Precision ag: We need data to make great decisions… but when do we hit ‘information overload?’

Farmers can use remote sensing, satellite imagery, and machine learning to make informed management decisions for their fields

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer
Better Farming

As the precision agriculture space continues to grow and provide producers with an extensive range of tools to help them collect and track data, all these options can become overwhelming.

Fortunately, regardless of the technology or platform farmers choose, tools can help producers make sense of the large amounts of data and improve the management of their land by providing in-depth information about soil and crop needs.

Dr. Anastasia Volkova

Precision agriculture provides “the opportunity to farm in a more sustainable way,” Dr. Anastasia Volkova said in an interview with Better Farming. Volkova is CEO and founder of FluroSat, and is based in California. The use of technology to improve stewardship of the land is a natural fit for the industry, she added.

FluroSat staff apply the latest in remote sensing, agricultural science, machine learning and artificial intelligence across all relevant layers of data to create efficient agronomic workflows and provide selective, accurate and actionable insights, the company’s website said.

Volkova’s collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), prepared her for work in precision agriculture.

“My doctoral thesis involved effectively using the sensor that NASA originally commissioned, but then they transferred the technology to the Australian defence agency,” she said.

“I learned, from a technological perspective, what it meant to operate some of the best hardware and software equipment available and work with the best people suited for the task.”

She also learned the importance of involving the next generation in understanding technologies, allowing them to adapt tools, “take part in team operations, and work inside the business to really understand how fascinating agriculture is and has become,” she said.

Following her passion for integrating technology and sustainability, Volkova created FluroSat. Her team helps farmers make informed management decisions.

“Having an agronomist on staff is powerful in many ways, but farmers should think about utilizing technology to empower their agronomists’ capabilities, time, and effort to best look after the crops and acreage,” Volkova said.

Using a tool such as satellite imagery, which is then analyzed by agronomic models, can help farmers and their team of consultants find potential issues early in the growing season and apply proactive interventions, she said.

The data import process for farmers is “very transparent and granular, in terms of the layers and the scale at which producers can control” the data they provide, Volkova said.

By transforming data points into applicable crop reports and crop management scenarios, FluroSat solutions build value for ag stakeholders over time, she said.

For example, “one of our flagship products is the nitrogen recommendation tool (N RX) that helps farmers distribute fertilizer across the field in the most profitable way and the tool supports the triple bottom line – the combination of people, environment, and long-term benefits,” Volkova said.

The tool is dynamic and “takes into account historical field management. The recommendations are extremely localized and based on proven science. N RX also infuses modern technologies, such as satellite imagery, and has the ability to maintain the profitability and resiliency of the farm.”

As society increasingly expects farmers to produce more with less and farmers’ margins are squeezed, precision agriculture provides an opportunity for the ag industry to exemplify its commitment to environmental stewardship, Volkova said.

“I believe that precision ag is one of the first stepping-stones towards long-term sustainability,” she said.

“People who can show that they have adopted practices and, most importantly, keep good digital records of those practices, will be able to reap the benefits of policies that will reward farmers who use crop inputs sparingly and are conscious of” proper application.

Farmers can use precision ag tools to record on-farm operations and track crop conditions with regular reports. Producers can then transfer digital files to entities, agencies, and buyers who will verify that information, Volkova said. This technology can help farmers “capture the value that they are creating.” BF

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