Data - Agri-EPI Centre - Engineering Precision Innovation

Data

The capture of data is critical to improving where, how and why we farm in the UK today. Unlocking the data and the learning it holds will support the future and technological advances in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture.
Supporting better and greater collection and analysis of data, Agri-EPI explores and delivers precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across soil, crops and livestock.

UK farmers confident about benefits of agri-tech but unsure of its role in net zero, new research suggests

While most UK farmers are using agri-tech, many are doubtful of its ability to help them meet net zero targets, a nationwide survey by Agri-EPI Centre has revealed.

The Agri-EPI research sought to understand how and why farmers are using agri-tech, shed light on barriers to its use and explore the technologies farmers think will be needed in the future.

The research, conducted through interviews with farmers across the UK, found that 78% are using some form of agri-tech, with the highest adoption rates among younger farmers and those with large farms. The biggest reasons for its use are increased productivity and profitability.

Yet, while the same percentage (78%) of farmers believe that it is important to reduce their farm’s greenhouse gas emissions (rising to 94% of those under the age of 45), only just above a third (35%) are confident that technology will help them reach net zero carbon emissions.

One reason for this could be that farmers need greater skills and support to understand the benefits of technology and to adopt it. The research found only half of farmers rate their skills in using agri-tech as ‘good’, with less than half (43%) of all farmers interviewed feeling well supported in introducing or making better use of existing technology.

Agri-EPI centre’s Chief Executive, David Ross, said: “While the majority of UK farmers recognise that agri-tech has an important role in supporting their priorities of productivity and profit, we are struck by the fact that only around a third felt tech has a role to play in environmental sustainability.

“Technology is one of the solutions to helping farmers reduce their emissions –agri-tech that helps farmers be more efficient and productive usually offers a win-win for sustainability.

“The findings of our research provide important insights for Agri-EPI and our fellow Agri-Tech Centres, as well as for those with a role in developing, evaluating and promoting technology, particularly the agri-food sector, policy makers, agri-tech companies and the R&D community. The farmers we spoke to told us they need accessible training, funding, and more evidence and independent advice to help them make the best use of agri-tech. We want to collaborate with partners across all of areas to ensure the benefits of agri-tech is make clear and the avenues to adoption are easily accessible.”

Of the farmers interviewed who are using agri-tech, popular technologies include machine guidance systems (40% reported they are using this), soil mapping (35%), livestock growth monitoring (30%) and variable rate application (28%).

Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm.

Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm. The findings of the research will be discussed at Agri-EPI’s annual conference, titled The Path to Sustainability, on 28 October.

Holistic farming platforms to support agri-businesses

Three years ago, Glas Data founders Rob Sanders and Colin Philipson saw a need to help farmers produce larger quantities of better produce in a sustainable and cost saving manner. They tailored an existing platform to the agricultural industry and launched software system GlasCore. This system was specifically designed to help farming businesses control and monitor all aspects of their farm and process, ensuring they capture and isolate any potential problems before they became major issues.

Agri-EPI met with member Glas Data to find out more about their technology supporting farming businesses, the collaboration with hardware providers and their plans for the future:

 

Q&A with agri-tech innovator Glas Data

This high tech system, can be explained in three stages:

  1. Hardware – form of installing sensors that captures real-time data (example: Temp of milk)
  2. Gateway – Wirelessly and securely collects the data.
  3. Software – GlasCore displays this data in a readable and easy to understand manner.

With this whole system being wireless and automated, all our client need do is log on to their dashboard from the comfort of their home or on the go on their phone to see all the real-time readings and track their farming data.

The great thing about GlasCore is that yes it aggregates data from sensors, but it can also  aggregate data from other sources, such as the NMR (National Milk Records). This allows for the data to be imported really easily and displayed, for example, by cow. We have current users who can now access and review the protein, fat, milk levels etc in individual cows. Then, with one of our most recent exciting updates, they can visualise these cows in one graph all separately and be able to easily track the highest performing, and different levels in comparison to one another.

Depending on the business targets and aims our system can help in a myriad of ways. We sit down and talk with each potential client and customer and ask them for their targets and goals, this way we are able to customise their dashboard to achieve this. From monitoring key metrics to alerting someone of a potential issue, GlasCore, is customised to the clients needs.

What is key to note is that GlasCore draws together all of your business data, from freezer and fridge temperatures, to water and energy usage, to monitoring whether a door is open or closed, GlasCore brings this into a easily accessible versatile dashboard.

This year has proven the importance of the UK farming industry and how we need to ensure the best care of our animals, produce, and entire process from the feed we provide our animals to the best quality in processing products. UK farmers work tirelessly long days and harder than ever to ensure this and we want to help them. Our software is designed to provide business and personal reassurance and peace of mind which I think is important now more than ever. Farmers care so much for their animals and farms, we need to help care for them but giving a little help where we can.

The various features within the system, and can be really tailored to the clients needs and use. Some tools and aspects may not be as essential depending on the usage.

  • Mapping: Through the RPA, map out your land parcels, hedges, field boundaries and names into one easy to use map. Visualise your buildings, landmarks and then pin your sensors to their specific locations. (Expand)
  • Real-Time Alerts: Setting up specific alerts from your live data incase a temp goes too low, or a large amount of water is used to prevent failures, leakages and ensure your business is looked after 24/7. You chose the parameters and create the alerts to what you need. Receive a text or email when something spikes.  (Expand)
  • Visualisations: Real-time data is great, but here you can visualise this in a helpful way that allows you to notice spikes, compare data, and track its progress. (Expand)

The UK farming industry is becoming more and more important with everything going on in the world. Something we have been working thoroughly on is water monitoring and early leak detection. Through monitoring key metrics and providing a substantial overview of usage, we can detect leakages early and also find ways to conserve water and form a more sustainable way of farming. There is much more detail to this, but our system presents all of your data in a way that you can use it to take action.

The farming industry has taken incredible steps over the last decade and is reaching for a low carbon and sustainable way of working, providing more produce of better quality. Through this many people have IoT devices (Internet of Things) and smart sensors all collecting data, but no platform to review, track and notice trends for this. This is where GlasCore comes in! Working with companies that allow us to provide over 70 different LoRaWAN sensors and gateways to collect the data, we have the whole package.

Our development team work continuously to develop and provide more and more exciting features. One of my tasks is to ask our customers and clients what they want from their dashboard and if we cannot already provide that service, work with the development team to create a solution and place this in to our development pipeline. We have actually just had a large update over the weekend, that I will be creating tutorial videos for to showcase the new functions.

Our aim as a team and company is to help farmers take control of their data, massively increase the data they manage so that the decisions they make are as informed as possible, and in the long run analyse all the data and generate insights that are completely tailored to them.

 

More information

If you would like to understand more about the on-farm software solutions on offer, please contact Glas Data by using the following contact details:

Email: hello@glas-data.com
Phone: 07485 017650

45 Lemon Street
Truro, Cornwall
TR1 2NS
United Kingdom

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.

 

Photo gallery:

 

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.

Farming digitalisation and agriculture

Enabling smart decisions

Wyoming Interactive is a digital consultancy providing farming digitalisation and agriculture data services, software engineering and user experience design to medical, veterinary, agri-tech and life science organisations. Wyoming Interactive helps producers, breeders and veterinarians achieve high impact outcomes through smarter use of data and digital. Launched in 2008, Wyoming have built long-term relationships and a solid reputation for seamless end-to-end digital solutions amongst both US and UK clients over the last 12 years.

Digitalisation can reduce costs, increase revenues and build value-added services and Wyoming have been heavily involved in delivering these benefits to clients in Europe and North America. Much of their work in the agri-tech sector is to help organisations digitalise traditionally farming processes, such as data collection, through the use of smartphone apps, for example. Connecting new data sources, such as those based on GPS, weather, soil, herd health, crop health, etc. is a relatively new but rapidly increasing need and progressive users are seeing benefits accrue.

Wyoming incorporate these digital data sources into smart tools and power visual dashboards (which can support mobility through smartphone apps). Predictive tools can also be built on top of these data sources to move beyond ‘what happened’ to ‘what will happen’. Consequently, farms can enable smart decisions to be made and poor decisions avoided.

Data-driven farming

Agriculture and farming require digital tools to offer new growth potential. However, many producers have technology from different time periods and from different providers. While ‘point solutions’ can be adept at controlling finances, monitoring yield or tracking pesticide use, this does trend towards data silos making it harder to project an integrated view of farm performance. Data management techniques and digital dashboards marshal those various sources, abstracting the interpretation and action away from clunky source systems and into rich reporting and visualisation tools creating a holistic business view.

Allowing for better visibility and management of the wealth of data both livestock and crop farmers produce, will enable them to make data-driven decisions that will optimise yield, boost revenue, minimise expense and predict the best time to plant.

A recent example of Wyoming’s work was with an organisation that helps farmers to manage farm operations. The data generated from the farm is used throughout the food supply chain and with veterinarians. Wyoming helped to make sense of this data, creating customised models and dashboards tailored to the varying needs of different stakeholders.

For more about farming digitalisation and Wyoming Interactive, visit: www.wyoming-interactive.com.

Boosting the uptake of Precision Agriculture in Serbia

The limited adoption of precision agriculture is causing a lag in productivity in the sector – something which Agri-EPI is trying to alter through its involvement with the DRAGON project in Serbia. 

The three-year project aims to increase the adoption of precision agriculture technologies, practices and strategies by upskilling and educating young researchers in both hard and soft skills. Funded by H2020, it’s a consortium of four partnersBioSense, a Serbian University that cross-fertilizes two most promising sectors in Serbia: ICT and agriculture, recognising that ICT today plays a pivotal role in ensuring sustainable, smart and inclusive growth of agriculture. The other partners in the project are Agri-EPI Centre, Strathclyde University and Wageningen University in The Netherlands. 

At the end of November, Agri-EPI’s CTO, Shamal Mohammed, attended a four-day training school at the BioSense Institute in Serbia, to sit on the B2B panel. He was joined by Jim Wilson at SoilEssentials, who delivered a talk on online precision farming platform KORE, and Ben Scott-Robinson at the Small Robot Company, who spoke about AI driven robotic services for farming. 

The training school has presented students with technical information about innovation in agriculture, agri-tech and applied science solutions on farm, while also demonstrating how to present and profile research. 

Through further organised trips to the Netherlands and the UK over the course of the project, it is expected that skills and expertise will be transferred to BioSense researchers. The longterm outcome of the project will help them improve their capability to communicate practical big data knowledge across the supply chain and to the non-scientific community.  

For more information about DRAGON, please visit the website: www.datadragon.eu/.  

Sensor technology at Dairy Parkend Farm the new norm

Sensors that make sense: from farming to water control

Dairy farming has been a family affair at Parkend Farm in Scotland for three generations. But keeping an eye on the cows has never been easier. On his smartphone, Brian Weatherup receives automatic emails from the farm’s computer system, that alert him of any changes in the cows’ health or fertility status. The data is collected by collars the animals wear around their neck.

Collars for cows

“The collar indicates that there’s been a drop in a cow’s average eating time or average rumination time or average activity. And any one of these factors could be a primary indicator that the cow is either sick or just starting to get sick, and the key factor in these collars is that they can pick up these problems before they become very serious,” Brian explains.

When the animal eats, its neck muscles move – the movement is captured by the collars’ sensors, and wirelessly collected and processed. The collar’s developers are planning to add location tracking, which would be particularly valuable for free-grazing cows.

Milking cows: a robot’s affair

Milking robots measure the volume and composition of the milk produced by each cow. Farmers use this data to boost productivity and improve the well-being of their animals. These and other smart innovations are being studied at farms across Britain as part of an EU-funded research project aimed at making agriculture more sustainable and more efficient.

Ivan Andonovic is a researcher in communication systems at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, which is a partner of the project.

“What’s happened with the technological evolution over the last ten years is that processing power has become cheaper, the energy spent in processing has dropped, and the functionality – the form factor, the shape, the size of it – is much more manageable. It’s only under those criteria that you can use technology to create an economic solution for the farming sector,” he says.

According to Freddie Reed, project manager and part of the Agri-EPI Farm Network Team:

“The first stage of it is to find the extent of issues, collect the data over the farms, so we know what’s going on on the farm, then we can identify the causes of inefficiencies on the farm, and once we know the causes we can find the problems to solve those solutions.”

Brian says that in the six months since he adopted the new technology, production has increased by one fifth and his animals’ health has improved, too. Researchers see even greater potential in integrating sensor data along the production chain, by developing a common standard for data exchange.

“The way we can have a real impact and make life even easier for Brian and his colleagues in this sector is to create a consistent and coherent database which takes both the data coming in, the collar system, and the output, the robot system, and then match input to output, says researcher Ivan Andonovic.

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Source: this is a synopsis of an article that has been published on Euro News on 6 November 2017. Read the full article.

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