Heat stress impacts berry production

Harvests affected by high temperatures 

Case study overview

Season Farms is a four hectare operation located in Gordonton, in the Waikato region of New Zealand. The farm grows strawberries, raspberries, passionfruit, figs and fruit trees in greenhouses.



Aziz El Kahlaoui is African Blue’s Horticultural Manager and has worked at the company since 2007. One of his major challenges was the accessibility of climate and plant health data across all nine farms to inform farm management decisions. In October 2022, African Blue turned to WayBeyond’s FarmRoad digital agronomy solution as the single platform to continuously monitor and visualise their farms' climate and plant health data. Now, Aziz can make timely decisions without having to travel to every farm.

The problem

  • Manual data capture
  • Siloed climate and plant health data that required retrieval
  • In-person farm visits required to make key decisions
  • Lack of visibility on risk of frost
  • Managing humidity levels to mitigate the risk of disease

The solution

  • FarmRoad Manage, including:
    • sensor network, capturing temperature, humidity, PAR, RAD, barometric pressure and CO2 levels
    • crop registration and scouting
    • crop management software
    • data visualization and analysis
    • activity feed
    • real-time alerts

The outcomes

  • Continuous digital data capture
  • Access climate and plant health data in real-time across all farms
  • Improve crop management decision making remotely
  • Anticipate risk of frost
  • Limit pest and disease outbreaks
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“The moment you start having stress you start to have a negative impact on your capacity of production. You know you have to pay for the damage in some way. It’s going to affect you over the long term.”

Guillermo DiGuiseppe, Agronomist, Season Farms

Investigating a drop in production

Guillermo DiGiuseppe is the agronomist and crop manager at Season Farms. During summer months he noticed the high temperatures were having a negative impact on production and investigated further.

Although air temperature was being monitored, air temperature is only a proxy for plant temperature, and an approximate one at that. In some cases the difference between the two can be as much
as 7°C. Guillermo noted:

“Many sensors only provide an approximation of plant temperature, they can’t tell you the actual plant temperature. We see a clear difference between air temperature and the temperature of the strawberry leaf. It would be better to have a temperature sensor on the leaf rather than a general air sensor”.

guillermo-berries-1200 Season Farms' Crop Manager and Agronomist Guillermo DiGiuseppe

So using an infrared thermometer, he measured leaf temperatures of several plants over the course of a typical summer day. He discovered these temperatures were getting up to as high as 35°C, resulting in overly stressed plants.

Plants experiencing high temperatures close their stomata to conserve water, but by doing so sacrifice their ability to cool themselves through water evaporation. Thus, extreme plant temperatures reduce the productivity of the plant.

This information provided a strong business case for the farm to implement whitewashing of the greenhouses. This method is commonly used to reduce heat and light during the hotter summer months. The whitewashing was conducted shortly after Guillermo’s discovery.


Environment monitoring reveals the issue

The solution came in the form of FarmRoad sensors. Six sensor units were deployed after the whitewashing implementation to monitor the plant temperature and radiation levels, both inside and outside. The FarmRoad unit's external plant temperature sensor coupled with its built-in PAR and RAD sensors meant that everything Guillermo needed to track was monitored continuously. Most growers capture light readings from sensors outside of the greenhouse. Having light sensors inside enables the grower to observe how much light loss can be attributed to their glass, plastic or whitewash.



Using the data provided by the FarmRoad sensors, the farm was able to conclude that the implementation of the whitewash had increased production by 20-30% and an increase in strawberry fruit size. Moreover, FarmRoad was able to show the reduction in radiation light by comparing the inside radiation with the outside radiation. (Fig. 1) It also showed that plant temperature barely exceeded 30°C throughout the hottest summer period, a positive outcome of their solutioning. (Fig. 2)

These two metrics combined with the production increase, proved the value of the whitewashing and validated their decision to invest.

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Improvements for the future

Moving forward from the business case analysis of whitewash, Guillermo sees other benefits of using FarmRoad. Due to changing climate/seasonal temperatures, Season Farms want to dial in the timing of whitewash application – in future it may be pushed earlier or later, depending on what the plant data reveals.

Being able to monitor the metrics of air temperature, inside radiation and plant temperature will provide these insights for a timely application. The team at Season Farms are confident that FarmRoad will continue to help them improve crop productivity. 

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