Aerobotics services now available through Agrimark
Posted on: 19 September 2022
It has always been an undisputed and much-publicised fact that the future of agriculture, as much as in any industry, lies with technological advancement. Indeed, every new development from as far back as the invention of the wheel has meant a giant leap for anyone who works their land.
Farming is, however, far more complex nowadays with improvements in efficiency, productivity and savings not being exclusively about technology. Rather, its success lies in applying holistic solutions.
This is certainly true in the case of Kaap Agri’s recent inclusion of Aerobotics - an innovative South African data analysis company - among its services via its Agrimark stores. Agrimark’s clients now have the opportunity to finance their use of Aerobotics intelligent tools and data insights through their Agrimark account.
Thanks to its financial services offering, Agrimark is well-positioned to make it easier for producers to access precision farming insights for protecting and optimising yields.
Partnering with Aerobotics is part of Agrimark’s continued drive to offer value-adding customer solutions, says Kaap Agri Business Development Manager, Jan Crafford.
“It’s true that many producers are confident about knowing their land and the challenges they face. But it is high-resolution technology that can provide essential crop and soil data insights that will continue to drive optimisation in terms of yields and also in terms of water conservation.”
It’s an understanding the company has acquired over many years, expanding its offering by forging partnerships that bring real value to its customers. Adding Aerobotics to its arsenal is such a move, making the technology immediately available across its extensive network of Agrimark branches.
THE ESSENCE OF AEROBOTICS
Although Aerobotics uses drones to collect information, first and foremost, it is a data company. The key benefit of its web and mobile apps, Aeroview and Aeroview InField, is the accurate insight it provides regarding perennial fruit and nut crops and doing so much quicker and in higher resolution than alternative options such as aircraft or satellites.
The type of data allows producers to measure yields, quantify underperforming plants and areas, manage inventories, monitor pests and diseases, run smart programs, track the impact of interventions, and ensure a successful harvest.
Furthermore, growers are empowered with detailed transpiration insights, allowing them to respond to automatically detected irrigation problems, see the actual uniformity of irrigation strategies and manage maintenance of the equipment more effectively. Its mobile app allows irrigation inspections to be conducted in-field and the findings shared with teams.
“Essentially, this technology allows the producer to take precise action to achieve optimal yields,” says Johan de Lange, Kaap Agri Divisional Executive for Services and Relations.
Aerobotics was founded in 2014 and has been implemented across the globe, in major agricultural countries, including the US and Australia. It employs over 80 people including agronomists, engineers and product developers based predominantly in California and South Africa, where it has its head offices. Amongst others, its software has processed over 100 million trees, with over a million citrus fruit detected and sized.
Since members of Aerobotics’ founding team have grown up or lived on farms in South Africa, the company enjoys special insight into challenges such as high fertiliser prices and uncertainty at harbours, according to Aerobotics Global Business Development Manager, JC van der Walt. It is therefore ideally placed to limit input costs, increase production and quality and to implement better harvest planning.
MORE BENEFITS FOR PRODUCERS
Having added Aerobotics to its basket of services has unlocked other advantages for producers, says Jan. “For one, Agrimark is focused on being a one-stop destination and we can work with the client to ensure the procurement of the right products and services to address the challenges that are highlighted by the technological insights,” he continues.
“Furthermore, we see this kind of technology becoming an important tool to optimise the value chain itself because it provides valuable forecast information that impacts exports and packaging. The kind of data provided by Aerobotics allows for more accurate, long term planning. In fact, producers expect this type of service from us because they recognise that investing in leading technology is essential in order to stay ahead of the cost squeeze which is at the forefront of every producer’s mind.”
Agrimark’s team has been given a first-hand introduction to the technology. The service has been made available to producers with financing options that have been put in place.
An important aspect of the Aerobotics solution is that it is customisable, based on a range of typical formats including hectarage, crop, layout, trellising or other focus areas. The use of drones basically means that it is possible to see through certain crop-covering nets.
While it has been used mostly for tree crops including citrus, fruit, avocadoes and macadamias, it is also ideal for monitoring a far broader range, including wine and table grapes.
Aerobotics uses aerial imagery and machine learning to assemble the following data:
- Crop performance measurement, using high-resolution drone imagery to measure variability in plant growth and performance;
- Irrigation distribution uniformity to explain variability in relation to irrigation system design or maintenance;
- Irrigation monitoring, using high-spatial drone data to identify most representative probe placements to optimise resources; and
- Irrigation system maintenance, identifying flow/pressure variation and detecting dripline and emitter issues, providing targeted maintenance recommendations.
The proof, of course, is in the pudding. Aerobotics is happy to share examples of the impact of its knowledge. In one case, a citrus grower identified stress in his orchard in the nick of time, spotting trouble in his 60-year-old Valencia orange orchard via the Aerobotics application.
The application identified underperforming trees. After setting up an investigation route on the platform, he went in-field and found that the trees’ leaves were yellowing. The grower realised that he needed to sample below the soil surface and the results came back positive for a nematode infestation. After gaining advice and using a nematicide, the overall infestation was managed and further losses were avoided. The underperforming area in this orchard consisted of 256 trees. Early detection helped stop the infestation from spreading across the farm and causing further damage and expenses.
Another example highlighted by the company involves a well-known fruit exporter whose farm manager was concerned about declining yield in a 30-year-old orchard of Golden Delicious apples.
Using the Aerobotics platform he detected a health variance across the block, as well as a clear pattern from his high-resolution imagery. In-field investigation once again suggested an infestation of nematodes. Laboratory tests not only confirmed the finding but also that the extent of the infestation seemed to be more severe than initially anticipated. The application revealed the number of potentially affected trees, 1,956 out of a total 6,433 (approximately 30% of the orchard) as well as their exact locations. To avoid an even greater yield loss, the farm manager decided to take out the affected trees and plant a new cultivar set grafted onto rootstocks with higher resistance to nematodes.
“People have seen the value that Aerobotics can offer producers around the world and here in South Africa,” says Herman Franken, Kaap Agri Regional Manager of Agri Services and Relations. “We are able to provide producers access to this solution with the option to finance it via their Kaap Agri account. This is a truly exciting development for us,” he adds. “Adding it to the Agrimark range of services potentially puts our clients in the best position possible.”
JC says the company’s mission is not only to provide insights but also to work along with its growers to convert these insights into valuable actions.
“The most important role that technology needs to play on the farm is not only providing the grower with novel data, but this data needs to be actionable in the orchards in order to see the impact on yields. And this is exactly what we are seeing with our clients. This has been particularly valuable when it comes to irrigation insights, where growers make both small and significant changes based on the data gathered via Aeroview. And Kaap Agri has now made it a lot easier for growers to access this service by means of their financing option,” concludes JC.
Contact your nearest Agrimark for availability.
Agrimark is a registered trading brand of Kaap Agri Bedryf Ltd, a registered credit provider in terms of the National Credit Act. All credit applications undergo an affordability assessment.