One App to unite them all
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Understanding all your data at once
Have you ever wondered what it takes for a farmer to be successful? Running a profitable farm requires not only producing high-quality products, that keeps your customers coming back for more, but also carefully managing your resources. Farming is unpredictable, you are reliant on many variables falling into place and finding quick solutions when they don’t. Success takes planting the right crop at the right time, having favorable weather conditions or the ability to mitigate unfavorable ones, a fair amount of luck and a vast library of knowledge and usable data at your fingertips. Let’s face it farming is hard work and farmers are a dedicated, determined lot, striving to provide the population with the food they need to sustain life.
Once the desired crop is chosen, after careful consideration of opportunities within the market and the demands of food producers, determining the right to sow the crop comes next. Erratic changes in weather patterns have made using only historical knowledge and generational knowledge to predict and select the best time a game of chance. As the arrival, duration and frequency of severe storm events deviate from historical patterns, weather services, and their prediction models are now combined with historical models to track rain, wind, snow or hail conditions. Additionally, changes in farming regulations that promote the conservation of vital resources, like water and energy and the occurrence of new pests have made producing crops even more unpredictable. These changes in regulations and utility pricing schemes also have farmers looking towards technology to help them not only monitor their resources but also calibrate the volume of chemicals they apply in the field.
In order to increase productivity while minimizing their resource usage farmers turn to precision agriculture. What is precision agriculture? Precision agriculture is often defined as the use of sensors and other devices connected to the Internet of Things to assist in managing the farm and fields. Research in this field is aimed at crafting a decision support system that optimizes returns on inputs while preserving resources. While the introduction of sensor and satellite data has the potential to make farmers’ lives easier, the data is often disjointed and spread over several sources. With each new technology farmers embrace and each sensor, they deploy in their fields, there is a new unique dashboard that requires separate login credentials.
A simple solution would be to provide the farmer with a hardware-agnostic system that displays all of the sensors deployed in a given field, as well as their operational status and the current value of the data they are collecting. This would lessen the time spent logging on to different sensor dashboards and examining the data on each. However, the farmer would still have to analyze the data himself and determine how it relates to the current health of the crop and future yields. Is there a more efficient way to assist the farmer? Yes, Foris.io. Foris.io is more than just a data storage and display application; it is a hardware-agnostic system that provides actionable insights based on the analysis of the data it collects and displays from various devices. Foris.io provides farmers with a precision agriculture decision support tool designed to reduce operational costs and improve yields and soil health through crop/soil treatment optimization.
Our product aggregates data from above ground (weather, aerial imagery), in-ground (sensors, soil health) and crop-specific variables. We use this data to optimize crop treatment decisions (eg: variable rate irrigation and fertilization) and provide farmers with real-time feedback on the impact of these decisions. Our focus allows us to monitor the sensors deployed in numerous fields and then analyze all of the data and make decisions. This reduces the time spent by the farmer having to access multiple sensor dashboards and ties the information together, eliminating the major stumbling block farmers face when adopting precision agriculture technologies. As one of our farmer partners stated, “The professional services that we have available to us primarily focus on one aspect of the farm and are not able to tie production variables together.”
Soil nutrient tests coupled with crop variety and needs as well as weather forecast predictions, allow the farmer to determine what fertilizers need to be applied and when these chemicals should be applied to avoid the occurrence of leaching. This is important because while fertilizer applications can be useful in improving crop quality, excess application of fertilizers can be deleterious to yield and health of the crop. To further fine-tune the fertilizer and nutrient application process within the growing season, aerial imagery can be used to look at areas within the field where elements have been noted to be in excess of what is recommended for the crop, as well as farmers can deploy NPK sensors within their fields, to obtain a better understanding of penetration and uptake rates.
Combining weather conditions both current and forecasted and monitoring soil moisture, the farmer can proactively adjust his irrigation schedule to prevent over or underwatering the crop, as well as keep an eye out for rot and diseases that thrive when there is excess moisture, especially during rainstorm events, which can saturate the soil and lead to flooding. While aerial images can help highlight imperceptible declines in plant health, used in conjunction with soil moisture readings and weather conditions they can be used to identify the cause of declining crop health ahead of workers walking the field by our analysts looking at these often-separate data sets together. Fast identification of problems can lead to prompt mitigation of issues and reduces the volume of chemical treatments that may be needed to resolve issues.
Our data integration with IBM Watson allows us to build a compendium of pests, diseases and other crop issues that impact specialty crops for various sources. This compendium will also have treatment options and the latest research offerings on improving crop health and quality, so that farmers can easily query it for assistance and information they may not have readily on hand. In addition to creating this compendium, our continuous monitoring of fields will allow us to build historic soil profiles of the nutrients crops and chemicals applied, which are an important input into machine learning models to craft field-specific regimes that support sustainability and produce high quality produce.