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Eye in the Sky Reduces Nitrogen Use for Precision Farming

Vultus satellite precision farming Source: Vultus

Concept: Run satellite data through proprietary models to pinpoint needs for nitrogen fertilizers.

Swedish firm Vultus is introducing a service for farmers to help them reduce nitrogen fertilizer use by 40%,, limiting the carbon emissions and pollution associated with fertilizer production and use. Even better, farmers save time and money while gaining insight into how to increasing yield and crop quality.

The new service combines satellite imagery of fields with spectral and image analysis to quantify plant health and nitrogen needs across the fields for precision farming. Vultus applies 20 years of historic spectral data and extensive field studies to maintain a nitrogen index that is optimized for calculating the optimal fertilizer distribution. The software then gives farmers an analysis of how much nitrogen fertilizer to use at each point in their fields.

The spectral signature of the crops is dependent on crop and climatic zones. This graph from Vultus show what the generic signatures look like.

The same satellite data can be processed to produce other information to optimize management of natural resources. Vultus lists these three examples on its website:

  • Plant health analysis – the high-resolution satellite imagery is useful for quantifying the performance of fields, understanding variations within them, and detecting issues.
  • Sand erosion monitoring – Coastal erosion is responsible for property loss, groundwater pollution and increased flooding. An integrated coastal monitoring solution, leveraging the experience of erosion experts and coastal authorities, can increase the ability to manage rising sea levels and other changes in hydrology stemming from global warming.
  • Algae monitoring – Satellite-based spectral data can be applied to three-dimensional simulation models for algae movement to provide decision support for water companies. Vultus will partake in a project in this area together with a few researchers and water companies.
  • Drought monitoring – Vultus remote sensing capabilities are being evaluated to help wetland preservation experts build a decision support to both preserve the environment, and most efficiently distribute water within communities.

“What really motivates us is the fact that farming was so inefficient, and we saw how it was being left behind by the technological revolution. 60% waste of a primary input would be totally unacceptable in any other industry.” – William Håkansson, founder of Vultus.

The Vultus analysis system is solely available as an application programming interface (API) service optimized for Farm Management Systems (FMS). This partnership-based model allows the FMS provider to enhance its platform through added value of Nitrogen recommendations and Plant health analysis to farmers.

The system works like this: requests through the API initiate data fetching and processing. Proprietary cloud masking and removal algorithms pre-process the data. Then, the data undergoes geometric, radiometric and atmospheric calibration. Next, Vultus applies models to the data, either the nitrogen calculation, based on our Vultus Nitrogen Index, or plant health analysis following NDVI among other available plant health indices. The system reformats the results and send them back through the API.

Vultus will offer the technology worldwide at a cost of about $1.20 per hectare (about 2.5 acres), and the company estimates its use will save a medium-sized farm about $18,000 per year. At launch, the system covers 5.5 million hectares and the company estimates it can prevent release of about 2.3 million tons of CO2.

For more information, visit www.vultus.se.

About David Smith (20 Articles)
Contributing editor David Smith is a writer and marketing consultant focusing on clean technology. He has held creative and marketing executive positions in technology companies and marketing agencies, and has a background in journalism and electrical engineering. He has consulted with emerging start-ups and Fortune 500 companies on market positioning, branding and communications strategies. An EV enthusiast, he has spoken on B2B marketing and social media at a variety of industry events.

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