Improving wheat yield predictions with crop image technology

Novel applications developed by researchers at BioSense Institute in Serbia are dedicated to make deep learning technology a widely accepted practice in agriculture, providing small and big farm holders to benefit from precision farming technology.

BioSense, the Serbian Research and Development Institute for Information Technologies in Biosystems, is a multidisciplinary research institute for agriculture of the future. The wheat yield prediction research conducted in Serbia aims to increase the collection of farm management data, help farmers understand more about their farm business by using sensor technology and IoT applications, and reduce farm labour.

Wheat yield experiments

Wheat is one of the most important crop types in food production worldwide. Due to increasing food demand and rising population, it is necessary to boost production and supplies of wheat and other cereals.

In 2019, BioSense Institute, observed wheat in different experimental field stages and did this for three consecutive seasons. Cameras used during the experiment were the FLIR SC620 in season one and two, and a thermal camera in the third season. By taking pictures of the wheat growing in their field (four weeks before harvest), and uploading it through a mobile application, farmers were able to gain information about the wheat yield estimate based on the current state of growth.

The objective of this research is to enable the farmer to use imagery to detect at an earlier stage when estimated yields are below average and timely apply agronomic treatments to improve yield.

Farm efficiency with data management

The automatization of ear density calculation (number of ears per unit ground area, usually 1m2), which is one of the main agronomic yield components in determining grain yield in wheat, can provide fast evaluation of this attribute and potentially save 200 hours of manual work, ease monitoring, and increase crop management practice efficiency. This will save money from potential yield reduction, which can cause big losses in the farmers’ investments.

The currently used process of yield prediction includes manual and tedious work. The farmer takes samples from the area of 1m2 from the field (if the field is larger, then from a few locations within a field), and measures the biomass. The next step is to separate and count the ears of wheat manually. Since the counting of one sample requires up to 1 hour, while the number of samples can easily exceed 200, this can result in more than 200 working hours, or two to three weeks of manual labour that could be avoided.

The collected dataset comprises RGB and thermal images. Thermal images give us information about the difference in temperature between the ears and their background through their colouring and ease ear detection. Images were taken in four dates on two locations in two stages of wheat growth.

Power of deep learning

Since we have witnessed a huge breakthrough of neural networks, especially in image processing, deep learning has greatly outperformed classical models and algorithms. The nature of deep learning is that the addition of more data improves the quality of results, so by uploading images from farmers (crowd sourcing), the initial database will be expanded, so the algorithm will achieve better and more accurate results.

For more information about the methodologies used in this research by BioSense Institute, visit the DRAGON website.

 

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Data-driven precision agriculture by DRAGON

Agri-EPI Centre is a core partner within the data-driven agriculture services and skill acquisition project DRAGON. The aim of the project is to enable communication skill transfer and knowledge exchange between research organisations and end users through big data and effective data analytics.

 

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This article is an extract from an article of Željana Grbović – Junior Researcher, BioSense Institute – published on www.datadragon.eu.

New animal health report highlights lessons learned Covid-19 pandemic

Lessons learned from Covid-19 pandemic highlighted in new animal health report

The animal health industry needs to be better prepared for disruptions like Covid-19 and have resiliency plans in place to handle supply and demand.

This is the ‘lessons learned’ message from Agri-EPI’s Chief Executive Dave Ross in a new report exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the global animal health industry.

Report Animal Health Industry Response COVID19 - Kisaco ResearchThe production of Animal Health Industry Response to COVID-19 and the Rise of Telemedicine was co-ordinated by Kisaco Research. It seeks to assess the full impact of the outbreak across the sector, and provide insight in the form of industry surveys, data collection, discussions, and interviews with market leaders and emerging companies.

Dave was one of 55 contributing experts from around the world. He comments in the report on labour shortages and the skills gap from COVID and Brexit, the issue of food protectionism and overall lessons learned from the advent of the pandemic.

On the latter point, Dave says that the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the food supply chain when a disruptor comes into the market and highlighted the lack of preparations companies and suppliers had to pivot to other markets.

He cites in the report the example of the UK dairy sector, where 35 million litres of milk were being produced a day, pre-Covid. A significant proportion of the approximately 10 million litres destined for the service sector ended up being wasted when demand stopped abruptly due to lockdown. This led to a subsequent price collapse, with the current system ‘not being able to turn off the tap’ on supply.

Dave also highlights how the crisis has brought a renewed focus on the need to reduce food waste, with 9.5 million tons of food being lost each year in the UK.

The report coincides with Animal Health Investment USA, a large scale event on 12 and 13 October connecting businesses and investors around opportunities in the animal health industry. Dave sits on the event’s Global Advisory Board.

To get hold of the report, please get in touch with Kisaco Research.