Fruit Are Heavy

Designing and prototyping low-cost, low-fidelity technologies and services to support foraging as part of a diverse community economy


For foraging collectives, such as Concrete-Jungle, it’s a challenge to keep track of ripening fruit across a city — especially a city as vast as Atlanta. But to organize picks and deliveries, it is crucial to know when the fruit on a tree is ready. Currently, monitoring fruit trees is time and labor intensive. It involves sending volunteers out to the trees to track the fruit, repeatedly, over many weeks. Over the past several years, we have been collaborating with Concrete Jungle to explore how sensing technologies might assist in this process — by remotely monitoring the ripeness of fruit in trees.

Sensing ripeness can be a complex and expensive affair. However, one way that Concrete-Jungle knows when the fruit is ripe is by observing the bend of the tree branches — as fruit ripens, it becomes heavier, and the tree branches growing the fruit droop. This insight sparked an idea for a low-cost, low-fidelity sensor that could be placed in fruit trees, and, rather than trying to sensing the fruit directly, would simply sense the relative bend in a branch laden with fruit.

Fruit are Heavy is a simple sensing platform developed to monitor the bend of branches in fruit trees. The system includes a bend-sensor, electronics for processing the sensor readings and managing power, and a custom housing and water-resistant pack for discreetly attaching the sensors to a tree.

We have conducted two field tests of the platform, and we are currently exploring ways to optimize the sensing, power, and communication procedures.

This works was included in the exhibition Field Test: Radical adventures in the future farming., March 11- May 6, 2016, at the Science Gallery, Dublin.