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Farmers Edge Develops an Imagery Easy Button

When Farmers Edge integrated daily satellite imagery into its FarmCommand platform last year, it solved the challenge of infrequent, inconsistent imagery available to farmers.

“Two years ago, we were receiving imagery – about one usable image every 10 days to two weeks – from RapidEye,” says Jamie Denbow, global digital ag lead, Farmers Edge. “At 5-meter resolution, it was the highest frequency imagery at the 10-day to two-week time frame.”

However, because the data was simply not frequent enough to react to crop stress in a timely manner, it served as more of a post mortem analysis.

“By the time farmers received the imagery, they were telling us they had already made a decision, so the information they were receiving was after the fact. At that point, the information was essentially reassuring them that the decision they had made was the right one,” says Denbow.

Fast forward to 2017. By expanding its existing partnership with Planet, Farmers Edge equipped its growers with comprehensive, high-quality field imagery more frequently. As a sole distributor, Farmers Edge gained the right to use and distribute high-resolution, high-frequency imagery from Planet’s three satellite constellations – RapidEye, Planet “Doves”, and SkySat – as well as other sensors developed by Planet in the future. 

But access to all of that imagery created a new problem. Suddenly, growers were seeing at least one – if not multiple – field images daily. Reviewing the imagery had now become a time-consuming chore.

“We had to figure out how to take something that was so valuable and essentially create an easy button for it,” says Denbow.

The Imagery Easy Button = Health Change Maps

The new Health Change Maps and Notifications function is designed to accelerate the speed of decision making when crop issues emerge by automatically scanning satellite imagery and notifying growers of changes in a field. This automatic detection tool pinpoints potential problems, including pests, disease, nutrient deficiencies, inclement weather, missed application, equipment malfunction, drainage issues, and more. 

Basically, the automated algorithm analyzes each image individually as it comes into FarmCommand. It then compares the newest image to an image taken within the last 14 days and identifies locations in a field where a significant change has occurred. From there a Health Change Map is generated and a Health Change Notification email is sent outlining the areas of concern.

“Instead of spending that hour or so every morning scanning field by field, image by image, you’re now going to open up your email to see if the Health Change Map has identified specific fields where there might be an issue developing. If there is a notification, you simply hit the link to that field to see the exact spot that generated the alert,” says Denbow. 

Farmers will have the option of setting the parameters of the notification to aggressive or conservative. Essentially by choosing aggressive or conservative you're selecting the parameters of the algorithm, explains Denbow.

“The aggressive setting will require less of a crop change occurring across smaller areas to generate a notification, which means you'll also receive more notifications throughout the year,” he says. 

What that means is the tool is going to detect weeds or diseases as they develop so farmers can react quickly.

“Growers may choose the conservative setting for things like looking at maturity and drydown across the field to determine if the field is ready to harvest, or whether one spot in the field vs. another will need desiccation,” explains Denbow. “You don't need to be super precise and detailed for that.”

Feedback from farmers suggests that they prefer the aggressive setting, and as such, Farmers Edge has set it as the default setting.

Farmers also have the option of adding other users like a crop consultant to the notifications.

Testing it on approximately 60 farms across corn and soybean fields in North America, wheat and canola fields in Canada, and cotton and sugarcane fields in Brazil and Australia, the tool identified issues like weed patches that were missed, disease outbreaks that were just starting to develop, fertility problems that were caused from either a fertilizer miss or a high leeching loss, and misapplications like a spray miss or a drift event. 

“It also identified equipment malfunctions, like irrigation pivots not working properly,” he says. “We also found spots that were a result of inclement weather, like hail damage or where the corn was goose-necked from high wind.”

No Cost to Current Customers

Farmers who are already a Farmers Edge subscriber will receive this new tool free of charge.

“This is simply a new technology to enhance the value we’re delivering through the imagery our customers are already paying for,” says Denbow. “If a user wants to become a Farmers Edge customer because of a tool like this, there are multiple options they could utilize depending on what their needs are. As a baseline, they could get the Smart Imagery for around $1.50 per acre.”

“We understand growers want an effortless and enriching experience when accessing and using their data,” says Wade Barnes, CEO of Farmers Edge. “People ask us what we do with data. This is a prime example of how we’re delivering on our promise to create a precision digital platform that integrates all aspects of farming to support informed and profitable decision making.”

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