Augmenta wins awards for real time variable rate application
Variable rate application has become a much discussed subject among manufacturers and a good number of farmers, as pressure grows to reduce inputs.
The idea is not particularly new, but the method of deciding by just how much an input should be varied, and when and where, has largely been dependent upon the accumulation of yield data over several years.
More recently, the interest has shifted to real time analysis, as the ability to assess a growing crop for various factors, most noticeably nitrogen (N) requirement, has been developed.
A recent advance has been made by the Paris-based company Augmenta. This progression was recognised at EIMA – the International Agricultural and Gardening Machinery Exhibition – in October, when it carried away both the ‘Tech Innovation’ and ‘Blue Award’ prizes.
The company describes its innovation as “the world’s first real-time, camera-based VRA (Variable Rate Application) control device, which uses a combination of machine vision and artificial intelligence”.
Augmenta gauges input requirements
The device appears to work by scanning the ground at five different wavelengths and then analysing the footage to determine the condition of the crop with reference to various parameters.
Application of inputs can then be adjusted according to the needs of the plants in real time. When in operation in the field, it is independent of the internet, although the data can be automatically transferred to a tablet or back to base if desired.
What is not immedietly obvious is the maximum bout width at which it can operate. With the camera being restricted to a 4K video resolution, the number of pixels dedicated to each metre of boom width on 12m tramlines is just over 72,000.
Although this may well be sufficient for ascertaining the characteristics of the crop canopy, it is unlikely to serve the needs of weed recognition software going forward.
However, the company claims the system has achieved an average reduction in nitrogen use of 9% over a variety crops. It is also claims a 20% saving in plant growth regulators and 15% in desiccants. This is in addition to a yield boost of 2%.
The system is encased in an aluminium box mounted on the roof of the tractor. It is claimed to be easy to operate and is self calibrating.
Closing the gap
In bringing digital technology to fields, there is something of a gap between the two main approaches. These are using to micromanage individual plants and adapting tractors to achieve greater precision.
This development would appear to be another step forward in bringing precision to larger machines, a route that is understandably favoured by the main tractor manufacturers.
Claas, for instance, has something similar with its Isaria system, although it requires illumination of the crop at a specific wavelength.
As with many of these innovations, it is clear that larger corporations with a business based on building tractors is keeping an eye on events. CNH has already purchased a small stake in Augmenta and these awards may yet see that holding grow
Writer: Justin Roberts