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Harvest and Logistics Optimisation – Oil Palm

Our computational modelling has been used to improve the efficiency of the palm oil harvest – directing collection trucks to ensure that as much ripe fruit is extracted, as freshly as possible

Challenge

Oil palm is grown on large plantations of hundreds or even thousands of hectares in size, fruits constantly, and must be harvested by hand within a week’s window of optimum ripeness. Once harvested, the fruits must be delivered to a mill to be pressed and palm oil extracted, before they degrade – within 24 hours. The size of the plantations, time-limited nature of harvest and processing, and scattered geography of the mills means this is a system ripe for modelling and optimisation, to improve upon current rules of thumb.

Solution

Sensonomic have developed a computational simulation of palm oil production, collection, and processing. In the simulation, users test different options and find routes which collect the most oil palm fruits over the shortest journey, and ensure a steady supply to mills. 

We are very aware of the environmental impacts of palm oil plantations, and their increasing pressure on forests. Therefore, not only are we looking to increase the yield from existing plantations (whereby relieving the pressure to expand plantations into primary forest), but also to enable environmental risk monitoring to de-incentivise deforestation.

We have built capabilities into the simulation to rate palm oil plantations by their risk of expanding and causing deforestation. The simulation allows aggregators to test how avoiding high-risk plantations affects profits from palm oil, and also to preferentially route trucks to lower-risk plantations. Aggregators can use the simulation to find their optimal risk tolerance balancing profits and forest loss.

Results

Through this project we showed how improving harvest and logistics practices following our optimisation tool would lead to a 12.5 % increase in revenue on any given plantation.

To access a demo of this tool, and discuss your needs, please get in touch.

A red mechanical picker on a track through a palm oil plantation, with palm trees on either side and fruits lying on the floor

Question

Is it possible to increase the amount of palm oil extracted from an existing plantation by optimising harvest and logistics? Which route should trucks take to pick up as much fresh and ripe fruit and deliver a constant supply to the mills?