UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Research aimed at helping growers improve efficiency, reduce costs and overcome labor shortages will be enhanced with the recent completion of a new agricultural engineering shop at Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center.
Crews broke ground in late 2019 for the facility, which will enable the fabrication and testing of machinery and precision technologies designed to automate orchard production operations such as crop thinning, pruning, irrigation, harvesting, pest management and frost protection.
Located in Biglerville, Adams County, in the heart of Pennsylvania's fruit belt, the Fruit Research and Extension Center — often referred to as FREC — is an important resource for the state's tree-fruit industry, which produces apples, peaches and other fruit valued at about $130 million annually. The new fabrication shop was made possible in part by funding from the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania.
A new study led by Long He, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will be among the first projects to benefit from the fabrication facility. He recently received a nearly $423,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a robotic green-fruit thinning system.