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A precision approach to crop load management

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  • Post published:June 15, 2022
  • Reading time:5 mins read
 

Precision agriculture can be a vague term for many, but at its core, it is getting a more accurate picture of what’s going on across your farm, using various sources of data to support management decisions. For tree fruit growers, being able to pinpoint variability and underperforming areas in their orchard and managing them accordingly, is one way to increase quality crop yield and achieve homogeneity.

Understanding what’s happening across orchards provides fruit growers with critical data to make decisions; from crop load management, picking and storage through to distribution, export and beyond. Many farms are already implementing various precision management techniques, but the reality is that the data is sparse and to manually collect data from an entire orchard is tough. Not only is it time consuming and costly, it also runs the risk of being obsolete by the time it is processed.

Our founders rose to this challenge.

Oli Hilbourne and Jim McDougall, a former aeronautical engineer and risk consultant respectively, both have a deep understanding of drone technology, machine learning capabilities and big data. This, coupled with their growing concerns about the impact of environmental pressures and the inefficiencies in the way data was being gathered and shared, led to the vision to see the potential for these technologies, still in their infancy, to deliver the future of data based farming.

And so Outfield was born.

The Outfield platform enables growers to gather data, quickly, efficiently and on demand using commercial, off-the-shelf drones, available globally. Many of us often think of drones as a “new technology”, in fact the history of drones can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century! Admittedly they’ve come a long way since then and are now a powerful precision tool in the world of agriculture and beyond.

The tech.

Advances in the technology mean that modern drones will now fly for more than 30 minutes on a single battery, carry a high resolution camera as standard, have terrain following abilities, automatically avoid any obstacles they encounter, and importantly, are an affordable piece of kit.

The Outfield platform leverages this tech by giving the drone the ability to measure a whole range of tree parameters across an orchard, making it the Swiss army knife of fruit crop monitoring. High resolution cameras combined with the speed and precision the drone offers means farmers can have detailed maps of an orchard on demand – showing tree size, blossom loading, fruit set and more

The best bit? It’s really easy to use.

Outfield takes care of the flight maps for you, in minutes you can upload your orchard to our digital platform, receive your custom flight plan and launch your drone to the sky! The drone will land itself when the flight is complete, your job is to upload the data to the Outfield platform.

It’s fast.

The key is speed, it would take on average 6+ hours to count fruit on 600 trees, the drone can cover an orchard of 6000 trees in less than 20 mins. A huge labour cost saving and done with uniform consistency.

The really clever stuff.

Outfield uses advanced computer vision systems and machine learning to distinguish blossoms and the apples from foliage and then algorithms to estimate the number of apples distributed across that tree. In comparing results from our customers globally, the error rate is less than 5% on high density, single leader plantings.

You own the process.

The Outfield system enables growers to work exactly as they would without the need to change processes, the change is to automate what you are doing manually. You can fly the drone whenever you like, as long as you comply with drone regulations in your region, there is no need to wait for a 3rd party to do any of this on your behalf.

Actionable insights.

Once the drone surveys are complete, they are uploaded through our digital portal, processed by Outfield and delivered back in the same way, all within 24 hours.

These blossom, fruit and yield reports are then securely stored, easily accessed and shared, providing you with actionable data to manage your orchard to ensure consistency, quality, and quantity every season.

If precision crop load management is something you are interested in, please get in touch today; hello@outfield.xyz