New Opportunities with In-season Imagery?

When I think about precision agriculture my usual thoughts are around the continuous learning about the variability in a field. There are many layers of information or data that can be gathered about each field. And from these layers we can begin to make decisions about potential productivity and applications of crop inputs. But when we think of all the layers available, are we concentrating on the most efficient processes? Enter satellite imagery. And specifically, in-season imagery that offers a progression of images of the developing crop.

For all the promises of its use we have yet to realize much value at the farm level. Why is this? The most recent survey of ag retailers suggests that is not because we are not trying. And most certainly some retailers have had success in offering this service to farmers. But its usage trails other types of precision ag offerings that are more expensive rivals.

I’m sure that some of the reason is that we have recently come through several years of unprecedented margins for most farmers. This afforded many the luxury to try new services they had never used before. Most imagery could be acquired from sources that made it relatively easy for them to view images of their fields. As I speak to farmers almost all of them have tried imagery services in the recent past. However, almost all of them also say that they have struggled to find the value in those services.

Retailers also have struggled with the value of in-season imagery. There are always a few successful discoveries in the imagery each year that can be attributed to some significant net returns. But they seem to come almost by accident instead of the result of an engrained mindset of using imagery as a scouting regimen. And the most recent Precision Ag survey of retailers by Purdue University reflects their difficulty in making any margin from its use.

One of the most frequent reasons that I hear is to blame for imagery not meeting expectations is the temporal resolution of the images that are presented. In other words, we don’t get images frequently enough to make use of them. And indeed, that can be a problem. If you don’t have an image in the timeframe that allows some action, what value is it other than the getting bad news right before harvest about your yield robbing condition? Or maybe, if you remember, you can monitor that area or condition in subsequent years? But don’t we have yield maps for that? You get the point.

Rapideye-Imagery-Processing-Metrics-chart
Rapideye Imagery Processing Metrics. Click to enlarge chart.

And what about the time it can take to process the data from the satellite sensors into an image on any given platform? FarmersEdge has quantified their process in the chart to the right.

Two to three days of processing is typical. But added into the process can be the communication necessary for a crop scout to ground truth the image and report back to the farmer. A delay at any step will render the insights from the imagery historical reference instead of actionable data. Some retailers have abandon the use of satellite imagery for field scouting for this reason alone. They do not get the number of images they need at the right times to add enough value to their scouting services. Mostly they are relying on directed aerial imagery.

So how do we turn the corner in the usefulness and value perceptions of in-season satellite imagery? I believe there are two significant developments in the marketplace that will change our perceptions for good this growing season. One is the launch of the dove network of satellites by Planet Labs. The second is the development of new tools of analysis using the various spectral bands to deliver more unique images.

Planet Labs is already streaming data from its new constellation of dove satellites. When they are finished launching the complete constellation it will increase the number of available images available during the growing season dramatically.

Farmers-Edge-Field-Maps
FarmersEdge Field Maps. Click to enlarge.

FarmersEdge offers traditional NDVI maps but has also developed two new maps for comparison using all the spectral bands to present maps that highlight variability in different ways. Map one shows the greatest variability in the field and is assigned a percentage of variability that exists on the map. Map two shows the next, subtler factor of variability in the field and is also assigned a percentage. The purpose and usefulness of the maps are many, but there are two most significant that will change our perceptions of in-season imagery forever.

Firstly, the images will show variability that has yet to be detected in a normal NDVI image. This gives the agronomist or farmer an earlier warning of where to scout and alerts them of a field challenge much sooner than ever before. Secondly, Field Variability Map 2 will show what is developing as the next potential factor of difference in the field. You may ask “how do I use these two maps together?” Think of it this way, the major variability in the field the day the image is taken will be reflected in FVM1, the next biggest variability will be reflected in FVM2. For example, patches of insect damage when it starts might only appear in FVM2, but if left untreated, this insect damage may increase and on the next image may be the biggest cause of variability in the field and moves into FVM1.

This growing season we will have both the increased frequency of images to work with, and a new way of processing the data to give us earlier detection of variability within a field. How exciting! I have not personally been more optimistic about the value of in-season imagery delivering value to the farmer than I am this year due to these two new developments.

I encourage everyone in the practice of consulting with farmers to take a close look at these new developments in the in-season imagery field of services to see if greater value for farmers can be achieved this year.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “New Opportunities with In-season Imagery?

  1. Crop Quest provides it’s crop service customers with in-season imagery as part of the base package. At that point it provides value to us, as the consultant, and the grower. Our goal is to keep the price as minimal as possible so that more often than not the benefit of the imagery out ways the costs. We provide imagery to non customers as well. Anyone is free to try out our services by visiting http://www.viewmyfield.com.

  2. Satshot has provided next day processing DIY of satellite imagery for many years from multiple satellites. Nothing new. Plus our Landscout mobile software builds actionable export data to the VRA machine since 2003.

    Vegetation crop health biomass imagery maps show the soils influence on the crop. Variability maps are just NIR only frequencies which give more detail which we have always provided. NDVI in heavy vegetation can mask variability in heavy crops but is very useful for vegetation only crop conditions with soil influence subtracted. Again nothing new here.
    New satelllite systems are coming up all the time. Currently we are using satellites with 5 day capture intervals this summer with overlap possibly down to 3 days based on your latitude. We are also bringing in
    1-1.5 meter imagery across the Cornbelt for 2017.

    One final note: Cropquest is one of our great dealers. They know thir agronomy which is key for users to bring satellite imagery in to their farm operations.

    PS: The key is, if you know your agronomy, then satellite imagery is a very useful tool to define the geo spatial context of where your good and bad areas are. It’s up to you to manage that variability and assign a change to you application values to coincide with the image.

    Lanny Faleide
    President
    Satshot

Imagery/Sensing Stories
Ag Tech GlobalVenture Capital News: Aerial Imagery Outfit Garners $5 Mil in Series A
May 11, 2017
Ceres Imaging, an aerial spectral imagery and analytics company serving the agricultural sector, today announced it has raised a $5 Read More
DronesSentera Phoenix Drone Nears Coveted 1,000 Acre Coverage Ceiling
May 11, 2017
Sentera introduces its Phoenix fixed-wing drone product line, with variants to support the precision agriculture, mapping, and public safety industries, Read More
DronesAgEagle takes on the Big Boys with RX48 Fixed Wing Drone
May 8, 2017
AgEagle Aerial Systems of Neodesha, KS, today announced a fixed wing drone for the use in precision agriculture that far Read More
Sentera
DronesSentera Announces May Release of Multispectral Double 4K Sensor for DJI Drones
April 27, 2017
Sentera announced the release of its Multispectral Double 4K Sensor, offering five precise spectral bands: blue, green, red, red edge, Read More
Trending Articles
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’s Rob Berglund on Cognitive Computing
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Corn close up
Data ManagementFarmers Business Network Releases State of the Industry Style Report
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, a special research report on the state of Read More
Latest News
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Data ManagementData as Currency in Ag: We Aren’t There Yet
May 25, 2017
A hot topic in the precision ag revolution is the idea ag data will become a form of currency. Many Read More
Ag Tech GlobalSci-Fi in Ag: The Waging War of Plant-Internet Bots
May 25, 2017
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Hort TechThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Nematodes in cotton
Ag Tech GlobalUsing Precision Agriculture to Manage Nematodes in Braz…
May 22, 2017
As promised in my first article, this month I am writing about some technical aspects related to the use of Read More
Farmers on Tablet Photo Credit All About Food
Professionals6 Keys of Successful Precision Agriculture Tools
May 17, 2017
As precision agriculture professionals we are frequently approached by companies that wish to partner with our organization in order to Read More
Hagie sprayer
GuidanceWhat’s New and What’s Next from Hagie Manufacturing
May 16, 2017
Many were surprised by John Deere’s announcement last spring that it had acquired majority ownership of Hagie Manufacturing Co., a Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Ag Tech GlobalHortau Commemorates 15 Years in Ag Tech
May 15, 2017
Today, Hortau celebrates its 15-year anniversary as one of the pioneers in the AgTech space, according to a press release Read More
Kip Tom
Ag Tech GlobalAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Ag Tech Global2017 International Tomato Congress Features Ag Tech Ses…
May 11, 2017
The International Tomato Congress has taken place in Mexico since 2006. In 2017 it will celebrate its twelfth year as Read More
Ag Tech GlobalVenture Capital News: Aerial Imagery Outfit Garners $5 …
May 11, 2017
Ceres Imaging, an aerial spectral imagery and analytics company serving the agricultural sector, today announced it has raised a $5 Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Mea…
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
DronesSentera Phoenix Drone Nears Coveted 1,000 Acre Coverage…
May 11, 2017
Sentera introduces its Phoenix fixed-wing drone product line, with variants to support the precision agriculture, mapping, and public safety industries, Read More
Data ManagementClimate Adds Irrigation Data Analytics via HydroBio Acq…
May 9, 2017
Today, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of HydroBio, an agriculture software company based in Read More
GuidanceTersus adds RTK-Based AutoSteer System to GNSS Offering…
May 8, 2017
Tersus GNSS Inc., a Chinese GNSS RTK manufacturing company, released its brand new AutoSteer solution recently. The AG960 AutoSteer System Read More
DronesAgEagle takes on the Big Boys with RX48 Fixed Wing Dron…
May 8, 2017
AgEagle Aerial Systems of Neodesha, KS, today announced a fixed wing drone for the use in precision agriculture that far Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
Decision Support SoftwareMZB Launching New Grid Tool, Updated Mapping Center
May 3, 2017
MZB Technologies has added an additional tool to its precision system. Known for its patented zone-based precision technology, MZB will Read More