Category Archives: Precision Agriculture

Onions Update Field Walk

LandWISE MicroFarm
21 Ruahapia Rd, Waipatu, Hastings
Monday 11 December 2:00pm

In our final year of “Benchmarking Onions” we have again planted a crop at the MicroFarm. It went into a suitably moist soil, emerged reasonably evenly but has shown increasing variation. We now have very good areas and very disappointing areas. 

We’ve mapped the crop with our CoverMap system again this season so we can compare 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 growth patterns. Are there areas that consistently perform better or worse? What is driving the variation we see?

We also have a few different varieties we are tracking to see how canopy development fits our web calculator. We want to know if the same calculations can be applied to phone images or if variety-based tweeks are necessary.

In a couple of fertiliser application trials we comparing standard and late application because we understand most nitrogen is taken up at or after bulbing. And based on our mapping, we are comparing the effects of full and half rates on areas where canopy cover is low. Maybe we can cut back, save fertiliser and leaching and get the same yield with improved bulb quality.

Come along and see for yourself!

Note: This field walk follows the HotGrass electric weeding demonstration, see more here>

Our Onion Research is in conjunction with Plant and Food Research. It is funded by Onions NZ and the Sustainable Farming Fund. This season we are being aided by Apatu Farms who are helping with field operations and harvest and we are very grateful for their support.

 

PA17 – Tri-Conference on Precision Agriculture

PA17 – The International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture

www.7ACPA-2017.org 

PA17 in Hamilton in October was three conferences in one. The 7th Asian-Australasian Conference of Precision Agriculture and the 1st Asian-Australasian Conference on Precision Pasture and Livestock Farming both have strong emphasis on research. The Digital Farmer and Grower conference was aimed at practitioners with farmers and consultants presenting and forming discussion panels. All ran in parallel with some joint sessions and delegates could jump from one to the other.

Many of the 500 delegates were international, many were younger and many were women; quite different to almost every other precision agriculture event I have attended. Also notable was the breadth of sectors represented. Precision agriculture has been strongly rooted in broadacre cropping, now we are seeing strong interest in animal management and for permanent crops such as pipfruit and viticulture.

A choice of field visits included trips to see Massey University hyperspectral research at Limestone Downs, production facilities at Gallagher Engineering, robotic milking at the LIC Automation research dairy farm and visits to FAR, Plant and Food, and Ballance AgriNutirents research sites.

Below there are short profiles of the international profile, a sample of the international speakers that presented at the international tri-conference in Hamilton.

PA17 was presented by the Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand and chaired by Armin Werner from Lincoln Agritech.

International experts

Prof Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey is a Professor of Range Science and has been at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2005. He teaches courses in rangeland management, research methods, vegetative monitoring and livestock handling. In addition to teaching and research responsibilities, he is the Director of the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center (a 24700 ha research ranch). 

Prof Daniel Beckmans
Daniel Berckmans obtained a Master Degree and a Ph. D. in Bio-Science Engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. He is full professor, leads the Division M3-Biores (Measure, Model and Manage Bioresponses), Department of Biosystems, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Mr Jeffrey Bewley
Jeffrey Bewley is from Rineyville, Kentucky where he grew up working on his grandfather’s (Hilary Skees) dairy farm. He received a B.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Kentucky in 1998. 

Mr Mark Branson
Owner manager of ‘Branson Farms” a 1200ha mixed farm at Stockport, 80km North of Adelaide. The farm grows Wheat, Barley, Canola, Field Peas, Faba Beans, Lentils, and breed fine wool merino sheep that run on cereal and legume pastures. He went to Roseworthy Ag. College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agriculture.

Dr Karel Charvat
Karel Charvat graduated in theoretical cybernetics. He is a member of ISPA, RDA, Club of Ossiach, CAGI, and CSITA. He was in period 2005 – 2007 President of European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture Food and Environment (EFITA). He is currently representative of HSRS in OGC Agriculture DWG. He has long time expereince in ICT for Agriculture and Precision Farming.

Dr Daan Goense
Daan Goense studied Agricultural Engineering at what is now Wageningen University. After a five year research project in Suriname on the design of a mechanized farming system for dry annual crops in the humid tropics he became Assistant and later Associate Professor at the department of Agricultural Engineering of Wageningen University in the field of farm machinery management.

Prof Naoshi Kondo
Naoshi Kondo is currently a professor, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University and is working on automation and sensing systems in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture aiming precision farming.He graduated from undergraduate and graduate schools (Department of Agricultural Engineering), Kyoto University in 1982 and 1984 respectively, and was engaged at Okayama University in 1985 as an assistant professor for 15 years.

Dr Nicolas Tremblay
Nicolas Tremblay, Ph.D., agronomist, is senior research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC; the Federal Department of Agriculture in Canada). He graduated from Laval University in 1982 and joined AAFC in 1985. He studied the management of vegetable transplants and crop fertilization in both muck (carrot, lettuce) and mineral soils (tomato, broccoli, vegetables for processing).

Prof Mark Rutter
Mark Rutter is Professor of Applied Animal Behaviour at Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, UK. After graduating in Agricultural Science at the University of Leeds, he gained an MSc in Biological Computation from the University of York before being awarded a PhD in animal behaviour from the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Manjeet Singh Makkar
Manjeet Singh joined Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in the year 1996 in the College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology. He had completed his B E (Agri Engg) from College of Technology and Agricultural Engineering, Udaipur, M Tech and PhD In the field of Farm Power and Machinery from PAU, Ludhiana. He has joined as Head of the Department on December 24, 2016.

Miriana Stephens
Miriana was born in Motueka and raised by her grandparents. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (NZ History) and a Law Degree. She currently resides in Motueka and has four children. She was recently awarded the 2016 Aotearoa NZ Māori Woman Business Leader award in recognition of outstanding success and excellence in business.

⁠Prof Maohua Wang
Maohua Wang is now as Professor, College of Information & Electrical Engineering, China Agricultural University (CAU), Chairman of Academic Committee of Key Laboratory of Modern Precision Agriculture System Integration Research under Ministry of Education and Key labolatories Group on Agricultural Information Technology under Ministry of Agricultiure , P.C. China.

Prof Raj Khosla
Raj Khosla is Robert E. Gardner Professor of Precision Agriculture at Colorado State University (CSU). In addition, he holds the title of CSU distinguished Monfort Professor. In 2015,Dr. Khosla was recognized as the “Precision Ag Educator of the Year 2015”, a national honor bestowed by the agricultural industry.

Dr Sjaak Wolfert
Sjaak Wolfert studied Plant Science in Wageningen and finished his PhD ‘Sustainable agriculture: how to make it work?’ in 2002. Currently, he is working as Senior Scientist at Wageningen University; Research in the field of Information Management; ICT in Agri-Food.

Brad Wooldridge
Brad and Tracy Wooldridge are mixed farmers at Arthur River (450mm av. growing season rainfall ) and 250km away at Kalgan (South coast 800mm ) in Western Australia, running a 2600 head composite sheep flock and cropping  barley, lupins, canola and oats.

 

Interoperability for Agriculture

Palmerston North, Friday 8th December 2017

From Landcare Research:

Few activities are more tied to location and the geospatial landscape than agriculture. Agricultural businesses, research and policy makers rely on quantitative data about soils, water, weather, inputs, productivity, outputs, and markets.   This summit will tackle the big questions on big data for agriculture in New Zealand and globally: how to make it really work for farmers, policy-makers, markets and consumers?

Presentations and workshops will cover

  • Precision Agriculture
  • Environmental Data and Information
  • The Internet of Things and new sensor technologies
  • Applications and mobile
  • Privacy, security and protections
  • Maps and models  – current and future
  • Collaborations  and standards in action

Join international geospatial experts along with local innovators in Palmerston North for this one day Summit.

Date Friday 8th December 2017
Time 9.00am – 4.00pm
Agenda See here>
Enquiries Christine Harper harperc@landcareresearch.co.nz

Australasian Precision Agriculture Symposium

Dan Bloomer attended the 20th Symposium on Precision Agriculture in Sydney.

The PA Symposium brings together farmers, growers, researchers, advisors and industry to discuss and absorb developments. Speakers covered cutting edge research, on-farm application by researchers, advisors and farmers, and industry background information such as the state of telecommunications and data ownership.

As Brett Whelan told delegates, “The purpose of precision agriculture has always been to increase the number of correct decisions made in the businesses of crop and animal management. It is a logical step in the evolution of agricultural management systems toward increased efficiency of inputs relative to production, minimized waste and improved product quality, traceability and marketability.”

Crop and soil sensing continues to develop, and there is increasing use of new approaches. Canopy assessment has relied heavily on NDVI, the 1970s vegetation index chosen for distinguishing forest from desert and ocean.  In recent years a wider range of sensors capturing more light bands (blue, green, red and infrared) have become affordable and available. Some look at red-edge and thermal infra-red, two bands often related to crop stress of some form.  Off the shelf cameras that fit simple UAVs are within farm budgets now.

Ian Yule described research with hyperspectral sensors that capture very detailed images with hundreds of light bands. Hundreds of ground control samples provide “real” information and enormous amounts of data get analysed to identify relationships. The capacity of this to determine species, plant nutrient status and other useful information is remarkable. The current research equipment and processing is very expensive but assume price drops as commercialisation progresses.

Machine vision including object shape, texture and colour is being used to recognise individual objects such as plants, parts of plants or specific weeds. Discussing robotics research to guide decision making on vegetable farms Zhe Xu noted, “If a human can recognise something, a machine can be taught to as well.” Get used to artificial intelligence, neural programming and autonomous phenotyping!

We presented our own onions research which is using smartphone cameras to capture very useful crop development information quickly and cost effectively. Combined with crop models and web based calculation we can predict final yields with fair accuracy early enough to support crop management decisions.  

An Australian vegetable research project is using similar approaches to support decision making in carrot crops and investigating others with promise.  That team includes researchers and farmers, and is increasingly using yield monitors for crops such as potatoes and carrots. Converting yield data to value allows farmers to estimate costs of variability and how much to invest to fix problem areas.

Data capture, communications and analysis was a key theme.  Kim Bryceson described the establishment of a sensor network and analytics using IoT (internet of things) tools at Queensland University Gatton.  Rob Bramley explained a process that predicted sugar yields at regional scale to promote better fertiliser management in that industry. Patrick Filippi presented a “big data” approach to predicting grain yield.

The data revolution is changing our world in ways we can’t yet imagine. The increasing amount of things measured, the spatial scale and time span of collection and development of data science to analyse huge streams of information revolutionise our understanding. These are exciting times. Some jobs are going to go, but others will be created as we require completely new skills for jobs not heard of a decade ago. 

“We are all in the position of making decisions from a limited understanding or a particular perspective, working with biological systems that are incredibly complex and impossible to fully understand, “ said Ian Yule. “Recent experience with new sensing technologies and data processing has produced new information that challenges our preconceived ideas and understandings,” he said.

The PA Symposium is presented by SPAA, the Society for Precision Agriculture Australia, and the Precision Agriculture Laboratory at the University of Sydney. There has always been a New Zealand presence because while some details are unique, the tools and processes are for the most part generic. 

Baker Ag “Inspiring Agriculture”

The BakerAg Winter Seminar

Wednesday 5th July 2017, Copthorne Solway Park Hotel, Masterton

Baker Ag are proud to announce that this year’s seminar has one of the best line-ups yet:

• Melissa Clark-Reynolds – disruptive technologies.
• Dr Charles Merfield – alternate solutions to drenching and weed spraying.
• Ian Williams – how are our farm systems being changed in the name of “sustainability”.
• Richmond Beetham – the wakeup call from the Waikato!
• James Lockhart & Sully Alsop – Benchmarking, a fad or real tool for progress?
• Steve Maharey and Andrew Gibbs – international change and megatrends – what does it mean for NZ?
• Willie Falloon – what are we changing.

Matt Watson, from the Ultimate Fishing Show is the After Dinner Speaker.

There is a free bus service for any attendees from Rangitikei, Manawatu, and Tararua regions. Put the date in your diary.

Tickets are limited to 250 and they are selling fast $185/head – includes dinner and drinks.

To book your tickets talk to Delwyndelwyn@bakerag.co.nz

LandWISE 2017: Are we ready for automation?

In 2017 our 15th Annual Conference focuses on automated tools for data collection, decision making and doing actual tasks on the farm (and beyond).

  • What do you want?
  • What’s on offer?
  • How will farms and management have to change?

We have a comprehensive programme. We’ve gone a bit outside the box to bring a variety including from outside the horticultural and arable sectors. We find cross-pollination and hybrid vigour valuable!

So register, come along and listen to excellent presenters, discuss the ideas with colleagues and go away with new understanding and plans.

Thanks to Our Loyal Platinum Sponsors!
Many thanks to AGMARDT, sponsors of our international presenter, Thibault Delcroix, France

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, John Deere and BASF Crop Protection are our Platinum Sponsors again in 2017. Many thanks to these loyal supporters who have backed the Conference for a number of years.

We also welcome our Gold Sponsors, meal sponsors and  trade displays new and old. These are the organisations that make conferences like this possible and affordable.

Join them and us at the Havelock North Function Centre on 24-25 May 2017 to mix with leading practitioners, farmers, growers, researchers, technology developers and providers.

Register now – click here!

 

MicroFarm pH Mapping

GrowMaps’ pH testing equipment at a Papakura trial site

GrowMaps this week completed the first comprehensive soil pH mapping at the MicroFarm. GrowMaps will have a trade display at the LandWISE 2017 Conference and will be taking part in the Horizons Regional Council field session at the Centre for Land and Water.

GrowMaps principal Luke Posthuma completed the survey, and says his observations as the survey progressed suggest there is a reasonable spread of pH across our relatively small area.

As well as Veris sampling, Luke took a number of soil samples for verification and calibration checks.

The Veris equipment also maps soil electrical conductivity (EC) down to 60cm. Soil EC is a measurement of how much electrical current soil can conduct. It is often an effective way to map soil texture because smaller soil particles such as clay conduct more current than larger silt and sand particles.

Part of the Veris pH mapping is post-survey processing to create the most reliable result. We await the processed maps with considerable interest.

We previously had a similar soil conductivity map provided by AgriOptics and it will be interesting to compare the results.

Variable Rate N Fertiliser – the Value Proposition

Adrian Hunt is a crop scientist at Plant and Food Research.

He recently completed a PhD at the University of Tasmania, investigating Pre-Harvest and Post-Harvest factor effects on the quality of onion bulbs exported to Europe for counter seasonal supply.  He now works across the vegetable and arable sectors to improve yield, profitability and environmental outcomes.

Together with colleagues Joanna Sharp, Paul Johnstone and Bruce Searle, Adrian has been investigating the value proposition for variable rate fertiliser application.

The technology to deliver variable rate fertiliser in an automated manner has advanced substantially in recent years. This has been aided by new or adapted spreading technologies coupled with location awareness using GPS (Global Positioning System). It is now technically possible to distribute fertilisers in a wide range of spatial patterns within a paddock, however the value proposition of variable rate fertiliser application is not thoroughly understood.

The Plant and Food team looked at the difference in productivity, profitability and potential environmental impact of a range of spatial management scales.

Based on a sampling grid of 105 points in a Hawke’s Bay paddock and used mineral N and a N mineralisation assay to quantify the underlying variability in N processes/cycling within the paddock they “grew” both irrigated and unirrigated maize in the crop simulation model APSIM Next Generation for the 105 sampling locations for 35 growing seasons, using long term weather data.

Adrian will present this work and the results at the LandWISE 2017 Conference in Havelock North.

Report on Australian SPAA Expo 2017

Hugh Ritchie reports from the 2017 Expo

(C) SPAA

The Society of Precision Agriculture (SPAA) is a non-profit and independent membership based group formed in Australia in 2002 to promote the development and adoption of precision agriculture (PA) technologies.

I attended the SPAA expo in March this year which was a grower focused day to present the latest tools and services available to growers. All speakers were service providers or users of the technology as opposed to researchers presenting their studies. This made for a day of very applied learning.

A common theme of the day was that tools selected had to deliver a positive return; i.e. they had to earn their keep. This was very good to hear as I feared I would be seen as a laggard to comment on the lack of variable rate and prescription maps. Most of the speakers identified a problem and the use of tools to find a solution.

There was also a range of farm types and again the message was any one can use PA concepts and you do not need to have high tech tools to practice PA.

The work with Near Infrared, Infrared and Short Wavelength InfraRed has come a long way and the work being done by Dr Ian Yule from Massey University leads the way. Of special interest was a camera manufacturer who could allow you to choose which bands you required and build a camera to suit at an affordable cost, putting this technology in everyone’s hands.

So, if we can do the research around what we want to sense and which wavelength it requires we could get real time data to enable prescriptions without the need to ground truth. This would be the next major leap forward in PA tools.  

Soil to sprinkler, automating irrigation management

Anthony (Tony) Davoren is a Director of Aqualinc with responsibility for the HydroServices business unit that provides irrigation and environmental management services; soil moisture, and water level and water meter monitoring. 

Tony’s expertise in and knowledge of soils and hydraulic properties, irrigation systems and design, and crop water demand has been applied and enhanced over the last 35 years working in these fields.

We asked Tony to talk about automating irrigation – from the soil to the sprinkler and round again. He’s doing just that at LandWISE 2017: Are we ready for automation?

Tony says several questions need to be asked and honest answers or solutions given:

  • Are we and you ready?
  • What do we need?
  • Is automating irrigation management wise or the right solution?

Are we or you ready?

When considering automating irrigation management, both the provider and the user must be an “innovators”; i.e. they must be in the top 2.5% of the industry.  It may be that some “early adopters”, the next 13.5% of the industry, might be ready for the technology and its application to automate irrigation management.

What do we need?

Because it will be the innovators who adopt and field prove any technologies, these technologies must be robust and proven with a sound scientific backing.  Innovators will identify the financial benefits of the automation, which needs:

  • Well-designed irrigation systems
  • High uniformity irrigation systems
  • Well maintained irrigation systems
  • Precise soil moisture and/or crop monitoring systems
  • Interface “model” to irrigation controller

Are these all in place?

Is automation wise or the right solution?

Tony established HydroServices providing on-farm irrigation management services based on in situ soil moisture measurements in Canterbury, Pukekohe, Waikato, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Central Otago. During this he provided specialist soil moisture monitoring for Foundation for Arable Research, LandWISE, Crown Research Institutes, Regional Councils, Clandeboye Dairy Factory and others.

Tony completed his PhD in Engineering Science at Washington State University, Pullman, USA.