One Plant to See Them All: Cropler's Pioneering Approach to Farm Management

Blue Flower
Blue Flower
Blue Flower
Blue Flower
Blue Flower

Revolutionizing Agriculture with Emerging Digital Technologies

For over ten years now, the business community has identified agriculture as the most undigitized industry. By the end of 2023, this scenario has dramatically improved.

Numerous platforms now collect data from agricultural machinery and weather stations. Contributions from drones and satellites like Sentinel and Landsat have significantly expanded the available information. Yet, the question of optimal timing and actions in the field remains critical.

Consulting in the agricultural sector is experiencing unprecedented growth. Scouting methods and recommendation development are constantly evolving and becoming more standardized. In this environment, Cropler has been developed to assist in monitoring the state of plants daily, irrespective of cloud cover and weather conditions, enabling more informed decision-making.

Traditional Agricultural Monitoring: Challenges with Drones and Satellites

Satellites and drones revolutionized agriculture in their time. With their help, specialists make VRA (Variable Rate Application) maps for fertilizer application, and seeding, even without good yield mapping data (the main thing is to know what period to look at), and maps for applying crop protection products. And of course, as pioneers, Farmers Edge takes more understandable and cheaper soil samples than a simple grid sampling. Based on the collected data, it is also possible to determine the amount of vegetative mass in a given area. But unfortunately, despite the undeniable benefits, using these tools also has major drawbacks.

The Limitations of Drone Usage in Modern Agriculture

Working with drones is quite tedious, and requires a lot of time and special technical skills, so we do not see exponential growth in their mass use. More and more companies are emerging that specialize in providing these services on demand. Below you will find a list of challenges faced by a user working with a drone:

📝 Official permission to operate is required
🛸 Drone registration
🌐 Coordination of flight plans
🎒 Preparing to go out into the field
🔋 Providing a stock of 3-4 batteries
🚀 Developing missions for flights
⏳ Time spent surveying fields
💻 Organizing the laborious process of exporting data

Philip, Cropler's CPO & agronomist, also experienced personal challenges using these devices. Managing such complexities over an area of 16,000 hectares proved daunting, leading to the rejection of this observation method.

Understanding the Limitations of Satellite Imaging in Farming

Philip became acquainted with satellite technology back in 2017. Initially promising, he soon recognized its limitations:

🌥️ At the most critical moments, clouds obscured the view of the field, so it was impossible to map the most important indices like NDVI, EVI, MSI.
🛰️ At the same time, radar satellites like Sentinel-1 did not provide the necessary information.
🔍 The last and least critical point is the low resolution (10m² for Sentinel and 30m² for Landsat, which is generally sufficient for building VRA maps).

These unresolved issues forced Philip to travel extensively to view the fields personally.

One day Nikita proposed to Philip the idea of creating a reliable and affordable multispectral sensor for each field. Philip, drawing from his experience, saw this as a valuable addition to existing tools. The challenge then became optimizing the device's placement and usage.

After a series of experiments, we found that by analyzing satellite productivity maps (or detailed yield maps), we can determine the exact locations in fields where installing a sensor will provide the most accurate data for determining the phenological stage and overall condition of plants in these points.

Crafting the Cropler Device: A New Era in Farm Surveillance

Every agronomist knows it's important to walk the field yourself to visually assess the condition of the plants. The real challenge is to go far beyond the beaten paths and see the true state of affairs in remote parts of the field. Usually, specialists rely on satellite maps to determine exactly where to go for the most efficient inspection and to decide what measures to take to improve the condition of the field.

By studying satellite images from different years for fields growing grain crops, soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, flax, sunflowers, as well as forage crops like clover and alfalfa, we noticed one interesting observation: under normal farming conditions, high productivity zones in fields generally do not change. This fact provided a good starting point for justifying the choice of location for installing sensors in fields.

Philip, as an experienced agronomist, knew the importance of personally inspecting fields to assess plant conditions. His challenge was to extend this inspection beyond easily accessible areas to remote field parts. He relied on satellite maps to identify the most efficient inspection points and necessary actions.

Observing satellite images across various years for different crops, Philip noted a consistent pattern: under normal farming conditions, high productivity zones in fields rarely changed. This observation was pivotal in determining sensor placement in fields.

During his tenure, Philip meticulously recorded work details, and plant phenological stages, took geo-tagged photos, and utilized yield maps from various combine harvesters and high-precision digital elevation models. Despite initial skepticism about accurately determining phenological stages in the field, he observed that areas yielding the highest harvest typically showed more uniform plant development.

These observations and data underpinned the development of the Cropler device. With it, we learned to identify the most suitable locations for installation, allowing a mere 5 square meter area analysis to reflect the condition of larger, productive field areas. This aids in determining the optimal timing for agricultural tasks.

Furthermore, the device offers daily NDVI monitoring through its Full HD resolution multispectral sensor, providing more precise vegetation mass growth measurements compared to satellite data.

Pioneering Agricultural Efficiency: Validating the Cropler Device

We studied the methods of determining productivity zones used by leading companies in the agrotechnical field, including:

  • Trimble Ag
  • Xarvio 
  • Granular Insights
  • FieldView
  • GeoPard Agriculture
  • Farmers Edge
  • EOS
  • Ceres Imaging

In general, the methods of highlighting zones were similar everywhere, and we found that the correlation between highlighted zones and yield in the fields we studied (176 fields) averaged 0.67, which is quite a high indicator.

To identify more uniform areas in the fields, we excluded terrain with slopes greater than 3 degrees. This allowed us to identify those places where the correlation with yield maps was highest and where stable yield development was observed from year to year.

We installed our devices in fields in Poland and Ukraine, after which we began collecting data. At the time of writing this article, each device has been operating on average for more than 170 days, sending several photos daily and providing weather data every hour. Fully powering itself from the sun.

Our users have significantly reduced the number of trips to the fields, limiting themselves to visits only at critical stages in crop development, to confirm the data obtained from the devices and conduct a more thorough analysis of the field. 

Thanks to this, they did not miss key phenological stages, starting work at the right time — for example, timely mowing alfalfa and spraying corn.

Why Cropler Represents the Future of Agricultural Technology

Our approach to agrotechnologies combines simplicity, reliability, and efficiency - qualities that make it truly outstanding. Cropler turns out to be not only convenient to use but also economical, especially thanks to reduced fuel costs for field surveys.

With Cropler you get access to unique data that allows you to see processes in your fields in a new light. You will be able to track how phenological stages develop surprisingly quickly — sometimes in just one day, and sometimes stretch out for a week.

We are also actively working on algorithms for monitoring moisture deficits. Stay tuned — many exciting innovations await you!

© 2023 CROPLER spolka z o.o.

NIP 5273064846 • REGON 525779422

© 2023 CROPLER spolka z o.o.

NIP 5273064846 • REGON 525779422