Livestock health check, field analysis and crop health monitoring
Improving efficiency of farming operations by providing actionable data through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles
Aerial Field and Crop Inspections
Aerial overview of your crops, livestock and infrastructure
Aerial Field and Crop Mapping
Orthomosaic and NDVI maps of your land and crops
Advanced Aerial Field and Crop Mapping
3D model, Orthomosaic, NDVI and Drainage Maps of your land and crops
Livestock and Farm Infrastructure Inspections
Locate and count livestock, inspect fence lines and buildings
Our goal with UAV precision agriculture (or precision ag), is to assist businesses in the agri-food industry to reduce waste, reduce cost, improve efficiency and to improve crop yields. Unmanned aerial vehicles can have a significant impact on waste reduction and improved yields, translating into increased profits. Through the sections below, we outline how our UAV precision ag services benefit the agri-food industry.
We look forward to working with you and developing long-term relationships to improve your yields and reduce your costs.
Primary Benefits of UAV’s in Agriculture
Using UAV’s to provide actionable data for systems such as the decision support system, helps reduce volumes of nutrients required, which provides cost savings to the farmer. This also helps reduce the volume of chemical and organic nutrients added to the soil that can ultimately impact our ecosystem.
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the agricultural and agri-food industries is not limited strictly to crop health monitoring; UAV’s can also be used for tasks such as livestock monitoring and counting, locating missing livestock, livestock health monitoring through thermal imagery, mapping migratory paths of heard animals, locating and counting predators, checking natural water stock levels and locating broken fences, to name a few.
Another major consideration is the use of UAV’s to determine the extent of crop damage due to adverse weather conditions, such as hail and tornados for example. This data is very useful to the farmer and their insurance company for determining the exact extent of the damages. Centimeter level accurate imagery captured using a UAV can be processed and very accurate measurements can be produced from the data. Insurance claims can be settled quicker, giving all parties involved peace of mind that the claim was settled fairly.
UAVs in the Agricultural Sector
Agriculture has been a predominant industry in Canada since before the first settlers arrived on the North American continent in the 1700’s. History indicates that French and English settlers worked with the indigenous peoples of the land to grow crops such as wheat, flax and vegetables. Since then, the agricultural industry has grown to exceed $100 billion in gross domestic product for Canada. Lands and farming methods have been passed down from generation to generation to make the industry what it is today.
Over recent years, the uses and benefits of unmanned aerial vehicles within the agricultural and agri-food industries has become evident. Several factors affect the success of the greater part of the agricultural industry including climate, cost of business and resources, to name a few. Waste management is an important factor for all agricultural professionals to consider and control. The environmental impact of agricultural operations has also become an important topic. Reduction of waste is of benefit to the preservation of our water supply and our diverse ecosystem. Media captured and processed from UAV’s can provide actionable data that can help to reduce waste, and therefore reduce the cost of business and provide positive effects on the environment.
A great number of environmental benefits are associated with the reduction of inputs for Canadian crops. See below for a few examples:
- Reducing the loading of nitrogen and other nutrients into ground water and water bodies
- Reducing the loading of pesticides, as above
- Reducing the loading of herbicides, as above
- Reduction of fuel needed for the operation of equipment (less mechanical work on the field)
- Reduction of mechanical work lends to the reduction of soil erosion due to ground disturbance
UAV Field Analysis
Orthomosaic and Index Aerial Maps
The image to the right is a two-part aerial map of rangeland near Kamloops. The image on the left portion is an orthomosaic map which shows the general lay of the land, the location of the roads and available feed. The image on the right portion is an index map which displays elevation changes across the entire area. High areas are red, grading down to blue areas which are low.
Both the orthomosaic map and the index map provide different actionable information, but work in tandem at the same time. Image overlays can provide added value to your collection of data for field analysis.
Orthomosaic, index and NDVI maps of your fields give you tools to develop your field management plan; all part of the decision support system (DSS). Below is a list of some of the items that will improve efficiency and reduce operating costs:
- Seed planting pattern planning
- Drainage planning
- Irrigation planning
- Record of current year field status
- Fence line status
- Predator entry points
Field Pattern Planning
The image to the right is a section of an orthomosaic map of a hay field created from images captured with a UAV, and used for field pattern planning review.
Notice how the shape of the patterns as they run across the field, the overlap where the tractor and implement turned (right edge of photo), and even some surface colour differences, which could, for example, indicate subsoil at the surface level.
Having information such as this on hand can help you to improve the efficiency of equipment operation, figure out what areas need special attention or further investigation and help to reduce overlap when planting your seeds.
Visualization with 3D Models
The 3D model to the right is an area of about 25 acres of rangeland for cattle. This model was created at the same time the orthomosaic and index images were processed with the Orthomosaic and Index Aerial Maps example above.
Models such as this give the viewer the ability to look at a section of land from all angles, right from the comfort of their home or office.
- Flight mission type: manual (not autonomous)
- Coordinate system: WGS84
- Elevation: 110 metres (361 feet)
- Ground sampling distance: 3.28 cm
- Area: 33 acres/13.3 Ha prior to trimming (estimate 25 acres)
- Number of images: 317
This is one more of the planning tools you could be using to improve your crop management system, reduce operating costs and increase yields.
The services and digital outputs we can produce, as mentioned above, are not all inclusive. We will be adding more services and media in the near future.
See the following section for information on precision agriculture, and two savings model examples of spring canola crops. Thank you for reading.
“Precision agriculture (PA) or satellite farming or site specific crop management (SSCM) is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. The goal of precision agriculture research is to define a decision support system (DSS) for whole farm management with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources.”
“Precision Agriculture.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_agriculture
The purpose of precision agriculture is to improve overall operational efficiency and waste management of a farm’s resources, including capitol, materials on hand and materials generated from farming activities, to promote maximum crop yield. Site specific crop management and the resulting decision support systems are proving to help farmers achieve their goals of making informed decisions on crop management requirements.
UAV Market Trends in the Agricultural Industry
Only in recent years have the benefits of using unmanned aerial vehicles within the agricultural and agri-food industries became more apparent. Currently, the market for UAV operations in agriculture is relatively small and very little data is available to support the current positive economic impacts that UAV’s are having on the industry. Through case studies, our company is working to prove the values of UAV’s in the industry. We have produced quality data that can be used to illustrate the benefits.
From what we have learnt to date through research and the data we have produced, we expect that the use of UAV’s in the agricultural and agri-food industries are going to make profound changes to the way we do business in the Canadian agricultural industry over the next five to ten years. Profound change is defined as a complete rewrite on how crop management is conducted and the tools that are used to complete the work. Scientists have taken a great interest in how decision support systems can work combined with new technologies to improve the yield of our crops while protecting the environment. It is only a matter of time until significant change in the industry becomes reality, benefiting everyone in Canada.
Efficiency and Cost Reduction
One of the primary concerns of many farmers throughout the country is the cost of doing business. This section will highlight the method in which we use to achieve this goal. Using precision agriculture techniques, farmers can realize not only significant savings on time and materials, but also ensure the longevity of their business through the decision support system.
This section is not all inclusive to all savings that can be realized by using the DSS system and UAV’s. Consultation with the farming community and further research is required to define the primary areas where savings can be realized.
See below for an illustrated example, focusing on inputs.
Savings Model #1 (Basic): Savings Table for Nutrient Application
The example savings model above represents a crop at 70% of maximum yield/output and a land size of 40 acres. The fertility and pesticide inputs have been reduced by 30%. The 30% reduction was made possible by using NDVI imagery captured with a UAV and processed to create an index map. The farmer uses the index map to increase or decrease the application of fertility and pesticide inputs at specific locations on the field.
|Percentage||70%||Land Size in Acres||40|
|Expense||Conventional||Total Cost||DSS||Total Cost||Savings/Acre||Total Savings|
|Expense||Conventional||Total Cost||DSS||Total Cost||Savings/Acre||Total Savings|
|Total Cost Savings||$340.85||$13,634.00||$291.86||$11,674.40||$48.99||$1,959.60|
Savings Model #2 (Complex): Detailed Savings Table
This, more complex, example savings model below represents the same crop at 70% of maximum yield/output and a land size of 40 acres. All conditions that applied to the first table apply to the table below. This table contains far more detail, resulting in a more accurate end calculation.
* Slate and green coloured cells represent input reduction and cost savings based on the decision support system (DSS)
** If the final number “Difference” is green, a savings is realized
The final number (Difference) shows the total cost or cost reduction after applying the decision support system (DSS) incorporated with unmanned aerial vehicle imagery. Using actionable data produced by UAV service providers can save you money. The side benefit to this process is protection of the environment. Less waste and less chemicals introduced to the soils means less chemicals entering our ecosystem.
The information and data used to create the savings models is up to date from the following sources:
2016 Field Crop Budgets Pub 60: Government of Ontario – Crop Budget Estimation Tool
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Weekly Price Summary
Cost savings will be realized over the long term. Year one of DSS may or may not provide savings. The second year will most likely provide savings and increased profit due to increased crop yields. During the third year, significant savings and profits may be realized because the overall crop yield will become consistent, with less inputs and greater yields.
Spring Canola Full Breakdown
|Seed||5 lb/acre hybrid, treated||$71.35||$71.35|
|Fertility||130 kg/ha N (230 kg/ha urea + 112 kg/ha ammonium sulphate)||$79.70||$55.79|
|Crop removal||56 kg/ha P2O5 (24.5 kg/tonne removal rate)||$25.55||$17.89|
|27 kg/ha K2O (12.0 kg/tonne removal rate)||$10.00||$7.00|
|Herbicide||other weed control (wild oat, grass, volunteer cereal)||$11.50||$8.05|
|Technology use agreement||$0.00||$0.00|
|Insecticide||If required (swede midge)||$7.00||$4.90|
|Tractor and Machine Expenses||Fuel (17 L) and lubricants||$16.30||$11.41|
|Repairs and maintenance||$17.25||$12.08|
|Fees||Marketing board and Grain Financial Protection fees ($4.00/tonne)||$3.10||$3.10|
|Custom Work||Fertilizer application||Mixing and delivery||$9.85||$6.90|
|2 Pesticide applications||$19.70||$13.79|
|Operator labour||(self or hired)||$12.15||$8.51|
|Interest on operating||$5.70||$5.70|
|Resultant Savings per Acre||$62.70|
|Crop Yield – Spring Canola||Bushel||Tonnes||Price||Total||Grande Total|
|Bushels per acre||38||0.861||$450.00||$387.45||$15,498.00|
|Conventional Profit||Profit 1||$2,960.00|
|DSS Profit||Profit 2||$5,468.00|
|Mapping Cost||UAV Aerial Mapping and Processing||Cost Estimate||$863.46|
|Cost per Acre||$21.59|
|Without DSS||(Conventional Profit)||Total Profit||$2,960.00|
|With DSS||Total Profit||$4,604.54|