAR to sense the canopy and automatically control the position of a modified Darwin string thinner position to maintain engagement. We demonstrate that the automated system is approximately as good as a human at maintaining canopy engagement by presenting blossom removal counts, and suggest that this may be an economically viable method of augmenting mechanical thinning.