The Augmenta System: On the cusp of a farming revolution
Augmenta has presented its inaugural Webinar in the USA. The initiative is part of its World Presence Program which includes an on-going series of region-tailored Webinars in five different languages. The US Webinar is directed at explaining the Augmenta System (aka Augmenta Field Analyzer) and demonstrating how it can also help North American farmers reap amazing benefits.
Co-presented by Augmenta's Kyle Daeley (Head Of Business Development), Andrew Newsum (Head of Product), and Preston Tolstad (North Central Regional Sales Manager), the US Webinar outlines a brief history of the company and how the search for a better, less wasteful way of applying farm inputs evolved into the Augmenta System.
Kyle also explains his personal involvement in setting up Augmenta's extensive American operations which now include a large office in Dallas, Texas, along with an expanding team of agri-professionals responsible for product placement and client services in the major row crop growing regions in the US.
Mounted on the roof of any ordinary tractor or self-propelled spreader/sprayer, the Augmenta System is a 'plug n' play' retrofit which employs an array of hi-res multispectral cameras to look at the field ahead as the farmer/operator drives along.
Machine Visioning determines foliage status and identifies field anomalies such as damaged, rocky or flooded areas. An on-going vegetative index of crop health/need is created by algorithms and this data is used to automatically control the variable rate of the input to the field. The process is fully-automatic, done in real time and in a single pass. All the farmer/operator really has to do is drive.
The practical upshot of only applying inputs as needed, instead of using a fixed rate, is two-fold. Firstly, it significantly reduces waste and keeps input costs down. Secondly, it increases yield. In the case of nitrogen fertilization, it does so by reallocating to the higher yielding areas of the field.
The Augmenta System adds fertilizer to field areas with good growth potential but reduces it in those already doing well (increased biomass does not equate with increased yield) and those of very limited or no growth potential (although enough fertilizer is still applied to maintain bioactivity). It therefore promotes crop uniformity and maximizes yield potential by applying more fertilizer to the plants that need it most.
Compared with a fixed rate ‘blanket’ application using the same agronomist's recommended dose, typical input reductions are 9% for Nitrogen, 20% for PGR (Plant Growth Regulator) and 15% for Harvest Aids; with an average yield increase of at least 2%. It is important to realize that these are current global averages which will change. The Augmenta System is AI-based, meaning that it is self-learning. In other words, its effectiveness increases with use.
Results can be even more impressive, as shown in a 2020/21 field trial in Australia. When nitrogen VRA (Variable Rate Application) was undertaken on wheat and canola in an acreage of 338.2 ha (835 acres), respective fertilizer savings of 6.2% and 7.8% were achieved. Average yield increases were as high as 11.2% for both. Given the cost of Urea ($386 USD) and current harvest sale prices ($448 USD/ton for canola, $201 USD/ton for wheat), this implies $58,000 USD in additional income for the farmer on just 835 acres!
The Webinar also makes mention of the many VRA services the Augmenta System already offers. They currently range from in-season nitrogen fertilization to various Harvest Aid and PGR growth regulator spreader/sprayer operations. All are available according to need. A brand-new GoB (Green on Brown) selective spot spraying service is slated for later this year and others are in the R&D pipeline. Increased functionality is offered as an over-the-air software update and does not require additional hardware.
Based on his extensive experience in precision agriculture, Kyle goes to great pains to point out the advantages of the Augmenta System compared to those of aerial based imagery and active sensors.
He explains that drones and satellites are entirely vulnerable to the weather (wind and clouds respectively). To be effective, drones should be flown two hours before or after the sun reaches its zenith (solar noon).
As the Augmenta System has a dome camera and light sensor on top, it self-calibrates and has an extended working window because it only requires minimal lighting. Moreover, while some active sensors can generate their own light source, they are low resolution, very operation specific and non-upgradable.
Crucially, the expenses involved in deploying either technique are prohibitive and have proven to be a deterrent for many farmers.
Above all, drones, satellites and sensors are not solutions in themselves because they are only able to gather data – they cannot act on it. By contrast, Augmenta's offering is a fully integrated system which offers a complete solution.
It uses its own actionable data to render the VRA service on the ground, right then and there. As well explained in the Webinar, no delays or extra logistics are involved whatsoever. All the farmer/operator has to do is load the sprayer/spreader with fertilizer or chemical, get in the cab, turn the ignition key and head for the field.
Andrew continues the Webinar with a brief explanation of how intuitive the tablet Augmenta interface is for the farmer/operator. He also explains that the Augmenta System is connected to the cloud via a cellular network (it can also operate independently, should cell coverage be inadequate or intermittent out in the field). All the data is compiled to generate a full range of operational analytics, reports and management tools which are made available on the Augmenta Web Portal.
Not only does the Augmenta Web Portal make all past operational details accessible, but with cellular connectivity, tractor/self-propelled vehicle tracking, speed and VR application rates can be seen in real-time, as they actually happen in the field. Crop health field maps, input statistics and automatic hi-res snapshots (which can also be manually taken by the farmer/operator while in the cab) of problematic field areas are all just a click or tap away.
Preston goes on to explain the VFM (Virtual Fertilization Map) feature, which allows the farmer to plan for future applications in customizable 'what if' scenarios. Savings and corresponding earnings on past operations are also available on the Web Portal. Furthermore, ROI reports can project potential earnings over a three-year time period, allowing the farmer to see and understand their savings and that all-important bottom line.
The first US Webinar offers a great introduction to the ins and outs of the Augmenta System. It outlines its ease-of-use and ability to optimize input rates on-site, thereby increasing revenues and making it hugely beneficial to farmers.
The video is available to watch on Augmenta's YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/c/AugmentaAgriculture/ It comes highly recommended.
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