The Australian startup Flurosat aims to save farmers money by saving 25 to 30% on fertiliser and water.
The recommendations of the agricultural analytics engine can also increase yield with 10 to 25%, says co-founder and CEO Anastasia Volkova.
Flurosat is the third business of Volkova and her co-founder Oleksiy Achkasov. Their first business was a web development agency, the second a food awareness startup. “But these were all happening alongside my academic career in remote sensing in aerospace”, says Volkova. “Within this career, I discovered that the information we were sensing from infrared cameras on drones, planes and satellites could play a role for the benefit of agriculture.”
Volkova says that Flurosat manages to get a clear overall picture, combining all the information they can get their hands on. That includes data from the farm management system, weather systems, drones and satellites. “We use the weather, the infrared imagery, the soil information, and the data about farm operations to run our crop models. We use remote sensing both for validating the model predictions and as a guidance to adjust predictions for different areas of the field usually called management zones. This is how we get models for each and every field on any farm; tailor made recommendations.”
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For the time being, Flurosat mainly works with infrared cameras. “Hyperspectral cameras are not yet commercially available as widely as we had hoped”, explains Volkova. “Therefore, we are less picky and use what is available.” Flurosat uses algorithms and can apply them to certain fields.
The flagship of Flurosat is the agricultural analytics engine FluroSense. It can access the exact amount of nutrient required for each field, assess the effects of water logging and hail or frost damage. Even abnormal growth patterns in the field, and operational mistakes made by subcontractors are detected.
There are masses of data and with FluroSense farmers can get on top of it
The information and recommendations of Flurosat are mainly intended for agronomists. Volkova: “The analytics we provide can help agronomists to make the right decisions, to choose the right inputs and implements. We make their job more efficient by bringing all of the relevant data sources together, combining them with agricultural models and pre-analysing the data for them. There are masses of data and with FluroSense farmers can get on top of it.”
Infrared imagery from drones, planes or satellites can also help detect developments or sudden events earlier than humans can. Typical stress detection cases range from developing disease, and nutrient deficiency to same-day frost detection.
According to Volkova, Flurosat can deliver farmers considerable savings: up to 25% on their water use and 30% on their fertiliser use. The agricultural engine can even boost their yield with 10% to 25%. “Also the savings when you cut your losses can be substantial”, says Volkova.
The startup has conducted several trials and validation procedures and has created a MVP (Minum Viable Product).
“We have been commercially active for 3 years”, emphasises Volkova. “We conduct trials for constant validation and calibration. We are a science-based solution. We always have clients at research institutes that are looking at the accuracy of our algorithms for specific crop types.”
So far, the accuracy is quite high, says Volkova. “It varies from 68% to over 85%. It depends on the geography, the ability of our models and the amount of data we have.” Farmers can access the data but that’s not what they are normally looking for. “Farmers are pretty busy. And the problem with all the data is that there are so many heterogeneous sources. To actually make a decision, you need to know a lot about each of them. We build models to automate the processing required to bring data together and make the insights more salient, in some cases work-ready.”
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The agricultural analytics is a complex process, emphasises Volkova. “You need to take into account many factors, like last year’s yield, the weather, the growth stage, the recommendation of nitrogen, the spray application. We use whatever we can access. Automating that process makes sure that you are not looking at the data but at the insights this data holds.”
Flurosat now has customers in seven countries. The startup is active in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and there are some minor projects in 3 other countries. “People can sign up to use FluroSense anywhere”, says Volkova. “You can start connecting your data into it and it will start analysing it.”
So far, the response from the market is positive. “Growers see that we have detected something and agronomists are able to advise them on it. In our latest season, we have secured several large clients, among which there are multinational input manufacturers and service providers.”
Flurosat recently acquired the platform ProductionWise from Grain Growers Limited, a representative body for Australian grain farmers. The modelling components of the ProductionWise platform are now available worldwide as a part of the FluroSense engine.
Volkova: “We are also integrating with several popular farm management systems (FMS), like Proagrica SST and Agworld, which would mean that growers can use the information recorded in respective FMS’s with FluroSense recommendations via an easy integration instead of exporting or double entering it.”
Flurosat hopes to continue the rapid growth in the near future. Volkova: “In a couple of years’ time I hope we can say that Flurosat is the engine of choice for all crops that are managed outdoors across the main continents. We are looking forward to achieving that.”