Editor’s Note: Anastasia Volkova is CEO of FluroSat, an Australian agricultural data startup. Today the company announced it was awarded a grant alongside local industry partners Agworld, PCT Agcloud, CSIRO, and AgLink Australia to support and build an interoperable agronomic analytics engine. This engine aims to resolve many of the inherent challenges surrounding agricultural data. We asked Volkova to tell us more.
Unlike the common perception of agriculture being “data-poor,” agronomists and growers are in fact “drowning” in data. With new satellite imagery coming every three days, on-farm sensors sending updates 24/7 and application maps piling up on their machinery hard drives after every tractor run, there is more agricultural data added daily to a modern farm’s archive than a human operator can be expected to analyze.
Yet, all this data is a source of valuable insights and can be a factual basis for on-farm management decisions, such as the efficient and economical application of fertilizer, timing of spraying operations, and allocation of workers’ time.
All of these decisions need to be made daily in a timely and efficient manner for them to have a meaningful impact on farm operations, but this is at odds with the large volume of un-analyzed data coming in each day.
Farmers and their advisors want to adopt new technologies that would make their enterprises more profitable, efficient and sustainable. However, the ag technologies promising to do just that, often expect the farmer and their advisors to deal with various problems relating to that agricultural data load.
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As a result, we see farmers either focusing on adopting just a few key products or delaying their decision to adopt digital tools altogether until the problems they encounter are resolved.
The Common Problems Challenging Growers and Advisors
AgLink Australia, representing one of Australia’s largest agronomy networks, has identified the following key problems related to the adoption of agricultural data technologies:
1. Disjointed nature of datasets locked into various platforms preventing effective contextualization of agricultural data
2. Time-consuming low-level data viewing, analysis, and interpretation preventing the use of data for agronomic insights and recommendations
3. The disconnect between the proven crop science and modern enterprise-scale farming
Ag professionals will easily recognize these challenges that result in: numerous browser tabs with different data platforms; juggling machinery layers, satellite imagery and yield maps all in different formats to compare patterns and derive correlations; uncertainty in how to apply the most recent findings in crop nutrition and protection to their own farming operation.
Luckily, it does not have to be this way.
Interoperability, Contextualization and Adaptiveness
FluroSat and industry partners Agworld, PCT Agcloud, CSIRO, and AgLink Australia, have recently been awarded a CRC-P project grant to support and build an interoperable agronomic analytics engine that aims to be the first of its kind working collaboratively to resolve the above-mentioned problems.
Built as an extension of the FluroSat’s FluroSense platform, the engine will combine locally- and remotely-sourced agricultural data to detect crop stress and generate nutrient and chemical application recommendations tailored to each farm’s unique cropping history, operations, soil and climatic conditions.
What Does Flow of Farm Data Look Like Now?
The Fluorescence engine will accommodate the various datasets that exist now but currently, reside in “silo’s.” Observations and farm records in farm management software like Agworld enable cross-collaboration by both agronomist and farmer. PCT Agcloud is well experienced in transforming machine and field data sets into robust data layers that are currently viewable in farm management software such as Agworld. Modeling information by CSIRO is also a well-utilized tool by agronomists to help understand the likely impact weather, moisture, cropping history and nutritional inputs have on projected yield.
This currently creates the need for multiple browser tabs if agronomists and farmers want to create actions based on available data sets. For example, a remotely captured image suggests that one area of a field may be low in Nitrogen, the agronomist will need to open multiple software platforms, and use an ad hoc analytical approach to decide what the best recommendation is to make. It is impossible for an agronomist to systematically analyze all data sets and generate a recommendation in context with all this data.
This project will bring data layers that currently reside with the project partners, AgLink, Agworld, and PCT Agcloud so FluroSense can engineer a well informed (by data) and modeled (insights from CSIRO) recommendation based on weather forecast, historical information and real-time observations. A truly contextualized actionable insight.
Backed by Science
Agronomists require actionable insights based on data and science to make timely, profitable and more precise decisions. The FluroSense engine coupled with CSIRO knowledge (through existing decision tools or models) will contextualize data layers and carry out advanced analytics and modeling to create these actionable insights. Observations made by agronomists (in Agworld) and additional processed data (from PCT Agcloud) will be introduced into the analytics engine to continue building “intelligence” creating scalable, automated, accurate and contextualized insights for farmers and their agronomist.
Furthermore, the use of machine learning techniques and data sets such as soil characteristics, identification of crop stress, and other factors that influence crop performance and ultimately an agronomic response, will enable FluroSense to automatically adapt to every farm’s unique management history and climatic conditions. This can make the system truly scalable across the crop types, geographies, and crop management scenarios.
Finally, bringing all of the elements from every project partner together ensures that every piece of data needed for a well-informed decision not only unlocks significant time savings but becomes the benchmark for next level, agronomic analytics.
The CRC-P project helps the consortium to establish a three-year-long partnership, to deliver this comprehensive agronomic analytics starting from the proof of concept in the 2019 growing season to global market availability in 2021.
The Mission to Elevate the User Experience and Gains
At FluroSat, we believe that seamless and rewarding user experience is a must in the modern age of digital technology. Together with the CRC-P partners, we are committed to delivering this next-level user experience to the agricultural industry by cutting across the gigabytes of data, a plethora of browser tabs, and task-specific interfaces of a range of existing management tools.
We believe that as an outcome of this partnership, covering the hard yards of technology development to reach interoperability, and readiness for the enterprise-scale, we will be able to not only supercharge the adoption of precision agriculture tools but to elevate the gains of the agribusinesses adopting them in the process.
FluroSat is an award-winning agri-tech start-up company which uses the power of scientific modelling, AI and satellite-based remote sensing to deliver early, accurate and actionable information on crop health and nutrition to farmers and their advisors.
Agworld, a major global tech company and the independent platform for the grower and their service providers to collaborate on through connectivity and standardised data.
About PCT Agcloud
PCT Agcloud, is an Australian independently owned and operated company, providing one of the most robust precision ag data analysis platforms for Precision Ag consultants and API integrators in Australia and across the globe.
About AgLink Australia
AgLink Australia has the largest group of qualified professionals providing agronomy and animal production advice, supported by the supply of reputable products operating in all Australian states and territories.
At CSIRO, we solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. Our diverse food and farming research ranges from studying the make-up of our crops and animals to the methods and food processing technologies we develop to produce healthier, safer and more sustainable food.