Bert Edward Roper (1923-2012)
Winter Garden Citrus Products Cooperative
Florida Citrus Processors Association
National Juice Products Association
Tree-See Spray System
Organic Orange Grove
Bert Edward Roper was born on November 7, 1923 in Winter Garden, Florida, as a fourth generation citrus grower. By 1938, at the age of fifteen, Roper was working in the family groves, hoeing trees for 10 cents an hour. Roper attended Emory University where he received a chemistry degree shortly before joining the U.S. Navy. After serving in World War II, Roper attended the University of Pittsburgh where he worked on his master’s degree. Roper was only able to spend one year working on this degree. He would later return to finish his degree in 1958.
In addition to working in his family’s groves, Roper bought several of his own. The advent of frozen concentrate orange juice brought the need for new production facilities, and Roper was one of the first to operate a fully-functioning concentrate plant; the Winter Garden Citrus Products Cooperative. He spent four years with the Cooperative before returning to the Roper groves. During this time, Roper also became involved with several citrus groups including the Florida Citrus Processors Association and the National Juice Products Association.
In the 1970s Roper noticed the wastefulness of grove spraying, where a great deal of spray was not landing where it was needed. Roper began to develop a system using reflected light that would allow a computer to “see” where the targeted tree was, and turn on and shut off spray nozzles accordingly. Using technology from Kodak and the help of two engineers, Roper created the Tree-See system that could spray an acre of citrus with 10 gallons of liquid instead of the usual 250 gallons. Roper and his son Charlie built test designs in their home kitchen, and the final unit was tested and proved in the Roper family groves. The Tree-See system is lauded for being environmentally conscious and an effective cost-saver.
Roper is also well known for his concerns for migrant workers and their families. He was one of the first growers to establish health clinics and child care programs for migrant workers. Roper is also the namesake of the annual Bert E. Roper Humanitarian award that is given to a deserving migrant student in Orange County, Florida.
Some of Roper’s most recent endeavors include developing an organic orange grove, constructing an environmentally green building in Winter Garden and reopening a North Carolina emerald mine to gem enthusiasts. Roper has been honored with induction into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2001. In recognition of his many years of service to the Florida citrus industry, Bert Roper was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 2004.
Tree-See Sprayer System: www.treesee.com