Augmenta's Impact on Farming in Australia
Augmenta has presented its inaugural Webinar [LINK] in that vast country 'Down Under', Australia. It is part of the company's World Presence Program which entails an on-going series of region-tailored Webinars in five different languages.
The new Webinar is headed by a panel of local experts who explain the Augmenta System (aka Augmenta Field Analyzer) and demonstrate how it can help Aussie farmers minimize waste and input costs while boosting yields and profitability.
Presenter Bill Dwyer, head of Bridge Commodities and Augmenta’s APAC Commercial Partner is joined by Ben Findlay, OzValueAg Product Developer, along with Dimitri (Jim) Evangelopoulos, Augmenta's Co-founder and General Manager. The Webinar also features Paul Fischer, ARAG Australia's Sales Manager, and Kym Eldredge, ARAG Australia's Director and well-respected five decade veteran of the Australian agricultural precision electronics industry.
During the Webinar, Dimitri recounts a brief history of the company. Frustrated by the waste and imprecision of conventional farming practices, he and fellow co-founder George Varvarelis combined their farming backgrounds and electrical engineering training to find a better way.
They came up with the Augmenta System, a revolutionary retrofit which uniquely uses its own actionable data to render fully-automated VRA services in real-time.
The Augmenta System is mounted on the cabin roof of a standard tractor or self-propelled spreader/sprayer. It uses an array of hi-res multispectral cameras to look ahead as the tractor is driven in the field.
On-board algorithms and machine vision number-crunching create a continuously updated vegetative index of crop health/need and prescription map. This is used to control the variable rate of input to the field via an actuated spreader/sprayer. The process is fully-automatic and done on-the-go in a single pass.
All the farmer needs to do is drive and monitor the operation from the cab on the System's wireless tablet.
As explained in the Webinar, the use of cameras gives the Augmenta System an exceptional advantage. Not only does it allow the accurate determination of crop health and need, but it also allows recognition of field anomalies such as damaged, rocky or water-logged areas. In the case of Nitrogen fertilization, a sensor-based system measuring chlorophyll reflectance would assume such areas need more fertilizer and apply it, but the exact opposite is actually true.
The Augmenta System knows exactly where it should (and should not) apply input. It adds fertilizer to field areas with good growth potential but reduces it in those already doing well (to avoid unnecessary biomass increase) and those of very limited or no growth potential (although enough fertilizer is still applied to maintain bioactivity). This reduces waste and keeps input costs down, while promoting crop uniformity and maximizing yield potential. In other words, it uses less to achieve more.
The Webinar panel explains that greater field diversity actually makes Augmenta N-VRA results better, not worse. Moreover, the Augmenta System is AI based and self-learning. Its own data refines the algorithms, thereby improving efficiency.
The Augmenta System can be used on all the major crops grown in Australia such as grains, cotton, and sugarcane. The list of crop types the System can handle is being added to all the time. It also offers a range of VRA services including Nitrogen fertilization and various Harvest Aid and PGR growth regulator operations. Because the on-board electronics are so powerful, more services are added as their respective algorithms are developed.
To meet a particular Australian demand, for instance, a new Green on Brown selective spraying service is slated for release later this year. All new services are simple over-the-air upgrades. No additional hardware is required.
As part of Augmenta's all-in-one 360° approach, data from the Augmenta System is automatically uploaded to the Augmenta Web Portal via the standard 3G/4G mobile/cellular network. Data is also saved internally and uploaded later, should there be any loss of signal or coverage issues.
The Augmenta Web Portal offers the farmer a full range of operational analytics, ROI reports, projected earning assessments, and management tools. One really useful feature is that the Augmenta System automatically takes snapshots of problematic areas when it detects crop or field anomalies. These can later be scrutinized by the farmer and/or agronomist back in the office.
The Webinar panel go on to say that Augmenta System currently operates in 16 countries around the world. Farmers in geographies as diverse as Russia, Brazil and the USA report significant yield and revenue increases. It was now time to learn if it could be successfully used under Australian conditions.
To find out, Augmenta teamed up with OzValueAg in 2020/21 to conduct a field trial in Victoria, Australia. Augmenta N-VRA was carried out on winter wheat and canola in a total area of 338.2 ha (835 acres). Compared with Fixed-Rate Application, respective fertilizer savings of 6.2% and 7.8% were achieved. Moreover, the average yield increase for both crops was 11.2%. Given the cost of Urea ($386 USD) and current crop sale prices ($448 USD/ton for canola, $201 USD/ton for wheat), this implies a $58,000 USD (or $65,000 AUD) income increase for the farmer on just 338.2 ha.
With its effectiveness thus proven, the Augmenta System has now become commercially available in Australia for the very first time. Both Bridge Commodities and OzValueAg are Augmenta's local partners responsible for product placement and client service.
The first Australian Webinar is a great introduction to the Augmenta System and its unparalleled capabilities. By optimizing inputs intelligently, the double benefits of reducing input costs while increasing average yield have finally become possible. It is a feat which can offer real value to farmers in Australia, or wherever they may be.
The video is available to watch on Augmenta's YouTube channel at: [LINK]
Details of the Australian trials will be published soon
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