FarmingTruth is a precision agriculture service that furnishes end users (e.g. farmers, growers, agronomists, agricultural consultants, etc.) with a web-based soil and crop information system to enable the optimisation of land production for increasing yield at reduced input cost. It enables end users to collect and collate crop and soil data from a wide range of data sources including the utilisation of space assets like Earth Observation (EO) and Satellite Navigation (GNSS). FarmingTruth combines high resolution soil information with satellite derived crop information for the first time, in an integrated precision farming service.
Objectives of the service
The inherited spatial and temporal variation of soil properties and nutrients is critical for determining variable rate strategies for crop production, but is typically derived from soil samples collected at insufficient resolution (typically 1 soil samples per 1-3 hectare). This leads to limited characterisation of within-field soil variability, thus often results in poor crop and land management. The proposed system addresses this in two ways; 1) utilising a new and innovative on-line soil sensor to collect geo-referenced, high sampling resolution data (~1500 readings per ha) on key soil properties, 2) integration of soil data with other information such as satellite imagery of crop growth and development, weather data, topography and yield maps, to develop algorithms to determine rules for variable rate applications. These can then be implemented within the soil and crop information system. The vision for the final commercial system would be a web based portal that would allow end users (farmers, growers, etc) to manage data upload and storage, then to select appropriate "rules" for their specific location and chosen crop using science-based decisions. The resulting treatment maps would then be uploaded to precision-agriculture compatible implements for application of inputs.
Users and their needs
The main users of FarmingTruth are farmers and agri-food businesses. Other users are agronomists or advisors, farming associations, consultants, machinery manufacturers and dealers of farming equipment. FarmingTruth will target both farm types where precision farming implemented and those where precision farming is not implemented. FarmingTruth customers include both those who already use earth observation/global navigation satellite system data and those who do not yet. Two farms in the UK and Denmark are the partner farms of the feasibility study. The user base will be expanded to involve other end users in Europe and beyond during a possible demonstration stage.
Farmers and growers need recommendations to optimise inputs applied into the soil and crop, which enable them to reduce input cost and increase yield for the same field area. This might be achieved by the implementation of precision agriculture by applying the right amount of input into the right place in the right time and using the right methods. One of the strategies to achieve these targets is by the implementation of variable rate application of different inputs including fertilisers, agrochemicals, seeds and water used for irrigation, etc.
Service/ system concept
The following services are planned for the FarmingTruth:
- Variable rate fertilisation recommendations of N, P and K,
- Variable rate fertilisation recommendations of soil micro elements
- Recommendation for lime application
Products of FarmingTruth including a yield map, yield potential an soil property maps will be provided via Cranfield University's web based soil and crop information system, which will be designed to be easily integrated into existing farmers management software (FMIS) using standard data protocols (e.g. agroXML, XML or CSV).
Space Added Value
FarmingTruth combines high resolution soil information, geo-tagged by GNSS, with satellite derived crop information for the first time, in an integrated precision farming service. The integration of data on soil, crop cover, yield, topography and weather furnish the farmers with ground truth decisions on variable applications of chemical fertilisers, which is hoped to reduce input cost and increase yield. Information about crop cover collected with satellite assets is expected to be faster and less costly as compared with information collected by ground based sensors only. The field measurement using in-line sensor and GNSS is performed at most once per season, after the harvest. EO data is then used to generate and update variable rate recommendations throughout the season.
FarmingTruth aims to increase the competitiveness of farm businesses by providing a system consisting of hardware and software that is a support for best farming practice. It is expected to increase profitability, while reducing the environmental impacts of farming in general. There is no other solution that is based on on-line collected soil information today with high sampling resolution to enable characterisation of within field variation in soil properties. This prevents the integration of information about soil and crop at high sampling resolution to enable management to take place at subfield scale. Homogeneous application of fertilisers is adopted by majority of farmers worldwide. Variable rate applications based on within field variation in soil and crop characteristics have been documented to result in increasing profitability while reducing environmental impact by reducing the amount of chemicals applied into the environment. The added value of FarmingTruth as compared to the state-of-the-art is by the integration of on-line sensing into current farming, integration of EO with on-line sensing, and a variable rate better optimized towards cost/benefit.
Cranfield University will be the prime and HITEC Luxembourg S.A will be the subcontractor on the project. Both project farms, namely the Duck End Farm in Wilstead, the UK and the manor Vindumovergaard in Bjerringbro, Jaetland, in Denmark will be the end users, while the Douglas Bomford Trust (DBT), Knowledge Centre of Agriculture (KCA) and Home Grown Cereal Authority (HGCA) will act as the project stakeholders.
The following assets are used in FarmingTruth:
On-line sensor platform to collect information about soil properties assisted by satellite navigation (GNSS)
Combine harvesters equipped with yield sensors to collect data on yield assisted by satellite navigation (GNSS)
Earth observation (EO) to acquire satellite images to provide information about crop cover (e.g. NDVI), to track crop development and variations in the field, and to help develop application rate recommendations
DGPS to collect information about topography
Local weather information
Raw data and maps on key soil chemical and physical properties including, total nitrogen, organic carbon, P, pH, moisture content, clay, Ca, Mg and cation exchange capacity.
Maps of NDVI indicating the vegetation status of the crop.
Yield potential maps
Variable rate fertiliser recommendations
Current management systems of soil and crop are done by either homogeneous or variable rate applications of different input (e.g. fertilisers) where the spatial variability of soil properties is ignored due to the absence of soil sensors that can collect quantitative information about soil at high sampling resolutions in timely and cost effective fashion. This prevents the integration of information about soil and crop at high sampling resolution to enable management to take place at subfield scale. This may result in over- or under- applications of input, which directly influence the input cost, crop performance and yield.
Feasibility study concluded successfully on 18 March 2013. Due to the positive results, the team is in the process of preparing an ARTES 20 demonstration project