Tag Archives: farming

The exciting potential for sensors and drones to combat global hunger

January 27

In 2013, I made my first trip to Ethiopia. Knowing a bit about the country’s economic circumstances, I fully expected the grim poverty that I’d later encounter. After all, like millions of Americans, I watched the devastating famine there unfold on television in the 1980s.

At the same time, Ethiopia has made great strides since then. Ethiopia halved the number of its undernourished people from 75 percent to 35 percent in two decades, according to the United Nations. Still, that 35 percent is considerable – the U.N.’s World Food Programme estimates that3.2 million Ethiopians need food relief assistance.

So imagine my surprise when I entered a restroom in a small town outside Addis, the capital, and found sensorized urinals – the kind that self-flush. I don’t normally notice urinals, but in Ethiopia, where electricity and indoor plumbing are unreliable at best, sensorized urinals catch your attention. To find something as relatively advanced as a sensorized machine in a small Ethiopian town doesn’t necessarily say much about the country; but it says a lot about the machine.

In particular, it illustrates the potential of sensors and how they could hold the key to significantly reducing the world’s hunger problem. Sensors are everywhere and in everything, at least in developed nations such as the United States. They’ve revolutionized our mobile phones, and are now powering the next wave of wearable tech devices. Sensors are the reason the automotive industry is poised to deliver a driverless car.

The best thing about sensors, aside from their potential? They’re dirt cheap. The average smartphone holds five to seven sensors that cost about $5 combined. In 2007, an accelerometer, which comes standard in all smartphones today, cost $7 — now it costs less than 50 cents. The steep price decline, which has been in place since the early 1990s, is a function of strong competition in the smartphone arena and the growing number of applications using sensor technology. But nothing mandates that sensors are for smartphones only.

Which brings us back to Ethiopia. Now that you see how cheap sensors are today, the notion that a small, dusty town in Ethiopia can afford a sensorized urinal doesn’t seem all that remarkable. But let’s take this one step further. Sensorized devices are multiplying across every sector of the economy. Heavy industry uses sensors to increase productivity. Airplanes employ sensors in their “fly-by-wire” systems. Physicians can prescribe digestible sensors to monitor and wirelessly transmit biometric data.

According to the Digital Universe report from the International Data Corporation, the total number of “connectable things” – everyday objects that can be linked to the Internet – in the world is around 200 billion. Of those, about 20 billion are actually wired and talking to the Internet right now. They’re able to do so through a network of roughly 50 billion sensors that track, monitor and feed data to those connected devices. And the IDC estimates that by 2020, the number of connected things will increase by 50 percent to 30 billion, while the network of sensors will number in the trillions.

So, what does this have to do with solving the global food crisis? There’s enough food in the world to feed every person on the earth, yet through a combination of inefficiencies, supply-chain obstacles and oppressive government regulation, hundreds of millions of people are undernourished. Indeed, many food shortages arise because of misallocation of information. Suppliers of food are unaware of shortages and unaware of market prices. I’ve heard stories of food rotting on African farms only miles away from desolate starvation.

Equipping food-supply material such as storage containers, warehouses and shelves with sensors allows us to know instantly the moment a shortage exists. And I mean instantly in the literal sense. With sensors, we don’t need to wait for a person to count hundreds of containers to realize that there won’t be enough food for the community –a time-consuming process that too often doesn’t happen anyway. Sensors help remove those layers of inefficiency, shortening data’s transmission chain, skipping potential inhibitors and triggering faster response times.

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DuBravac is the chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association and the author of the book, “Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Work, Live, and Communicate” (Regnery, 2015). Follow him on Twitter

Courtesy: Washington Post

Two year Research Project Targets Agricultural Productivity

Project URSULA (UAS Remote Sensing for Use in Land Applications) was launched  by Welsh Assembly Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones. The 2 year research and development programme will explore the potential for advanced remote sensing, using small unmanned aircraft, for use in land applications, primarily high input arable farming. The project is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Gubua Group Flying Wing

URSULA will develop market-focussed data products based on imagery captured by a range of sensors mounted in small unmanned aircraft with a launch anywhere, anytime capability. Combining the innovative remote sensing platform with novel processing techniques, URSULA provides a disruptive technology which will open up new avenues for flexible, cost-effective, high resolution data provision. It is anticipated that this will accelerate the adoption of precision farming principles at a critical time for the industry.

There is a growing need for timely, accurate, detailed information on our land as we place greater pressure upon it. A rising population coupled with changes in demand and increasing scarcity of critical resources such as water and energy will place ever-increasing pressure on the land to perform multiple functions. Our food system needs to be sustainable – and economically viable – whilst adapting to climate change and contributing to climate change mitigation.

Project URSULA aims to satisfy some of these needs and provides an opportunity to develop and demonstrate a number of leading edge capabilities such as:

  • Technical agriculture
  • Environmental understanding
  • Increased flexibility in routine UAS operations
  • Advanced algorithm development and data interpretation

A key advantage of UAS remote sensing is the ability to obtain timely higher resolution data than can be currently be achieved, and to use this to drive improved performance, including:

  • Precision agriculture practices:
    • Managing fertilisers, nutrients
    • Variable seed rates
    • Soil moisture indicators
  • Yield assessment
  • Disease and stress detection:
    • Managing pesticides
    • invasive weed mapping
  • Sustainable land management

Our engagement with stakeholders and end users ensures agriculturally led data interpretation and individual farm-level knowledge makes the most of the remote sensing data.

Courtesy SUAS News

ND company specializes in aerial crop imagery

By: Jonathan Knutson

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When David Dvorak launched Field of View in 2010, he foresaw a bright future for aerial crop imagery. Today, after working with farmers, agronomists and even a South American plantation manager, he’s more optimistic than ever.

“A few years ago, there was some behind-the-scenes interest in this,” says Dvorak, CEO of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Field of View.

Now, “I’m quietly confident there’s this perfect storm brewing where the precision agriculture market really takes off and the civil UAS (unmanned aircraft system) market takes off. They’re both on a trajectory to make that happen about the same time,” he says.

Field of View’s mission is to “bridge the gap between unmanned aircraft and precision agriculture,” according to the company’s website.

Its flagship product, GeoSnap, is an add-on device for multispectral cameras mounted on either manned or unmanned aircraft. Such cameras capture images in the red, green and near-infared bands, allowing users to visualize plant stress better than they can with most other camera systems, Dvorak says.

GeoSnap takes images captured by the multispectral camera and maps them with real-world coordinates, a process known as georeferencing. That allows users to know the aerial images’ exact location on the ground.

“It’s a very complex process. We developed a product that hopefully makes the process easier,” Dvorak says.

GeoSnap costs about $5,000 per unit, with the multispectral cameras costing about $4,000 each.

Field of View only recently began selling the add-on devices. So far, the company has sold a half-dozen, including one to NASA.

Dvorak thinks NASA will use the GeoSnap to learn more about vegetative cover on Earth, though he isn’t sure of specifics.

GeoSnap generally has drawn more interest overseas because other countries have fewer restrictions on air space, he says.

Read More: Praire News