Objectives of the service
Environmental issues have become a primary concern in the agricultural industry. In light of this, and in response to the increasing cost of nitrogen, the ‘FARMEX’ project has been developed as a means of addressing this challenge.
FARMEX is an adaptation of the "Farmstar" tool, originally developed and marketed by Airbus in France, which has been tailored to meet the specific needs and conditions of other European countries.
Farmstar is the leading Precision Agriculture service for wheat, barley and rapeseed, based on EO in France. It helps farmers optimizing the nitrogen inputs in their fields both to comply with regulations and to optimize their operating costs.
The adaptation of the tool for other European countries will be carried out in collaboration with local partners and technical institutes such as Arvalis for wheat and barley crop, and Terres Inovia for rapeseed. The final objective of the project is to provide farmers with a comprehensive range of “agroecological” services that optimize the use of natural resources, including water, soil and air.
Users and their needs
The solution is dedicated to Nitrogen fertilization practices in cereals-based farming systems, focusing on rapeseed, barley, and wheat cropping. The final users will be:
Farmers and if exists the technical team on the farm (e.g., tractor operators),
Extension officers from all types of organizations related to agriculture and engaged in sustainable development: cooperatives, farmers associations, agro-businesses.
User requirements for precision agriculture services dedicated to nitrogen input optimization are:
Production cost optimization (reduction of inputs)
Variable rate application
Initially, we will focus on big scale farming and agro-businesses of Eastern Europe countries, particularly Romania and Bulgaria. Those actors show a priori the best potential for deployment of such solutions both in terms of short-term impact on natural resources as well as for consistent feedback on the solution. The project will also allow to deploy the FARMEX solution in Central and Southern European farms where cooperatives are predominant.
Service/ system concept
In the current version, two products are available in Farmstar, one product is dedicated to rapeseed and the other one to wheat/barley. For these two products, nitrogen modulation maps are provided via mail and useable in the tractor software.
In the export version, the system will allow to consider the local characteristics of crops, pedology and climatology. It will also allow smoother interactions with end users by providing a user-oriented webpage and mobile application.
To produce the maps, the FARMEX service will use several sources of input data:
Satellite imagery, including Landsat, Sentinel 2 and Spot if required by the client. These images are used to estimate biophysical parameters such as the Leaf Area Index (LAI) or the Chlorophyll rate (CHL).
Plot data such as plot boundaries, crop type, sowing date.
Ground truth sampling to calibrate the model as close as possible to reality.
The client will enter the input data and consult the final products on a web portal. A Backoffice portal will also be developed to manage the production and control the products quality.
Space Added Value
FARMEX uses optical imagery to estimate Biomass production and consequent Nitrogen requirements.
Indeed, vegetation reflects sunlight in different ways depending on its development. This signal is captured by the satellite, processed and converted into measurements of the vegetation condition (biomass, chlorophyll). Then, the nitrogen advice and maps are produced from this information.
The advantage of using satellite images is to obtain the most accurate measurement of the vegetation status without having to proceed with field measurements, therefore allowing exhaustive cover with very limited or no action on the field. The represents considerable time savings. The satellites used for the FARMEX service have a very high revisit capacity, allowing to adapt to the weather to obtain usable pictures of the right stage at the right time (without cloud, fog, snow, ...).
The use of satellite images also allows the production of modulation maps in order to better adjust the dose of nitrogen to be applied in the plot according to the heterogeneities of development.
After a successful kick off in early March, the main objective was to establish relationships with local partners to identify pilot sites. A first mission to Romania was carried out during which local partners were identified:
Potential agronomic expertise
Potential input distributors (agro-businesses)
A second mission was carried out in April to confirm user needs and requirements. Several levels of needs and requirements were identified:
Operator needs: access to a back-office to trigger productions and control deliverables.
Technical manager needs: easy-to-understand and accessible log system.
Coordinator (cooperatives/sponsors) needs: have an flexible and easy-to-use payment system.
End-users (farmers) needs: web platform, mobile app, generate deliverables in ISOBUS format, get a fertilizer management plan etc…
These missions and discussions with local partners have contributed to the development of the FARMEX service's business plan. Several conclusions can be drawn:
The business model should be adapted to the local market. It is important to offer a model that suits farmers, and the distribution and support local partners.
Meanwhile, software development has begun with:
Design of the solution’s infrastructure
Agronomic developments for adapting Farmstar rapeseed core algorithms to local contexts in Romania, Germany and Poland
Interfaces for delivering key advices ‘rapeseed’
A beta version for rapeseed will be available starting from October 2023, so FARMEX can be deployed next season!