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Precision agriculture critical to sustaining crop yields

How high can farmers push yields using precision technology and how long can they sustain land at these high production levels?

These are questions that have perplexed North Carolina Crop Consultant Steven Valencsin for many years.

Instead of wondering about the benefits of technology to agriculture, he has set about finding ways to implement advanced plant production systems through his work with Growers LLC, his Raleigh, N.C.-based crop consulting and custom applicator business.


Via NCSU CALS, CALS Research, NCSU
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New field calculator measures sustainability of farm practices

New field calculator measures sustainability of farm practices | Ag app | Scoop.it
Energy consumption, land use, erosion and climate impact are key to environmental management. Consumers and food retailers are now demanding this type of i
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Cargill’s drones to begin testing in Indonesian oil palm plantations

Cargill’s drones to begin testing in Indonesian oil palm plantations | Ag app | Scoop.it
Cargill is on track to make its goal of completely sustainable palm oil supply by 2020, the company has said in its second palm oil progress update, summing up the efforts made so far by the US-headquartered agriculture major.
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NASA satellite launched to measure soil moisture

NASA satellite launched to measure soil moisture | Ag app | Scoop.it

Western Canadian agriculture will benefit from NASA’s new eye in the sky, says a University of Manitoba professor.

Launched in California at the end of January, the U.S. government agency’s soil moisture active passive (SMAP) research satellite is the result of an international effort to improve soil moisture monitoring.

Officials say the high resolution images collected from the satellite should assist researchers and policy-makers around the globe and improve drought and flood forecasting and crop yield and quality projections.

“We don’t monitor soil moisture the same way that we do with weather stations and precipitation,” said Paul Bullock, a professor in the U of M’s soil science department.

“We just can’t get sensors all over Western Canada to be able to monitor the whole Prairies that way. That’s where the satellite is useful. It gives you a frequent update that’s continuous across the whole region.”

The satellite images will provide soil moisture information to a depth of five centimetres over several kilometres, said Bullock, who contributed to SMAP tests conducted in the Portage La Prairie-Carman region in 2012.


The information isn’t detailed enough to help producers who are concerned with the root zone in individual fields, but it could serve as a risk assessment tool, helping identify regional disease or pest concerns.

“This is providing kind of a risk assessment tool that they can use to make decisions,” said Bullock.

“Agronomic companies can use it more directly to try to determine where they best want to have their product available.”

The SMAP information will be in the public domain, and NASA plans to start releasing it later this year.

However, Bullock said it must be combined with other data to be of greatest value. For example, factors such as crop cover must be considered when interpreting the satellite data.

“My guess is that the products that you can develop with it are going to be rolled out, for example, by companies or agencies that might have weather data that they can then use the weather data to put with the satellite data and build up this picture,” he said.

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Agriculture and Technology: Is Privacy Really an Issue?

Agriculture and Technology: Is Privacy Really an Issue? | Ag app | Scoop.it

There was a time that protecting your privacy was largely in your own hands. If you didn’t want someone to know your business, well, you just kept it to yourself. Now it seems that protecting privacy has become a team sport, requiring cooperation and better understanding from individuals, private sector businesses and organizations, and all levels of government.   
A growing world 
As populations have grown and spread throughout the world, so has the demand for better food production and distribution, faster communication methods, and easier access to and analysis of information. In just a few short years, technology has substantially changed the face of both agriculture and privacy. Now analytic programs map the land, monitor toxins and tell which fields need more nutrients or irrigation. New data tools and applications better inform planting decisions and help optimize planting conditions. 
Spreading wings
Adding to this technological bonanza, drones roaming the sky will bring more accurate data and imagery to better inform decisions. As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considers regulations to guide how drones can be used across American skies, including for agricultural uses, it should come as no surprise that one of the key concerns is privacy. So important is this issue that the government has signaled that it will be handled separately from the FAA rule. Of course, drones in rural areas may not set off the same level of privacy alarms that might exist in more populated urban environments, or when it’s a government agency operating the drone or benefiting from its information; but as long as there is a reasonable privacy concern, it must be addressed before the technology takes root — regardless of the drone’s purpose and who is operating it.  
Technology vs. privacy 
In agriculture today, collecting and analyzing data and imagery is critical. As in other contexts, such data programs may involve the collection of nonpublic details about a particular farm or its output that may then be shared with a third party for analysis or combined with other more private information. Along the way, the farmer whose information is being collected may not even know what happens to that data. It’s no surprise then that the agricultural community is raising questions about privacy: 

  • Who is collecting the data? 
  • For what purpose? 
  • What specific information is being collected? 
  • Is it business or personal? What is being done with the data? 
  • How will it be used — for marketing, regulatory or other government purposes?
  • Who has access to it? 
  • Will it be stored, and if so, for how long?
  • Will it be shared with the government or with third parties? 

First steps
No matter how innocuous the technology may seem to be, each one of these questions should be asked and answered in a tangible way — optimally, as the technology is developed, but at a minimum, before it is used. The current absence of rules means that those who develop, market and sell technology must be proactive in identifying and resolving privacy concerns attributable to their products and services. 
Some helpful measures might include: 

  • Data collection and sharing consent options
  • Setting appropriate limits on the type of information collected
  • Specifically assessing who should have access to the information
  • Defining that category
  • Clarifying under what conditions data may be shared more broadly
  • Stating clearly how long it will be retained 

In other words, there should be clear privacy policies in place that guide and inform development decisions, technical specifications, and purchasing options and data controls. 
Big data is everywhere and it’s here to stay. By all indications, the technologies that have helped benefit farming are worth the privacy debate. And, the value we place on privacy means demanding reasonable answers about technology and how it could impact our privacy. FAA action, self-regulation and refinements to technology may change the conversation over time, but the conversation will still take place. That’s a good thing. So as you look around this 3.0 world, you may not easily find something that has no connection to technology, but you will likely see there is ample room for technology and privacy to co-exist to the benefit of farming. 

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Nano-sized 'drones' deliver targeted drugs and repair arteries

Nano-sized 'drones' deliver targeted drugs and repair arteries | Ag app | Scoop.it
Scientists have shown they can repair fatty plaques in arteries by delivering therapeutics directly via 'drone'-like nanoparticles that push their way in and stick to the lesions.
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American farmers upset by new FAA drone rules

American farmers upset by new FAA drone rules | Ag app | Scoop.it
US farmers hoping to use drones to locate lost livestock in their fields were disappointed restrictive commercial drone rules.
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Des agriculteurs utilisent des drones pour leurs cultures

Des agriculteurs utilisent des drones pour leurs cultures | Ag app | Scoop.it

Il est possible aujourd’hui de vous procurer des drones agricoles équipés d’une caméra pour moins de 1 000 $ chacun. L’entreprise américaine 3D Robotics (www.3drobotics.com) en offre à partir de 750 $ avec une foule d’équipements de plus en plus sophistiqués.

À ses débuts, le drone avait surtout une vocation militaire. Mais maintenant, certains entrepreneurs le qualifient d’outil technologique, pouvant être rentable, flexible, abordable et vert. Le géant American Amazon teste d’ailleurs en ce moment la livraison de colis en moins d’une heure à votre porte.

Propulsé par un pilote automatique, le drone vole par lui-même d’un point A à un point B. Passez à autre chose pendant que votre drone fait le travail!

Ce n’est plus de la fiction; certains agriculteurs commencent sérieusement à étudier la question, alors que d’autres se servent déjà de ces engins mobiles pour surveiller leurs récoltes et augmenter leur rendement.

Ces drones sont équipés d’un pilote automatique qui contrôle un GPS et un appareil photo; le logiciel donne la possibilité de capter des prises de vues aériennes en format mosaïque « carte à haute résolution ». Le pilote automatique s’occupe de tout, du décollage à l’atterrissage. Son logiciel de base permet de préparer la trajectoire de vol et de contrôler l’appareil photo afin d’optimiser les images pour une analyse ultérieure.

Grâce au logiciel, on peut également gérer des fonctions Web et mobiles open source, des programmes pouvant être directement connectés à un site Internet ou à une application mobile. Les informations peuvent être stockées dans une base de données qui en effectue l’analyse complète.

Certaines caméras installées sur les drones peuvent prendre des images infrarouges. Un drone peut aussi sonder une récolte chaque semaine, chaque jour, voire chaque heure afin de combiner les images et de créer une animation chronologique pour y constater les changements dans la culture, révélant les points critiques ou des opportunités pour une meilleure gestion des cultures.

Les drones font partie d’une tendance vers une agriculture axée de plus en plus sur les données, qu’elles soient en temps réel ou non. Nos enfants verront sans aucun doute dans les années à venir de plus en plus de robots volants, autant en ville qu’à la ferme.

Pour toute question ou tout commentaire concernant les technologies Web et mobiles, vous pouvez me joindre à cbougie@studiovisionic.com ou par téléphone au 514 935-6006.

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Go Mobile, Stay Organized for Your Parts Needs | Case IH

Go Mobile, Stay Organized for Your Parts Needs | Case IH | Ag app | Scoop.it

No matter how carefully you disassemble a repair job, a part or two almost always shuffles out of order. MyShed™ from Case IH can clean up that mess and help keep you organized in many other ways.


We’ve all been there — you scratch your head while walking away from the parts counter at your Case IH dealer and desperately trying to remember what you’ve forgotten. Then, while turning onto the driveway back at the farm, it smacks you: a case of Hy-Tran® to finish up an oil change.

Tap two powerful tools — MyShed and the MyShed mobile app — via the Case IH Partstore and you’ll have remote access to the assembly diagrams you need to restore order to your repair job. Or build a parts list that can save you a trip to town. Simply set up an account, create your equipment list by make and model, and download the free app, which is available for Apple® and Android™smartphones. From your office computer or mobile device, you’ll be able to:

  • Access parts manuals
  • Create a parts list
  • Send parts lists and images to your dealer
  • Quickly connect to your dealer with call and email buttons
  • Manage equipment by adding notes to each model
  • Access Toolbox Reference Guides: MagnaPower Battery Finder; Lubricant/Fluid Selector Guide; plus product alerts and videos
  • Search for models by serial number
  • Search for parts by part number

The latest app update puts even more information in the palm of your hand. New Toolbox Reference Guides include:

  • Tire Guide: Find the right tires by entering machine type, tire size and ply rating.
  • TeeJet® Nozzle Tip Selector: Choose the proper tip for your application.
  • Shovel and Coulter Reference: Use these guides to find the right tillage tools for your machine.

Add some peace of mind and efficiency to your toolbox before you head to the field this spring. MyShed and the MyShed mobile app can help you manage all of your machines, track down the information you need and make quick maintenance decisions in the field.

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Rise of the field drones

Rise of the field drones | Ag app | Scoop.it

When the corn begins to grow in research fields used by the University of Illinois, a robot sets to work.

It goes up and down the rows, hoeing out weeds and applying herbicide. It is slow, but it works 24 hours a day in most kinds of weather and has few needs except batteries and a computer signal.

Welcome to the future — and it’s already here.

That was one of Tom Staples’ points during a talk at the Agronomy Update in Lethbridge Jan. 21.

The director of Echelon for Crop Production Services said precision agriculture will have new meaning in the future with applications beyond yield maps and variable rate agronomic prescriptions.

Most farmers use guidance systems and autosteer, which are promoted by equipment dealers. Staples said mapping and variable rate technology, which is promoted by consultants, has had slower adoption because it generates large amounts of data that requires expertise to interpret and apply.

The third wave, data collection and push-button ease of use by farmers, is not that far away.

“The real new frontier is to take all of that data and start to be able to ask questions of it and really, ideally get it down to be as simple as what Google did for the internet,” said Staples.

“We’re not far away from having that sort of technology and simplicity with agricultural data. I would say probably within five years we’ll have something that’s close to it, definitely within 10.”

Staples acknowledged the recent popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, but also noted their current limitations as well as their future promise.

They are already useful to scout livestock and inspect dangerous or inaccessible places, but drones for crop use are less user friendly.

Staples said it takes at least an hour to set up and fly a quarter-section field and another 16 hours to create a usable file from the data. At that pace, a farmer could scout the same field in the usual way and in less time.

“There’s a lot of promise when it comes to UAVs but we’re not there yet.”

High resolution images from UAVs could allow agronomists to identify disease symptoms, types of weed and other crop issues without being in the field, which would save farmers money.

“That’s the promise of UAVs.”

He showed a photo of a mosquito-sized drone with a camera in its nose. Theoretically, a swarm of these small units could invade a crop and look at individual plants. Variable rate, taken to its extremes, could provide water and nutrients on a per-plant basis.

Staples said high resolution sensors that measure soil moisture content are already being used in Nebraska, feeding data into irrigation systems that apply the precise moisture needed.

Monsanto’s purchase of Climate Corp. in October was another signal of things to come, Staples said.

“What Monsanto is up to is, they’re working to refine their pipeline using digital technologies to modify, to collect information, so that they can modify their pipeline of genetics.”

The company could use information on how genetics are influenced by climate, weather and conditions in a specific area to provide solutions for isolated sets of circumstances.

“It’s a very different way of looking at collecting information for plant breeding than what we’ve done traditionally,” said Staples.

It emphasizes the importance of data collection, storage and use, he added.

A typical quarter-section yield map generates one million discrete points of data. If that could be layered with yield, fertilizer and pesticide data and specific weather conditions, “all of a sudden we can ask the question behind the question. We’re at the cusp of this next technology being started to be adopted across Western Canada, and the secret sauce is, I want to be able to push a button and have that information serve up to me something that I can make a decision on.

“When the ‘Google’ comes along that can do all of that … in such a way that you can make actual decisions on it, that’s when we’re going to see that 100 percent adoption of using that data.”

Fortunately, data storage is getting cheaper. Staples said it cost $437,000 to store one gigabyte of data in 1980 but by 2013 it was less than a nickel.

Data has value to the individual farmer and potentially even more value if combined with other data, said Staples. He advised farmers to keep that in mind and to use one of the oldest technologies: paper.

“If you’re sharing information with somebody … when it comes to your production data, your business data, your financial data, try to understand before you share it with somebody, understand how your data is going to be used. Get it on paper as to how it’s going to be used.”

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Drone pilot agricultural awareness course launched at Lamma | Farmers Guardian

Drone pilot agricultural awareness course launched at Lamma | Farmers Guardian | Ag app | Scoop.it
Drone pilot agricultural awareness course launched at Lamma

29 January 2015


AGRONOMIST’S professional register BASIS has launched an accreditation for pilots of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or drones in response to the increasing use of this technology in agriculture.


The new BASIS Agricultural Awareness for Unmanned Aerial Systems Operators module, launched at Lamma15 is a stand-alone, one-day course which will provide drone pilots with appropriate agricultural knowledge and understanding, to ensure best practice and safe operation.

Speaking at the event, Dr Richard Green, senior lecturer and academic lead with the National Centre for Precision Farming (NCPF) Unmanned Aerial Systems Interest Group at Harper Adams University said: “UAS or drones, combined with developments in sensors, image processing, and management software are rapidly changing the science of farm and land management. While this technology offers exciting new opportunities for land and farm management, they need to be used effectively and in a safe manner.”

BASIS is working in conjunction with the National Centre for Precision Farming at Harper Adams and leading members of the UAS industry to develop a range of suitable training courses to address this new accreditation requirement.

Stephen Jacob, business development manager for BASIS, said: “The number of drones being used in agriculture has increased rapidly in recent years and some companies and UAS pilots who offer data collection services will not have come from an agricultural background. As a member of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Interest Group, BASIS was asked to put together a form of accreditation for UAV pilots working within the agricultural industry.”

The course will cover farm practices, agricultural supply chains, crops and crop management and legislation relating to agriculture, data protection and health and safety.

For agronomists and farmers

Further courses are planned for agronomists and farmers wanting to operate their own UAS and analyse the data collected.

A voluntary Professional Register for UAS Operators for the Agricultural Industry will be launched for those who work or intend to work within the agricultural industry for: field and crop scouting; livestock monitoring; flood, fire and other natural disaster impact recording; and any other types of topographic or photographic data collecting activities relevant to the agricultural industry.

The register will establish, develop and promote a standard of conduct to which members will adhere in order to ensure the safety, security and privacy of the operators, customers, bystanders and general public in the agro-environment and to prevent any risks of damaging crops, natural vegetation, fields, animals and structures present on farms and adjacent areas.

Members of the register will also be required to hold the correct Civil Aviation Authority Licence and appropriate insurance.

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Robotic tractor trial in Jerilderie - The Land

Robotic tractor trial in Jerilderie  - The Land | Ag app | Scoop.it

AUSTRALIAN farmers could have an on-farm version of Google's driverless car if a self-driving tractor trial near Jerilderie continues according to plan. 

A robotic tractor has been trialled in a joint program with Rice Research Australia, Japanese companies Hitachi Zosen Corporation and Yanmar Co. and three Australian universities.

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No Hands! Nissan and NASA Team Up on Self-Driving Car Technology

No Hands! Nissan and NASA Team Up on Self-Driving Car Technology | Ag app | Scoop.it
Japanese automaker Nissan and NASA are teaming up to advance the technology behind cars that drive autonomously. Nissan Motor Co. and NASA's Ames Research Ce...
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Compare net profitability and fertility for different crop rotations. Farming Apps - CashCropper

Compare net profitability and fertility for different crop rotations. Farming Apps - CashCropper | Ag app | Scoop.it

Cashcropper allows you to compare the net profitability and fertility requirements for different crop rotations within a given field. This app is powered by over 30 years of data on crop yield responses to different rotations from trials conducted by the University of Guelph. The app uses default yield values provided by crop insurance records in Ontario and uses the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs cost of production defaults as a starting point for the user. The user can change any of these values to better reflect their operation. 

Although the yield responses used in this app are based on an extensive, long term database, there are no guarantees. But if you're using this app, you're likely a farmer and already know that the only guarantee in producing a crop is that you're at the mercy of mother nature.

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How do you spray when the sun goes down? Try blue LEDs

How do you spray when the sun goes down? Try blue LEDs | Ag app | Scoop.it
Night spraying can offer advantages, such as reduced wind speeds to minimize drift and slower rates of evaporation. But defective nozzle spray patterns can
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Des drones capables de planter un milliard d'arbres par an

Des drones capables de planter un milliard d'arbres par an | Ag app | Scoop.it
Lauren Fletcher, ancien de la Nasa, veut reboiser la planète à grande échelle grâce à son système d'engins volants pouvant semer jusqu’à 36 000 graines par jour.
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Voici 8 objets connectés, robots et drones au service de l'agriculture

Voici 8 objets connectés, robots et drones au service de l'agriculture | Ag app | Scoop.it
Le marché des nouvelles technologies agricoles :

Après un recul de 15% de leur revenu net en 2014 à un peu plus de 8 milliards d’euros (selon Xerfi), les agriculteurs français cherchent en permanence à gagner en productivité. Le secteur agricole est ainsi devenu un segment de choix pour l’innovation. Les spécialistes de la robotique, des capteurs, de l’imagerie satelliteou encore des drones voient dans l’agriculture productiviste un marché de choix pour distiller leurs inventions, parmi lesquelles de nombreux objets connectés. En plus révolutionnet le métier de l’agriculteur, ces nouvelles technologies présentent un intérêt économique évident en permettant la réduction de la consommation des intrants de l’exploitation (engrais et produits phytosanitaires), afin d’amoindrir l’impact environnemental de l’agriculture. En effet, l’agriculture est souvent accusée d’être responsable à elle seule de 30% des émissions de CO2 dans le monde. Mais les avantages sont aussi agronomiques, les objets connectés et la technologie apportée à l’agriculture permet d’optimiser le rendement des cultures et la rentabilité des parcelles cultivables.

Malgré son potentiel à l’horizon 2017, le marché français de l’agriculture de précision reste pourtant encore embryonnaire. Les ventes d’équipements commencent cependant à décoller, en particulier sur les segments les plus matures comme les robots de traite, les drones de surveillance des champs agricoles. Mais, la France représente encore à peine plus de 1% du marché mondial des nouvelles technologies agricoles. Près de 90% des robots agricoles commercialisés en France et dans le monde sont des robots de traite pour les animaux. Ces machines sont à la fois onéreuses (environ 300 000 euros pour un troupeau de 120 vaches, par exemple) et complexes à installer (adaptation à chaque exploitation) mais ces robots de traite sont devenu un investissement incontournable pour les éleveurs à partir d’une certaine taille de cheptel, en raison des économies d’échelle réalisées.

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Summary of the FAA’s proposed drone regulations

Summary of the FAA’s proposed drone regulations | Ag app | Scoop.it

This past Sunday the FAA held a conference call to announce its highly anticipated small UAS (sUAS) regulations. Sunday morning might strike as odd timing, however it’s likely that the timing had to do with the leak of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which I wrote about here. Below is a summary of the critical aspects of the proposed regulations from the FAA summary (the proposed rules have not been made available at the time of writing).


Operational Limitations

  • UAS must be under 55lbs
  • UAS must be operated within visual line of sight
  • FPV is not permitted
  • Operator must not fly over people not involved in the operation
  • Daylight operations only
  • Maximum speed of 87 knots
  • Maximum altitude 500 feet AGL
  • A single person cannot act as an operator for more than one UAS operation at a time

Operator Certification and Responsibilities

  • Operators must pass an aeronautical test
  • Operators must obtain an sUAS operating certificate

Aircraft Requirements

  • Airworthiness is NOT required
  • Aircraft markings required

Model Aircraft

  • Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft
  • Proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in respect of model aircraft operators who are endangering the safety of the national airspace

Some of the items that are not addressed in the FAA summary which I am particularly interested in are: (1) whether the proposed rules allow a single person to operate a fleet of drones within the same operation, and (2) what the TSA security clearance check will entail.

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Case IH introduces AFS 2.0

Case IH introduces AFS 2.0 | Ag app | Scoop.it

What’s the difference between Case IH’s Advanced Farming System Connect 2.0 and AFS Connect 1.0? “That’s like a Pinto and a Cadillac,” said Mike Klein, advanced farming systems North America marketing manager.

Most farmers don’t choose their combines based on the monitors in the cab, but for those who might, here are some of the updates that come with Case IH’s new AFS Connect system.

New features

Refresh rate

The biggest improvement to the system is the length of time needed to update information provided to a laptop, tablet or smart phone. It used to take 15 minutes. Now it takes one minute.

Live time

“We have 30 minutes of live time per machine per day,” Klein said. This means your dealer could spend up to thirty minutes per day monitoring the complete performance of your combine without visiting your farm.

Or, an experienced operator could monitor the screens of a new hire. While you won’t have the option of changing settings from your home office (“in 12 months, maybe we’ll be able to do that,” Klein said), you can see exactly what’s going on the in the cab.

Why the limit? The cost of communicating between the machines and your office is included in the package price.

Service Alerts

You can set the AFS 2.0 to send service and maintenance alerts by text to your smart phone or laptop.

Two-way communication

Another addition allows two-way communication through customized messages. A farm manger can send messages to any or all workers running a machine equipped with an AFS system. The operators can reply with one of two pre-set answers. For example: “Do you need fuel? Answer yes or no.”

Klein admits “this isn’t going to replace a cell phone,” but it does add one more communication option.

Breadcrumbs

Every minute you’re operating the machine, the software will plot a dot on a map. Later, to analyze your work, you can click on one of these dots, and see what speed the machine was going when it passed that spot. “We can make customized reports,” Klein says.

Geo-fencing

Farmers who manage a large fleet and like technology might have fun with this. AFS 2.0 lets managers create a shape on the map, “geo-fencing” a particular location.

Why would you want to do this? One example Klein gave was to keep an eye on your equipment. For example, if a tractor leaves the yard while you’re away from home for a weekend, AFS Connect 2.0 can send you a text to let you know.

You can also use it to keep an eye on people. Klein suggested creating a “geo-fence” around the elevator in town. If your trucker is spending too much time in the coffee shop after he’s unloaded your canola, you could have the system text you.

You can also use it to keep an eye on your crops, for example, keeping a sprayer out of a non-GMO crop you’ve “geo-fenced.”

Pricing and data

You can install the AFS Connect 2.0 anywhere. Trucks. Tractors. Your service truck. “Your 16-year old daughter’s car,” Klein jokes.

First, you’ll need to buy the black boxes for each machine ($US850 per box). Then you’ll have to pay connection costs for each of them — $US$650/box per year. You’ll also need access to the Internet through your computer, smart phone or table to get to the information remotely.

“Data’s the hot topic right now. And it will continue to be, and for good reason,” Klein said.

“Many producers are just starting to realize that their data is currency. And when they realize that, they start to understand that some data service provides and farm equipment manufacturers have been helping themselves to that data for quite some time.”

AFS 2.0 Connect comes with a Technical Use Agreement that states that the farmer is the owner of the agronomic data. Farmers can choose who will see the data — for example, dealers could have access to information about the machines, but not the crop yields.

“Your information belongs to you and not the machine,” Klein said.

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Small farm ‘toys’ pack a mighty punch

Small farm ‘toys’ pack a mighty punch | Ag app | Scoop.it

Drones may seem like a fun toy — but on the farm, these fancy fliers mean business.

“At the end of the day, you want better information to make better decisions, and that’s what they give you,” said Steve Myshak, owner of Ventus Geospatial in Lethbridge.

“That’s the bottom line on why you want to use a service like this. It’s going to save you money on inputs, it’s going to increase your yields, and it’s going to help you detect diseases earlier.”

Drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — are starting to take off (no pun intended) in Alberta as farmers start to see how they might boost their bottom lines, said Myshak.

“You can increase your efficiency between 10 to 30 per cent over your whole farm,” he said. “That’s a direct cost saving right into your pocket.”

Most of that efficiency comes in time savings, he said.

“If you don’t want to walk your field, you can throw a UAV up and get live video feedback and see what’s going on in your field. Scouting your fields takes minutes, instead of hours or days. You can throw a UAV up in the morning and have data information in the afternoon.”

But there are other uses as well, including calculating field area or grain volumes; livestock counts; crop insurance claims; early disease or pest detection; and water movement.

Eyeballing the herd

Livestock operations across Alberta have already found plenty of uses for UAVs.

One feedlot in central Alberta uses them in a way that’s “very simple but very powerful,” getting a bird’s-eye view of its assets, said Myshak.

“To walk through there and do all that, it would take hours. You throw a drone up, you can get that data in minutes,” he said.

Another feedlot in southern Alberta uses UAVs to help with year-end inventory audits.

“Before they would have five or six accountants out there, plus five to 10 farm hands, to run the cattle down the shoot and measure all the bales,” he said. “Now we have one accountant on site and no help from the farmer, and we do everything in about a 10th of the time.”

Using UAVs, producers and feedlot operators are able to count cattle in the field — saving time while reducing stress for the animal.

“Now there’s no more need to run them down an alley,” said Myshak. “It’s very stressful for them, and they usually lose about a pound or two when you’re running them down the alley. This way, they don’t get disturbed. They don’t even know the UAV is there. We’re able to take the imagery back to the lab and do all the counts electronically.

“If you calculate one pound of loss per animal at a 10,000-head feedlot, you just saved yourself $15,000.”

Field flybys

But the benefit to grain farms may be even greater. For the past three years, Myshak has been working with Chris and Harold Perry of CKP Farms near Lethbridge.

The Perrys are “big into data-driven agriculture,” said Myshak, and were looking for ways to use data from drones “to make better decisions — to fertilize less, to save water, to detect diseases, to reduce inputs, and to increase yields.”

All of their potato fields are flown weekly, and they use the imagery from the UAVs to develop a prescription for their irrigation pivot, which has variable-rate control on every nozzle.

During one of those weekly flights, Myshak noticed a dark spot at one edge of the field using an infrared sensor. Healthy plants reflect more near-infrared energy, he said, while stressed or dying plants reflect less.

“You might not be able to see it in the visual data, but there’s something happening there,” said Myshak. “You’re able to detect things in the plant weeks before you ever see it with the naked eye.”

Upon seeing the potential problem area in the field, Myshak sent the GPS co-ordinates to the Perrys. The dark spot turned out to be potato blight.

“The key to having potato blight not ruin your whole field is early detection,” said Myshak.

“He may have lost 10 per cent of the field, but he’s basically saved the rest of his field. That’s $200,000 or $300,000 he saved because of drone imagery, which costs him a few dollars an acre.

“That’s the value proposition. It costs money — but it also saves you money in the end.”

And that kind of data doesn’t come cheap. For simple field scouting, a top-of-the-line UAV isn’t really necessary; a $1,500 DJI Phantom will likely do the trick, he said. But to capture the best data, “you’re going to need an expensive sensor and an expensive platform,” said Myshak, adding that prices can range up to $150,000.

“You really do get what you pay for.”

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Is 2015 The Breakout Year For Unmanned Aerial Systems?

Is 2015 The Breakout Year For Unmanned Aerial Systems? | Ag app | Scoop.it
() Why is that nearly every farm magazine you read today the hot trending topic is Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The answer is simple. Over the foreseeable future the use of UAS is going to be a great addition to our farming operations. Let me explain how 2015 could be the breakout year for this technology.
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La viticulture est en voie de robotisation

La viticulture est en voie de robotisation | Ag app | Scoop.it
Sans pilote et équipé de capteurs avancés, "VineRobot" fournira des informations sur l'état du vignoble, tels que le degré de développement végétatif, le niveau des eaux ou la composition du raisin.
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La NASA reporte le lancement d'un satellite de mesure de l'humidité des sols

La NASA reporte le lancement d'un satellite de mesure de l'humidité des sols | Ag app | Scoop.it

Des vents violents ont forcé jeudi l'agence spatiale américaine (NASA) à reporter d'au moins 24 heures le lancement du premier satellite de mesure de l'humidité des sols sur l'ensemble de la Terre, qui doit permettre de mieux prédire les sécheresses et les inondations.

La fusée Delta 2 de la société United Launch Alliance transportant le satellite SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive mission) devait décoller de la base militaire Vandenberg en Californie à 9h20 (heure de l'Est).

Mais des vents trop forts à haute altitude ont empêché le décollage dans la fenêtre de tir de trois minutes, a expliqué la NASA, qui effectuera une nouvelle tentative vendredi à la même heure.

Le satellite, qui est doté de deux instruments, un radiomètre et un radar, doit effectuer des mesures très précises de l'eau et de la glace contenue dans les sols.

Cette mission permettra d'établir une carte d'une résolution sans précédent de l'humidité à la surface de la Terre au moins tous les deux à trois jours, ce qui permettra de mieux prédire les sécheresses et les risques d'inondation.

Le degré hygrométrique des sols, comme celui de l'air, joue un rôle important dans les prévisions météorologiques et dans la compréhension des cycles de l'eau ainsi que de la dynamique du changement climatique, expliquent les scientifiques de la NASA.

Tous les types de sols émettent des micro-ondes, dont l'intensité varie en fonction de la quantité d'humidité qu'ils contiennent.

Ainsi, plus le sol est sec, plus grandes sont les émissions de micro-ondes. Inversement plus il est humide, moins d'énergie il contient.

Le radiomètre mesure ces radiations de micro-ondes, ce qui permet aux scientifiques à partir de ces données de calculer le degré hydrique des sols.

«Le récepteur à bord du satellite est extrêmement sensible», explique Jeff Piepmeier, responsable du radiomètre au centre des vols spatiaux Goddard de la NASA à Greenbelt dans le Maryland (est).

«Si on pouvait mettre un téléphone mobile sur la Lune fonctionnant sur la même fréquence que le récepteur du satellite --une grande antenne-- nous pourrions voir le portable s'allumer et s'éteindre», précise-t-il.

Le satellite sera placé en orbite polaire à 685 kilomètres d'altitude et effectuera une rotation de la Terre toutes les 98,5 minutes.

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5 ways unmanned drones could affect the American food supply

5 ways unmanned drones could affect the American food supply | Ag app | Scoop.it
Herding cattle. Counting fish. Taking an animal’s temperature. Applying pesticides.
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CNN obtient l'autorisation de tester des drones

CNN obtient l'autorisation de tester des drones | Ag app | Scoop.it

La chaîne d'information CNN a conclu un accord avec l'Agence fédérale américaine de l'aviation (FAA) pour tester l'usage des drones à des fins journalistiques aux États-Unis, a-t-elle annoncé dans un communiqué lundi.

Au départ surtout d'usage militaire, l'utilisation privée de ces petits aéronefs sans pilote, permettant la prise d'images et d'informations, est jusque-là quasi-interdite aux États-Unis, sauf exceptions et à basse altitude (moins de 122 mètres, loin des aéroports).

«Notre objectif est d'obtenir des équipements supérieurs» à ce qui existe actuellement dans le civil et «de mettre à plat les options qui s'offrent à nous pour produire un vidéo-journalisme de qualité, utilisant toute une gamme d'UAV (véhicule aérien sans pilote ou drone, ndlr) et d'installations caméras», indique David Vigilante, un dirigeant de CNN cité dans le communiqué.

Les tests prévus seront menés en collaboration avec le Georgia Tech Research Institute, précise l'accord. Ce centre de recherches est basé à Atlanta, tout comme la chaîne câblée vedette du groupe Time Warner.

La FAA, par la voix de son administrateur Michael Huerta, dit de son côté espérer que cet accord l'aidera à «intégrer en toute sécurité les outils de récolte d'informations sans pilote» dans l'espace aérien américain.

«Les aéronefs sans pilote représentent une opportunité de taille pour les médias», reconnaît-il.

Très prisés pour le potentiel qu'ils offrent pour la couverture d'événements d'actualité, sportifs et culturels depuis le ciel, avec des angles nouveaux, de plus en plus de voix s'élèvent dans le pays pour qu'une législation réglementant les drones soit adoptée. La date de publication de ces règles, attendue pour cette année, reste toutefois incertaine.

«Nous espérons que ces efforts contribueront au développement d'un écosystème dynamique, dans lequel des opérateurs de tout type et de toute taille peuvent évoluer», insiste M. Vigilante.

Jusque-là sont exemptées de l'interdiction de la FAA quelques entreprises spécialisées (dans la surveillance aérienne, le contrôle de sites de construction et les opérations de torchage) et des sociétés de production d'images.

Outre des réserves sur la préservation de la vie privé - les drones permettant de capturer et de conserver des images relatives aux personnes - l'un des plus grands obstacles à leur autorisation dans le civil est la crainte d'une hausse des risques de collisions aériennes.

Quelque 193 cas de vols de drones près d'un avion ont été enregistrés par la FAA du 22 février au 11 novembre 2014, rappelle l'AOPA, une association de pilotes, sur son site.

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10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015

10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015 | Ag app | Scoop.it

Has the app market reached a saturation point? Consider Google Play and the iTunes App Store combined have more than 2.5 million apps, according to recent statistics. And with hundreds of new apps added every day, one could argue enough is enough.

But I won’t. I say, bring it on. A competitive apps market is driving up quality. In fact, TechCrunch.com reported last year that Google removed 60,000 apps from their store that were not up to the mark when it comes to quality and usability. So with app developers forced to step up their games, it can only be good for customers.

The same holds true for ag professionals, who have a bounty of quality apps at their disposal for their Androids, iPads, iPhones and more. To help you sort through the best new agriculture apps available, I’ve once again researched the latest ones to hit the market. For the purpose of this list, I selected apps that were introduced — or significantly updated — in 2014 or due to launch in early 2015. View the slideshow below to see which apps made the cut.

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