UTIA Faculty Dissertation Awarded with Prestigious International Prize

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Biosystems Assistant Professor Hao Gan Recognized with Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize for 2020

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture faculty member has been recognized with a global honor for his work in specialty crops and yield mapping. Hao Gan, an assistant professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, has been awarded the 2020 Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize for his Ph.D. work in the areas of specialty fruit crops and yield mapping. The work was conducted at the University of Florida under the direction of Wonsuk “Daniel” Lee, a professor specializing in precision agriculture.

Gan was chosen as the first-place winner among three other award winners who hail from the U.S., Germany and India.

A biennial international prize that recognizes the best Ph.D. dissertation on agricultural mechanization, the Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize automatically includes an invitation for the winners to join the Club of Bologna, a prestigious organization whose mission focuses on identifying strategies for development of agricultural mechanization around the globe. Gan along with the other three finalists have all been invited to attend the Club of Bologna member meetings from 2021 to 2025. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2020 prize was delayed and was officially announced in October at the most recent Club of Bologna meeting.

Gan’s dissertation addressed the industry issue of yield mapping in specialty crops, specifically oranges. For yield mapping of this crop to occur with reliability, technology needed to be developed that could differentiate between the leaves of an orange tree and the immature citrus fruit, which display similar colors. Gan created a novel active thermal imaging method that used a water mist to induce temperature differences between the fruit and the leaves, thereby bypassing the traditional methods of using color cameras to estimate yields. This development will support orange growers and allow them to better assess their crop yield and determine early in the season the amount of fruit expected. Yield mapping helps growers make crop production management decisions earlier in the growing season and allows for better planning for harvesting and marketing the crop.

“It’s a great honor to receive the Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize from the Club of Bologna, and the fact that my work is recognized on such a prominent stage allowed me to connect with the top experts in the world in the area of agriculture mechanization,” states Gan. “It is a great opportunity for me to learn and improve my vision for future development in this area.”

Gan serves as the team advisor for senior engineering design students within the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. He also teaches several upper-level courses ranging from electrical and electronic principles to research problems in biosystems engineering. Gan joined the department in 2019 and has led an exciting research group devoted to agricultural automation and machine vision.

In addition to the research completed for his Ph.D., Gan has also received a grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) for his work to develop a system of multi-angle and multi-range cameras to monitor commercial broiler flocks and enhance raising practices across the poultry industry. He is also currently leading projects on robotic and camera systems to support bees and newts. 

“Dr. Gan was exceptionally mentored by Dr. Lee at the University of Florida, and we are excited that he decided to join the faculty in the UT Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science,” adds Julie Carrier, department head. “Dr. Gan already has received external funding that is used to support his energetic research team.”

In addition to his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the University of Florida, Gan holds a master’s in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana, and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Yangzhou University in China.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.

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