Aerospace giant Airbus has partnered with Agrimetrics, the food and farming sector’s data marketplace, to try and address agronomic challenges using artificial intelligence and satellite data.
AI was trained to analyse satellite imagery and return 15 attributes. These include Leaf Area Index (LAI), which can be combined with other Agrimetrics data to calculate water soil balance and plant water stress.
“Getting field water balance right is essential for producing a healthy crop,” says Dr Matthew Smith, Agrimetrics Chief Product Officer.
“This data will enable users to develop more accurate estimations of a field’s water balance in near-to-real-time. This will help growers decide when and where to irrigate.”
Agrimetrics are pitching their solution at researchers and agri-tech, as well as the rapidly growing digital agronomy sector. They hope to catalyse the development of tools and insights that deliver value to growers in a sustainable way.
“Both traditional farm advisors and new digital services are looking for ways to increase their profitability by delivering more value to their customers in innovative ways,” says Anna Woodley, Agrimetrics Head of Sales.
“What we are doing with Airbus is providing these organisations with the data streams, platform and data science expertise they need to develop new products and get those products to market quickly.”
Satellite data has been used to improve farm irrigation before. A 2015 paper published in Frontiers in Natural Sciences evidenced a 10% water and energy saving on farms in Austria. More recently, The European Space Agency reported savings of up to 30%.
Agrimetrics claim they make the data needed to realise these benefits more easily accessible and affordable.
‘wHen2gO’ is an example of this model in operation. The project saw BASF partner with Agrimetrics to develop an application that provided growers with guidance on when to spray. Their goal was to reduce chemical run-off into nearby waterways, whilst increasing product efficacy.
To provide this guidance, wHen2gO analyses data from a variety of sources, including satellite data, the UK Met Office and The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). Louis Wells, Solutions Manager at BASF, emphasises the role of Agrimetrics in accelerating the project by pre-linking the data and providing it in an easily usable format.
“I think our work with BASF is more relevant than it may seem,” said Woodley. “Water scarcity is already an issue in many countries; even in the UK, last year we saw water abstraction restrictions across East England.
“I think we are approaching a time when we will need to justify and evidence our use of water in the same way as we do our use of fertilisers and pesticides. Improving the sophistication of our management practices today could be key to avoiding regulation and restriction tomorrow.”