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British apple supplier Adrian Scripps joins trial to evaluate special ‘listening’ technology, which could interpret stress signals in plants and help growers produce more sustainably

Plant stress signals

Image: Adobe Stock

UK company Adrian Scripps believes listening to what fruit trees ‘say’ holds the key to producing fruit more sustainably and minimising the use of finite resources including water and fertilisers.

The group, which is one of the UK’s largest growers of fresh apples including Pink Lady, Jazz and Bramley, is involved in a trial project run by Swiss company Vivent Biosignals which will assess how technology can interpret signals emitted by fruit and vegetable crops.

This week, Vivent said it was ready to advance the system’s development and roll out new colloborative trials after it was awarded by an Anglo-Swiss consortium that includes the Swiss agency Innosuisse and Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Together with various technical and academic groups, Vivent and Scripps have created a joint venture called Arboricrop to investigate the technology and its potential application.

“Receiving alerts to crop stress prior to visual symptoms should enable farmers to take action when, and only when needed,” commented James Simpson, Adrian Scripps’ managing director. “We are excited about the possibilities to learn more about how our plants respond to stresses and to improve our operations.”

James Simpson Adrian Scripps MD

James Simpson, MD of Adrian Scripps

Listen and learn

Vivent’s devices employ AI technology that apparently allows growers to understand what plants need. It does this by intercepting and deciphering the various signals that those plants emit under different conditions – for example water stress, high temperature, or a lack of nutrients

“We are thrilled to receive this substantial grant that will drive our efforts to pioneer a new era in agriculture,” said Carrol Plummer, Vivent’s CEO. “Our vision is to empower farmers with real-time insights from the very plants they cultivate, fostering a symbiotic relationship between agriculture and technology.”

The project’s next stage will involve farmers, technology providers, crop advisory companies, and research institutes.

According to Vivent, their shared goal is to achieve a new level of sophistication and efficiency in horticulture, and to improve the conservation of finite resources such as water and fertilisers.

By harnessing the natural abilities of plants to communicate their nutritional requirements, farmers will make better-informed decisions, optimise yields, and contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to farming, the group added.