PLANT-LEVEL INTELLIGENCE AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE
Farming is hard! The sheer amount of variables to take into account, the changing environment and increasing restrictions on the use of chemicals. We believe a precision approach is needed on the plant level. Our mission is to enable farmers to implement precision agriculture practices by giving you access to precision data about your farm at an affordable price. What can you do with this data? Some examples:
Stap 1: Intake
Every farm is unique and every farmer an expert in what he does. We plan an intake to get to know you, and discover what challenges are most pressing. We don't want to solve problems you don't have! Together we determine a course of action: what kinds of data can you use in practice, and what are the expected savings? And of course, we give a demo of our system, showing what kind of data you can expect.
Step 2: The first growing season
You might be our first customer in your geographic area. That means that we've not installed a SkyHive droneport yet, and you and your farm can become a droneport host. And once you are a host, many farmers around you will also gain access to our drone service network - providing you with extra income for every farmer that signs up! During the first growing season we fly over your crop fields on a weekly basis. Depending on your needs, we focus on specific usecases, such as weed detection, precision spraying maps or plant counting. At the end of the season, we evaluate the effectiveness of the precision techniques applied using a variety of metrics. The key indicators: decreasing cost of growing or increasing yield amount or quality
Step 3: Getting smart
By flying over many fields, we are able to create large datasets of what healthy plants should look like. We train our machine learning algorithms to detect any anomalies, and report them to you. For example, using thermal images, we can determine when a plant is heating up, a clear indication something is off. Also, we are able to estimate the amount of plants per field, leading to more accurate yield predictions. This all leads to a per-plant passport, and helps you to react quickly to problems, before it is too late! As we get to know your farm and your plants better, the algorithm's effectiveness increases too.
In practice: The SkyHive at van den Borne Potatoes
Tective has partnered up with Van den Borne potatoes, one of the largest potato farmers in the Netherlands, to start fully automated surveying during the 2023 growing season. Using the unique facilities provided at Van den Borne, including a restricted RPAS airspace, this location provides everything needed to fully incorporate drone data for Variable Rate Application and disease detection. Together with AgroBots, a consortium of farmers, robot builders and knowledge institutions, the SkyHive is becoming an integral part of precision farming.
Why do you use drones? And what about satellite images?Drones are able to get close to your crop, creating unique close-up images. With millimeter level details, this means that we can give a good picture of the health of the plant. This is not possible with satellite data: the resolution is often at the meter level, which means that we cannot separate individual plants from each other. This means that we cannot intervene at plant level. Satellite image is often a good start - and we are happy to help you with that!
What happens to the data you collect? What about privacy, and who owns it?All data that we collect on your field is and remains your own. We only shoot above the field, not outside it. All data is only forwarded via encrypted connections and is stored on a cloud server within the EU. We do require your permission to process the data and use it to improve our detection algorithms. If applicable, we also ask for your permission to share the data with a 3rd party, for example if this provides access to special expertise (such as detecting a specific disease).
Retrieving data sounds nice, but data alone won't help me, will it?It depends on the application. You can do a lot with the data itself. For example, we can count plants or detect diseases and dehydration. These insights enable you to use your crop protection or watering in a more targeted way and at the right time. Some use cases require special equipment - think of a precision sprayer and a tractor with an RTK GPS system.
Automatic flying: that sounds dangerous?We fly remotely, if the regulations allow it. This means that a pilot is always watching from a distance and can intervene. The drone always has a backup communication link and follows pre-planned routes. These procedures are tested, validated and kept up to date in consultation with the aviation authority. If the regulations do not allow this, there is a pilot on site who controls the drone.
What happens during periods of bad weather?We cannot fly during rainy or stormy periods. Not only because the drone cannot withstand this, but also because the sensor data is often not usable during these types of periods. We see that a frequency of 1 flight per 10 days during the important periods in the growing season is enough - and then it turns out that in practice such long periods without a suitable day occur almost never.
What does the application of your data mean to me?It is generally known that applying precision techniques to the entire cycle - from soil preparation to harvesting and processing - can lead to a 30% increase in yield and a 30% cost reduction. In practice it appears that the savings on the use of chemicals are absolutely achievable. For a crop such as potatoes, where the annual costs of crop protection products amount to €800 per hectare, this can quickly yield €200 per hectare per year. Savings on water use by watering more precisely and at the right time are also significant. Ultimately, it is a matter of trying and measuring to determine which data can lead to which savings and extra revenue.
Where is your service available?Currently only in the Netherlands. This also depends on the location of your business. If the airspace above your company is not available, for example because your plots are close to an airport, flying a drone with us is not possible. To get an idea, you can use the https://map.godrone.nl/ As a rule, no drone flights are allowed in a red-colored area. If your plots are located in such an area, the options are limited.
In March of 2023 we are aiming to start pilots in Flevoland, Zeeland and Brabant. During the pilot, which will cover the entire growing season (March to October), and will provide 10 precision scans of participating fields. These scans will include RGB (regular camera) data at centimeter resolution, as well as multispectral and thermal images. These images will be used for the following usecases:
· Counting of plants on field to determine emergence rates
· Individual plant passports: monitoring of plants during season on signs of disease (such as Phytophtora in potatoes) to allow for rapid intervention
· Biomass growth monitoring (NDVI index) to work towards variable rate application: saving on chemical usage
· Heat stress detection: using thermal images to determine heat stress in plants during periods of drought
Total cost per hectare per year (at least 10 scans) is will be around €150. We aim to service at least 100 hectares in a 10 x 10 km area for a pilot program to go ahead.