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Ag’s appetite for mobile information grows

Syngenta recently relaunched the mobile version of its FarmAssist website to provide a better user experience that allows visitors to navigate through information more easily.
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Canopeo is a rapid and accurate green canopy cover measurement tool

Canopeo is a rapid and accurate green canopy cover measurement tool | Ag app |
Canopeo is a rapid and accurate green canopy cover measurement tool. This app is used to quantify the percent canopy cover of live green vegetation for any agricultural crop, turf, or grassland based on downward-facing photos taken with your mobile device. The app is based on research conducted at Oklahoma State University and allows you to accurately determine the percent canopy cover in real-time, so that you can precisely monitor progress of crops and make informed management decisions.
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Apps to boost productivity and organize your life

Apps to boost productivity and organize your life | Ag app |

Staying organized and motivated throughout the workweek can be tough. For those days when you just can't seem to get your routine going, these 13 apps will help you identify your priorities, set goals and get your schedule in order.

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Drone Technology Helps Florida Farmers Cut Costs

Drone Technology Helps Florida Farmers Cut Costs | Ag app |

For Rodney Watson, knowing exactly what’s going on in 13,000 acres worth of land is almost impossible.

Watson, procurement manager at 83 Farms LLC in Bell, Florida, has done it the old-fashioned way for six years by walking or driving a truck through the fields to check the crops by hand. The whole process could take hours.

Then a year ago, the farm got an update: a drone.

With the drone, Watson is able to remotely scan all 13,000 acres of land—which, in farm terms, isn’t so big—in a fraction of the time it took before.

As state legislation slowly shifts to allow the implementation of drones in Florida’s agriculture, farmers are beginning to turn to the new technology to cut costs and reduce time-draining tasks like checking on crops acre by acre.

In the past few years, drone technology has become more efficient and cost-effective, allowing for agriculture to integrate them into its business. Florida’s agriculture has tentatively embraced the technology, but restrictive legislation has slowed the process.

In 2013, Florida passed Statute 934.50, which limited the use of drones in law enforcement. However, the Federal Aviation Administration approved an agriculture-specific permit for drone use in January.

According to Thomas Rambo, chief operating officer of Altavian, a local commercial drone company, the FAA is planning to approve all commercial drone use in 2017, which would have a tremendous impact on north central Florida’s economy.

A report in 2015 by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International outlined the economic impact of the introduction of drones in Florida. It stated Florida would see approximately a $600 million impact and create about 3,000 jobs in the first two years of a drone introduction.

“The majority of them are in agriculture, so agriculture will be the biggest market for UAVs,” said Reza Ehsani, University of Florida assistant professor in the Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering.

Technology, like drones, is key to allowing more cost-effective farming procedures, Ehsani said. They can help farmers identify disease, unwelcome species and other stresses on their crops.

He said drones have both passive and active application in terms of agriculture.

For example, a passive task for drones would be to survey and map lands to identify problems, manage growth or estimate yield, he said. Active tasks include spraying chemicals on a very specific area or even chasing away unwelcome birds.

Ehsani said these jobs are made easier, not to mention cheaper, with the reduced costs and eventual legality of the drones.

The new drones would benefit small local farms tremendously, said Rambo, chief operating officer of Altavian.

“Some of our early analysis says that smaller farms actually would benefit more from this type of technology,” he said.

“High value crops like blueberries, tomatoes and strawberries can really benefit from either prescription mapping or decreased yields with unmanned air vehicle technology.”

And Watson, procurement manager, agrees.

He has a very bright outlook on the use of drones in agriculture, which he plans to use to survey corn crops that may have been damaged by wild hogs, he said.

“It’s hard to tell from the ground, you know, if the hogs are getting in and tearing it down,” Watson said. “With a plane, its hard to see anything, we at least will be able to identify (the hogs).”

Ehsani said that though the technology has been around for years, only recently has it become a viable option for farmers.

“The difference is now with the UAV, we can do this with a much lower cost,” he said. “That makes it more attractive to growers and the fact that they can fly whenever they want to fly.”

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New field calculator measures sustainability of farm practices

New field calculator measures sustainability of farm practices | Ag app |
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 |
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 |

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 |

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 |
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 |
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 |

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 ( 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 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 |

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 |

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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Data the key in drone decisions

Data the key in drone decisions | Ag app |
DRONES and UAVs in agriculture are very much the buzz at the moment but machinery dealer, Emmetts has focused on the data rather than the device to make productivity in-roads for farmers.Offerring what is essentially a rapid turnaround crop imagery service, Victorian and South Australian equipment dealer Emmetts’ CropFlight uses lightweight drone technology with the results available rapidly allowing farmers to make timely crop decisions.The Emmetts service is provided in liaison with US company Agrobotix, and returns crop or vegetation health data just 24 hours after the lightweight drone buzzes the property.It’s data that can resonate with croppers as they can identify crop deficiencies and work with their agronomist on rectifications with fertiliser, irrigation or weed control.The service can save time and money. Measuring the health of a crop in-field can be used to generate a prescriptive in-crop fertilisation program that can then dialed into an application map - a process delivering targeted results.Emmett's’ CropFlight service data can also be combined or overlaid with historical field data collected via harvest yield mapping or Greenseeker style technology allowing the farmer to generate an accurate assessment of crop health before making management decisions.While use of imagery data in this context is not new, the timeliness of satellite imagery and the time to have the data converted to application maps has typically been slow.
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Robotic farming coming soon to a field near you

Robotic farming coming soon to a field near you | Ag app |
A shortage of produce labor workers coupled with rapid technological advancement is making the idea of robotics on the farm a compelling solution for farm owners.
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Growing season apps

Growing season apps | Ag app |
Here are mobile apps to help you this growing season. From scouting weeds, insects, soybean aphids and more to calculating growing degree days, identifying weeds and getting help with integrated pest management, identifying nutrient deficiencies and calculating tank mixes, these apps offer easily accessible help while you're out in the field this summer.
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How Technology is Transforming the Agriculture Industry.

How Technology is Transforming the Agriculture Industry. | Ag app |
Science has always played a significant role in the agriculture industry, with new seed varieties developed to boost food security and fertilizers enriching soils with nutrients. However, it is only in recent years that we’re starting to link technological advancements with the industry – from drones to apps here’s how technology is transforming the agriculture industry: Apps are improving access to informationFrom accurate local weather forecasts to the latest event information, apps have enabled our industry to access crucial information at the touch of a screen. Apps are now even informing fertilizer application and can enable farmers to send images of crops in a poor condition to experts, who can provide accurate tips and fertilizer recommendations within 24 hours. At IFA we wanted to offer members an easier way to access all information from our events, so we have now launched our events app. The app provides updates on the list of participants, speakers, exhibitors and the event agenda. Members will be able to use the app for the first time at the upcoming IFA annual conference in Istanbul. Drones are capturing vital dataOver the last few months we’ve shared lots of interesting articles on social media looking at the role drones will play in agriculture.Drones provide farmers with cost-effective satellite images of their fields, giving them a clear picture of all their land and highlighting any critical areas of worry. These images are enabling farmers to be more efficient and accurate than ever before.Mobile phones are linking farmers to markets (and the world!)Some say that Africa has “skipped the landline stage” and moved straight to mobile.This certainly seems to be the case with farmers in the continent, who have quickly moved from having to travel to market to find the local asking price for their produce to receiving market prices in text messages. Farmers can now access a world of information, from global food prices to weather forecasts, without having to leave their house or farm. Oxfam have even claimed that mobile phones can play a vital role in feeding an estimated 9 billion people by 2050.Soil sensors are enabling more farmers to save land Like drones, soil moisture sensors are offering farmers more accurate data than ever before. The sensors can be placed in soil to measure water content and can provide vital updates to save soil (and water). Robots are offering farmers a helping handFrom cattle to crop planting robots are stepping in to help farmers with time consuming tasks. Agriculture robots have also helped to improve accurate soil management, with irrigation systems accurately watering the land and some machines helping with the precise application of fertilizer.At IFA we embrace the many ways that technology can enhance our industry, that’s why we’ve launched our brand new app to ensure all our members have the latest event information at their fingertips. We look forward to exploring the many ways that technology can improve the lives of farmers around the world and we believe that technology will play an increasingly significant role in our industry.
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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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |

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 |

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.


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.


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 |

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 |
() 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 |
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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