Eye on AI - February 5th, 2021
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
This week we’ll be taking a look at some exciting news in precision farming, including a pilot program that uses satellite imagery to improve grazing pasture health and a precision farming company that recently reached 125 million acres of digitally managed farmland.
New Organic Valley Program Uses Satellite Imagery to Guage Pasture Health
We begin with news about a new Organic Valley pilot program that uses satellite imagery to measure pasture health in real-time.
The program, detailed this week in the PR Newswire article “Organic Valley to Pioneer use of Satellite Technology to Improve Pasture Grazing,” helps manage what is known as "intensive rotational grazing," a practice used within regenerative farming systems where herds move rapidly through perennial pastures that are divided into smaller sections called paddocks based on the maturity and quality of forage available.
"Rotational grazing requires farmers to measure the forage in each paddock on a regular basis, a manual and time-intensive practice," said Wade Miller, Organic Valley senior director of farm resources. "Satellite photos measure the forage in each paddock remotely, greatly easing the farmer's labor and time burden. Based on university trials, we expect our farmers will be able to capture at least a 20% increase in pasture utilization through the use of this technology."
Organic Valley cows currently spend more time grazing outside than 95% of the dairy cows in the U.S. The company business model depends on effective pasture management, with regenerative farming being an enormous part of that. By using satellite imagery to help manage pastures, Organic Valley’s farmers will get access to real-time feedback of pasture health, helping inform them about which padlocks to give their herds access to and when, all to the benefit of pasture, herd and environmental health.
The satellite imagery pilot program will begin on a cross-section of Organic Valley farms nationwide this year, and should become available to all Organic Valley farms in 2022.
Remote Sensing and Digitally Managed Farmland on the Rise
Speaking of satellite-assisted farm management, the Syngenta Group, a leading global provider of agricultural science and technology and crop protection products, announced this week that it has reached its milestone of 125 million acres of digitally managed farmland by its clients. Digital services include advanced scouting, seeds selection, imagery decision support, weather risk management, financial planning, crop and farm operations management.
While this is certainly news to tip your hat to, it may not be too much of a surprise for those of you that have been following precision farming. 70-80% of the new farming management purchases were already deemed to contain some form of precision farming tools back in 2018, according to the precision farming market report that year.
Why the increase? The same reason AI is increasing in every market: the technology is getting better. The TechBullion article “Remote Sensing Technology Trends In Modern Agriculture” does a nice job of succinctly outlining how precision farming and remote sensing tech have evolved.
“Remote sensing and georeferencing gave unprecedented possibilities to check fields without physical presence, analyze historical data, and make prognoses,” writes TechBullion contributor Angela Scott-Briggs. “The wide use of smartphones, computers, and the internet encouraged quick technology adoptions…. In agribusiness, remote sensing empowers farmers with comprehensive knowledge as to the state of their crops, which allows mitigating risks by reacting early. Data-driven vegetation indices timely signal discrepancies in plant development by correlating specific index values with certain growth stages. GPS-guided robots and machinery carry out field operations with better precision and endurance than humans.”
In short, precision farming works. And it’s only going to improve. Supplement this story with our precision farming post from October, which looks at how AI-enabled methods in crop breeding and cattle management are enabling farmers to produce yields that are better, healthier, and more resistant to climate disruption.
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