Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops (CASC) is a matching grant program funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative and industry to develop comprehensive automation strategies and technologies for the specialty crop industry, with an initial focus on apples and nursery trees. We are a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional group comprised of engineers, scientists, extension educators, growers, and industry representatives in universities, government labs, and companies spanning five states, representing some 70% of all US apple production.
Our goals are:
- To develop information, mobility, and manipulation technologies that will provide the infrastructure for the deployment of sensors and tools that will enhance crop monitoring, foster better and quicker decision-making, reduce labor stress, and increase fruit quality and yields.
- To develop systems to automatically detect plant stress and disease and insect infestations; systems to inventory nursery trees (including caliper information) and crop load; and to integrate this data into information management databases that allow growers to quickly and efficiently assess fruit, tree, and farm conditions.
- To accelerate technology adoption by determining the return on investment of the technologies developed and the barriers to adoption.
- To reduce the time from technology development to adoption through a nationwide extension and outreach program.
CASC’s partners include academic institutions (Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, Washington State University, Oregon State University, and Purdue University), agricultural machinery companies (Vision Robotics, IONco, Toro, and Trimble), and a federal research laboratory (USDA Agricultural Research Service). CASC activities are overseen by an advisory panel of growers and stakeholders, including the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, US Apple Association, National Wine and Grape Initiative, California Citrus Quality Council, California Canning Peach Association, International Fruit Tree Association, and several US universities, among others.