Tools & data

Background

Software test: creating VRA maps

What software should you choose when you want to make a VRA application map? Dutch magazine TREKKER asked four growers to find out and thoroughly test five different types of software.

Both experienced and inexperienced users got the chance to test five different types of software. They were given 30 minutes to create a VRA map for side dressing nitrogen fertiliser based on a satellite or drone imager. Each software type was then rated on ease of use, intuitiveness, speed, features, end result and how often help was required. During the test, (Isobus) terminals from Amazone, Kverneland and Trimble were available to load the maps.

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Each type of software was assessed by four testers, who recorded a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 5 on ease of use, intuitiveness, speed, features and end result (the VRA application map). - Photo: Jan Willem Schouten
Each type of software was assessed by four testers, who recorded a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 5 on ease of use, intuitiveness, speed, features and end result (the VRA application map). - Photo: Jan Willem Schouten

Five contenders

TREKKER invited the providers of 10 software types. Five responded positively and took part: Trimble importer Vantage Agrometius with Taakkaart.nl, Wageningen UR with Akkerweb, Dacom with Cloudfarm, Kverneland/Kleffmann Group with My Data Plant and Van Iperen with its TT+-concept based on KORE Solution.

How the testers ranked the software

Each type of software was assessed by four testers, who recorded a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 5 on ease of use, intuitiveness, speed, features and end result (the VRA application map). This results in an average score (low (1) – high (5)) and that average is converted into a final mark (low 0-10 high). They also indicated how often help was needed (often (1) – little (5)).

Mostly based on satellite imagery

Besides TT+, all types of software relied on high-resolution satellite biomass imagery from the European Sentinel-2 satellites. Since their launch in 2015 and 2017, these satellites have been making high-resolution 10×10 metre multispectral images every five days. The unedited and unfiltered images are freely available. Clouds can however limit the availability of sufficient recent biomass map data.

Based on open source data, TT+ makes a so-called soil potential map that serves as the basis for the VRA map. Taakkaart.nl and My Data Plant only use satellite images, while in Akkerweb and Cloudfarm you can also use other inputs.

Simplicity (and price) wins

Both the valuations of the testers and the choices they made from a cost perspective show that simplicity wins. The simplest (and free) software without built-in agronomic knowledge, i.e.Taakkaart.nl, beats the software packages that have more features and are more complex and expensive. For more complicated applications, such as VRA soil herbicide applications, the testers prefered Cloudfarm and TT+.

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