Are You a Precision Grower

Are you a “precision grower”?

Don’t answer this question too quickly. Some specialty crop growers are steeped in cutting-edge technologies yet don’t see themselves as being practitioners of precision agriculture. Conversely, there are thousands of row crop growers in the U.S. using fairly commonplace technology – GPS-guided autosteer, for instance – who consider themselves precision adopters.

So who’s right, and who’s wrong?

To answer this question, we must get to a durable definition of precision agriculture that is specific enough to distinguish between real users and non-users, yet is at an altitude high enough to transcend multiple crop areas and constantly evolving technologies. At Meister Media, we feel precision programs are as real for specialty crop growers they are for row crop growers. Let me tell you why.

An Enduring Definition of Precision

More than 20 years ago, a representative of a high-tech defense contractor that was vitally interested in entering ag markets gave me an in-person demo of GPS in action. It was a memorable experience, yet his definition of precision agriculture was equally unforgettable. “It’s really all about use of data,” he told me then. “Data gathering, data analysis, and data application – that’s it.”

I believe this definition of precision agriculture remains largely valid today, and it’s expressed in the accompanying chart that is guiding our ongoing coverage of PrecisionAg® Cotton. By our definition, a true precision grower must do all three of the following:

Data gathering (G). This once was mostly about grid soil sampling and yield monitors in row crops. But in today’s specialty crops, we have imagery from drones and airplanes and satellites, data from soil sensors and moisture sensors, sophisticated weather forecasting, and on and on. The list of data sources is now nearly endless, but it’s also nearly useless if there isn’t …

Data synthesis and analysis (Syn-An). In the early days of precision, this often meant one-dimensional colored field maps of, say, yield and fertilization. But today’s sophisticated farm management software platforms can house dozens of data points and layer them so that a grower, agronomist or consultant can compare, contrast, and analyze the data to their heart’s content. How did X variety do in field X in a rainy season with heavy insect pressure and light nitrogen application? Such programs can theoretically give you that answer.

Data application (Appl). Data gathering, synthesis, and analysis are moot if the wisdom they represent doesn’t reach the field – e.g., if the variable-rate planter breaks down, or if the hi-res camera installed to monitor pest populations and regulate the release of mating disruptors misfires. In fact, I think precision is soon going to see a resurgence in the design and engineering of practical field application tools.

In the meantime, I do think a fourth dimension of technology merits consideration in any precision grower’s operation:

Postharvest (PH). Technology, data, and connectivity – vital to linking up and giving the full picture to in-field production – are extending as well to packinghouse automation, to storage and transport sensors, and to the traceability/sustainability programs that are increasingly favored by large food manufacturers and retailers.

“Moneyball” for Agriculture

You ask: But haven’t we growers been doing all this all along – gathering, analyzing, and applying information?

You have. But here’s an analogy. Precision agriculture rightly has been compared to “Moneyball” in sports. Baseball scouts long have collected data on players and analyzed it and used it to make batting orders or draft-day decisions. And yet, are baseball executives who are armed merely with radar guns, laptop computers, and “hunches” about their players entitled to call themselves “Moneyball” practitioners? I think not.

They do merit that distinction, however, if they collect multiple data points on individual players in myriad game situations, mix data and crunch it in countless ways, and filter it through their own lens of practical experience – all in the service of producing pre-agreed-upon, highly measurable outcomes.

In baseball, the intended outcome of “Moneyball” typically is wins. In precision agriculture, it’s typically yield or crop quality, and often both.

So I ask again: Are you a precision grower? If you’re not, are you ready to become one? You may be closer than you think.

(Source – http://www.cottongrower.com/crop-inputs/precision-technology/are-you-a-precision-grower/)

Read more

Global Aerial Imaging Market Will Thrive Following the Rising Popularity in Precision Agriculture Through 2020

The research study covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global aerial imaging market for 2016-2020. To calculate the market size, the report considers the following:

  • The retail price of aerial imagery
  • The revenue generated from aerial imagery in business sectors, including oil and gas, mining, agriculture and forestry, building and infrastructure, government, sustainable energy, and military and defense
  • The revenue generated from leasing equipment (drones) for aerial imagery and aerial surveying in commercial applications

Technavio ICT analysts highlight the following four factors that are contributing to the growth of the global aerial imaging market:

  • High adoption in urban planning
  • Rising popularity in precision agriculture
  • Remote sensing and GIS in disaster management
  • Low-cost sensor drone technology

High adoption in urban planning

High-resolution digital aerial imagery has gained popularity among planners, developers, and engineers for real estate management, land calculations, road planning, and small-scale mapping for most land applications.

Information from aerial images, along with GIS mapping, is used for analysis, strategic planning, and evaluation in engineering and urban planning. In addition, aerial images support professional response and recovery agencies, governments, and communities to recover from hazards, including natural disasters.

According to Rakesh Kumar Panda, a lead analyst at Technavio for M2M and connected devices, “Aerial imagery provides a great deal of information on a project site, which is not visible on the ground level. These aerial images provide a thorough approach for site identification, evaluation, and selection. Aerial surveys assess land suitability and capability for future use. The images offer an elevated perspective, helping urban developers identify land use opportunities, the feasibility of proposals, and required design changes.”

Rising popularity in precision agriculture

Geospatial technologies are used in precision agriculture to map spatial variations in crop and soil conditions. They match inputs related to water, seed, and fertilizers to the variations by applying them at variable rates.

Aerial photography gathers the necessary information for crop analysis and management. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) can be measured using aerial imagery, which indicates the green vegetation levels of crops. Aerial imagery can be used to monitor crops, forests, and ecosystems for subtle changes in visible and near-infrared radiations.

“Due to technological advances in aerial imagery, farmers and ranchers worldwide are showing increased interest in aerial photography services. Aerial thermal photography helps determine crop temperatures, and along with NDVI, it provides comprehensive information on plants that need to be irrigated,” says Rakesh.

Remote sensing and GIS in disaster management

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, fires, and cyclones cause huge property and infrastructure loss. Remotely sensed aerial data can be used to assess the severity and impact of the damage posed by these disasters. GIS can be used to manage large amounts of data required for vulnerability and hazard assessment during the catastrophe prevention stage. Also, it acts as a tool for planning evacuation routes, designing centers for emergency operations, and integrating aerial imagery data with other relevant information for the design of disaster warning systems during the catastrophe preparedness stage.

Low-cost sensor drone technology

Innovations in drone technology have facilitated the transition from high-cost fixed wing aircraft to cheaper and more efficient UAV LiDAR models. Low-cost UAV LiDAR systems find applications commercial, government, and environment and conservation sectors.

Inexpensive drones with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities enable precision agriculture, which helps farmers reduce crop damage and increase crop yield. Low cost of technology, along with the easy integration of multiple technologies, provides surveyors and consulting engineers a significant opportunity for development. The cost of a high-end GPS-controlled drone with a camera is around USD 6,000. Military agencies can replace older warships and aircraft with low-cost drones to handle the intelligence aspects. This replacement will help reduce costs related to upgrading obsolete war equipment.

(Source – http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160418005536/en/Global-Aerial-Imaging-Market-Thrive-Rising-Popularity)

Read more

Satellite crop monitoring review

Having a lot of fragmented information about satellite crop monitoring systems (SCM) we decided to make more detailed review and compare different solutions where it is possible.

We took the most popular services available worldwide and compared them based on functionality.

Executive summary

Setup and update

* depends on the purchased images

One disadvantage of all systems is their high dependency on cloud coverage; therefore, we do not assign the maximum rating of 10 points to any of the systems. It is necessary to mention several of the systems are using a number of satellites – including microwave capable satellites. Such satellites “combined” decrease limitations resulting from cloud coverage and this significantly improves the frequency and quality of received data.

Maps

* depends on the purchased images
Image resolution is an essential quality criterion for satellite imaging. All services provide a wide range of resolutions. Some images are included in the basic service package, but usually the user charged an additional fee for high-resolution images. At the same time, some services already include high quality 15X15 meter images in their base service package; this eliminates complicated ordering procedures and makes the service more user friendly.
Fields

All services include a very efficient zoning tool based on different zoning criteria.

 On field measures

 

** potato and beet

We assigned Cropio the highest score (not maximum) due to: a. the variety of on field measures; b. quality and depth of data; like: weather forecasting for individual field, soil moisture at the different depths, dew point, N-deficit of amount of required fertilizer, etc. Cropio has more on field capabilities and they are measured in real life units (kg, m3, cm).

 

Agronomist tools

 

** potato and beet

Agronomist tools greatly differ when comparing to other systems making it somewhat difficult compare. Theoretically, each system has enough or almost enough data to use the agronomist tools we list in our review but only one system incorporates user friendly instruments for reviewing tasks.

 

Manager tools

 

*** available in additional product

We separate Management tools from Agronomist tools since not all of these are necessary for the small famers with only 20 or 50 hectares. Although these very valuable features for mid and large sized companies that from now, for example, can have a better understanding of the harvest value at any point in time.

 

Additional tools

 

**** available at additional cost

Additional tools are tools that are not directly related to crop monitoring but could be very applicable in other areas, like lowering the cost of soil testing and integration of other systems.

Read more