GPS innovations for end users, drone flying – a gimmick?

While the news has recently been dominated by GPS interference from Russia at its borders and in the Baltic Sea, there have also been positive developments.

The media hype surrounding the European GPS alternative/supplement Galileo has died down in recent years, RTK receivers have become affordable and the SAPOS correction signal is free everywhere in Germany. Negative for the providers but good for the customer, competition has been increasingly based on price since the appearance of good quality and inexpensive chipsets and antennas.

The L5 band opens up new possibilities

GPS, Galileo and QZSS (Japan) now all offer the L5 frequency band in addition to L1 and L2, and with new affordable chipsets and antennas you can take advantage of this band. These are

  • Greater accuracy: Positioning is more precise, especially in dense urban canyons and under trees (even under foliage) partly due to a faster data transmission rate (10 times higher than with L1).
  • Less interference: Multipath errors due to signal reflections are better suppressed.

Benefit soon!

We will be offering this new technology later this year, giving you even more precise and reliable surveying solutions!

See field report (german): https://www.optimalsystem.de/os/docs/2024-04-29-f10n-urban.pdf.

Drone flying – a gimmick?

Recently, I have been “accused” of my activities as a drone pilot being just a “gimmick” and not real work. However, the actual flying and evaluation of the data currently takes up a large part of my working time.

First of all, it should be noted that a flight is not an end in itself; every mission is preceded by a specific question from a customer.

Preparation:

Every flight is thoroughly planned. The area to be flown over is transferred to the flight planning software and the flight plan is created based on the desired ground resolution.

Execution:

At the deployment site, the flight direction is adjusted to the wind conditions and the connection is established with the relevant SAPOS service. The actual flight is largely autonomous, with me monitoring the drone and changing the battery if necessary.

Evaluation:

Back in the office, I create an orthophoto (georeferenced aerial image) and carry out the image analysis. Under optimal conditions (SAPOS/RTK, low wind), this is usually done automatically, but can become more complex in adverse conditions.

Two practical examples:

Figure 1: Aerial survey to determine the emergence rate, on the left the flight planning, on the right a generated digital estimation frame 1x1m² above the orthophoto as an aid for “plant counting”.

Figure 2: Overview flight for a test, left flight planning, right orthophoto as layer in QGIS

Admittedly, the accusation of “gimmickry” is not easy to refute. However, I am aware of the high effort and quality of my work, and my customers confirm this by accepting our invoices 😉 .

Ask us, we look forward to your tasks! We specialise in company-specific solutions, we value you and your challenges =;-).

Our contact details are:

arnim.grabo@exagt.de
+49 (0) 176 72588814, +49 (0) 34324 269737

andreas.schmidt@exagt.de
+49 (0) 173 352 8960, +49 (0) 34324 269739

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News from ISO FARM RESEARCH (IFR)

At Agritechnica 2023, AMAZONE, EXA Computing, geo-konzept, Hanse-Agro, the Kiel University of Applied Sciences, the start-up AgDoIT and we received the DLG-Agrifuture Concept Winner award.

Now it’s time to turn this concept into reality! We started with the automated trial planning module, for which our colleagues from AgDoIT programmed an initial version of the planning tool using the knowledge and experience of EXAgT.

Testing/further development and troubleshooting are carried out in parallel with the use of the software in real OFR trials.

Among other things, we are supervising a trial on underfoot fertilisation in maize with a project partner. In this case, for technical reasons, it cannot be set up using an application map, and the necessary randomisation of the test elements in each block makes it difficult to set up a reliable test system. In this case, lane planning is necessary, whereby each individual test element is planned in all repetitions using a full lane and implemented one after the other in the tractor terminal via RTK autopilot.

Figure 1: Automated test facility with full-track planning for test link A

IFR at the Amatechnica

On 23.05.2024 our partner Amazone is organising its in-house exhibition Amatechnica. Our colleagues from AgDoIT will have the opportunity to present IFR at this event, and we will be there to support them! We will announce more details in the run-up to the trade fair.

Ask us, we look forward to your tasks! We specialise in company-specific solutions, we value you and your challenges =;-).

Our contact details are:

arnim.grabo@exagt.de
+49 (0) 176 72588814, +49 (0) 34324 269737

andreas.schmidt@exagt.de
+49 (0) 173 352 8960, +49 (0) 34324 269739

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agra 2024 – we’re there!

agra will take place at Messe Leipzig from the 11th to the 14th of April 2024. We can be found in Hall 2 at Booth D34 together with the GIS GmbH. On the 13th of April at 11:30 Andreas Schmidt will give a presentation “Digital Innovations in On Farm Research” at the AgriFood Innovation Forum in Hall 2 at the Saxony Trade & Invest Corp. at booth D16.

We look forward to your visit!

These are the topics we want to present to you at agra:

Our services in the area of field maps, the preparation of balance sheets and fertiliser requirement calculations as well as agricultural aid applications

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of the legal regulations, including the Fertiliser Ordinance, Plant Protection Act and conditionalities. We offer the creation of field maps, field and farm-related, in compliance with all regulations and guidelines in order to fulfil all documentation obligations. In particular, we calculate the fertiliser requirements for nitrogen and phosphorus to comply with the Fertiliser Ordinance, provide soil sample materials and draw up fertiliser balances.

Conditionalities, ecological rules and agri-environmental measures – we provide support and advice on applications for direct payments and area-based agricultural subsidies.

Precision farming (PF) with in-house equipment WITHOUT the need for your own sensors and software

The use of PF often means considerable expense for interested companies. On the one hand in the purchase/subscription of the necessary technology/software and even more so in the area of personnel deployment such as working hours/training/(annual) familiarisation.

We offer our help here. Our services are focussed on

Site-specific work with application maps

  • Fertilisation after autumn scan satellite
  • N-fertilisation, growth regulators
  • Basic fertilisation
  • Maize/cereal sowing

Fixed lanes/CTF light

Lane planning taking into account the

  • Hoeing technology requirements
  • Sprayer requirements

Trials without special trial technology on your fields

  • The trial system and harvesting can be integrated into the normal production process.
  • statistically reliable
  • OFR/IFR/PiG
Figure 1: Our joint booth in 2019 with GIS GmbH

Ask us, we look forward to your tasks! We specialise in company-specific solutions, we value you and your challenges =;-).

Our contact details are:

arnim.grabo@exagt.de
+49 (0) 176 72588814, +49 (0) 34324 269737

andreas.schmidt@exagt.de
+49 (0) 173 352 8960, +49 (0) 34324 269739

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Application maps for growth regulators / Project “Boniturschwarm” (assessment swarm)

Starting this year, we have been using our expertise not only to plan application maps for fertilisation, but also for growth regulators. As with N fertilisation, this is based on satellite data. As usual with EXAgT, we support you with our professional plus technical expertise from planning/data collection to reading into the terminal and application. The use of the method is also accompanied by large plot trials (OFR/PiG).

Figure 1: Trial design for large plot trial of growth regulator
Experimental treatments constant, variable by satellite and map

Project “Boniturschwarm” (assessment swarm)

The joint project “Boniturschwarm” of the TU Dresden, Chair of Agricultural Systems Technology and EXAgT GmbH will start on April 1, 2024 as part of the DMPL.

EXAgT has been using commercially available drones with multispectral cameras for several years for field assessments in monitoring/analysing field trials.

The time-critical use of drones in agricultural crop protection practice is currently hampered by the low productivity of drone use due to the technically limited flight times and the effort involved in photogrammetric analysis.

The use of larger, more powerful and automated drone solutions requires the use of very expensive technology, expensive insurance, highly qualified drone pilots and changes in legislation; “casual use” by a crop production specialist is no longer affordable.

One solution would be the simultaneous use of several drones, either in parallel for faster work completion or hierarchically (e.g. one drone provides the overview at a higher altitude to detect “defect areas”, the other(s) do the ” detailed work” at a lower altitude). Photogrammetric (pre-)processing of the images in the field would greatly reduce the overall processing time and thus enable site-specific crop protection applications on short notice.

The productive use of a drone swarm for field assessment by a ” standard” agronomist would promote the use of remote sensing technology for the effective use and saving of plant pesticides.

Ask us, we look forward to your tasks! We specialise in company-specific solutions, we value you and your challenges =;-).

Our contact details are:

arnim.grabo@exagt.de
+49 (0) 176 72588814, +49 (0) 34324 269737

andreas.schmidt@exagt.de
+49 (0) 173 352 8960, +49 (0) 34324 269739

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The problem of “automated” agronomy and in practice Satellite vs. plant sensor

While browsing the LinkedIn platform, I found this interesting picture of Nathan Faleide, an AgTech specialist from the USA, see
https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathan-faleide-036b43b5/

Figure 1: From individual data to automated decision-making.

This illustrates my current experience in the creation of management zone maps (“potential maps”) from multi-year satellite data very well. This is a task that is carried out automatically by various providers. But what is the quality of the maps generated? Every year is different, fields are split and merged, irrigation lines are laid, there are processing and application errors, cloud shadows and much more. In my experience, there are areas where only ONE date has provided a usable image for zoning since the start of the Sentinel-2 flights! For such areas, an ” automated” system provides the mixed entity at the bottom left of the image, and in contrast to this, you can’t even guess which data is responsible for this in the generated map!

An AI also relies on data and learnt knowledge; if these are incorrect, the result will be the same. In computer science, programming an access function for a database is labour-intensive for humans, but a trifle for an AI. Assessing the quality of basic data and arriving at a comprehensible result with the ” correct” agronomic knowledge is much more complex. And then there’s the “battle” over which is the ” correct” agronomic knowledge 😉 .

In practice Satellite vs. plant sensor

The creation of fertiliser maps for our service “N fertilisation according to the measurement of N uptake by satellite in autumn” for winter oilseed rape is in the final phase.

Many of our customers have a YARA N sensor, but do not perform an autumn scan. The reasons for this are the limited operating times of “old” passive sensors in autumn, peak workloads, cost savings for an extra trip or the poor accessibility of the fields. This means, for example, that only a few fields could be scanned, but planning is required for the entire rapeseed area.

An opportunity for us to compare the satellite and plant sensor in practice when recording the parameter N uptake in oilseed rape!

Figure 2: Left: N uptake map derived from satellite images according to EXAgT algorithms, right: interpolated N uptake map from ALS-2 measurements from the Agricon Agriport.

The comparison shows, on the one hand, a comparable level of the measured N uptake values, but also the greater level of detail of the map from satellite data.

The differences lie in the type of measurement. The Sentinel-2 satellite works similarly to a digital camera with a defined resolution such as the 10x10m spectral channels used here.

With the YARA sensor, an average value is calculated from the measurements of each of the two sensor heads (2x 3m measuring width per head). For each track, this one value is used as the default value for the entire working width (36 metres in this case).

Modern centrifugal spreaders have the ability to spread different quantities at least to the left and right, while pneumatic spreaders and sprayers have many individually controllable sections. This means that a higher resolution of the application maps can also be realised within the track.

We create application maps from these values using the tried and tested Rapool algorithm; agricon has its own calculation methods.

Ask us, we look forward to your tasks! We specialise in company-specific solutions, we value you and your challenges =;-).

Our contact details are:

arnim.grabo@exagt.de
+49 (0) 176 72588814, +49 (0) 34324 269737

andreas.schmidt@exagt.de
+49 (0) 173 352 8960, +49 (0) 34324 269739

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Challenges in the autumn satellite scan in late autumn 2023, you can still join!

Since 2017, we have been successfully offering our “N fertilisation according to the measurement of N uptake by satellite in autumn” service for winter oilseed rape and winter wheat/barley/rye. This is based on cloud-free Sentinel-2 satellite measurement data before dormancy and reference measurements of N uptake in the crop.

How was the availability of such data this year? For our customers in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, there was good quality data on 23 October 2023; this was also the case for Eastern Saxony on 30 October 2023.

Figure 1: Sentinel-2 RGB image from 23 October 2023 Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

This was more difficult in other locations, such as west of Dresden/Erzgebirge. We had carried out our reference measurements on the ground here in late autumn; we were only able to use satellite data from 17.12.2023. Since the cold period at the end of November/beginning of December 2023 had hardly any influence on the crops of oilseed rape/winter cereals, even due to the snow cover, this was possible without any problems!

Figure 2: Sentinel-2 RGB image west of Dresden/Erzgebirge from 09/11/2023 left vs. RGB image from 17/12/2023

The search for cloud-free images of our customers’ fields in Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia was also very time-consuming this year, and we are proud that we were able to find them for all areas, sometimes through painstaking detective work!

The N-absorption maps and calculation tables have been finalised this week and will be sent to our customers from Monday!

Get on board now!

We now have cloud-free satellite data throughout eastern Germany at the end of 2023 and can now also create N uptake maps for winter oilseed rape and winter cereals and use them as a basis for fertilisation in spring 2024, a spreading map can be created at short notice!

If time is short, fertilise a constant N1a application (also for sulphur supply, see below), the next application can then be differentiated with an application map.

If there were problems with the sensor recordings in autumn, difficulties with the generation of spread maps, if you need personal advice from agronomy to application technology, please contact us!

Ask us, we look forward to your tasks! Our speciality is farm-specific solutions, we value you and your challenges =;-).

Our contact details are:

arnim.grabo@exagt.de

+49 (0) 176 72588814, +49 (0) 34324 269737

andreas.schmidt@exagt.de

+49 (0) 173 352 8960, +49 (0) 34324 269739

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To the new year / News about Project SNaPwürZ

“Fundamentally, it is always the connection with other people that give life its worth.“
Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767 bis 1835)

A heartfelt thank you for your trust and the delightful cooperation.  May your new year be filled with contentment, health, happiness and optimism.  We wish you a merry Christmas and a successfull 2024.

2023 was a very eventful and successful year for us, highlighted by the “DLG-Agrifuture Concept Winner 2023” prize awarded at the agritechnica 2023, which we received as part of the cooperation with our partners AMAZONE, EXA Computing, geo-konzept, Hanse-Agro, the Kiel University of Applied Sciences and the start-up AgDoIT. This award and our involvement in the EIP-Agri project SNaPwürZ set the course for our further increased involvement in the field of OFR/PiG trials for agronomic practice, including methodological developments in the coming year.

The amazing response to our EXAgT Observator during agritechnica 2023 brought us new partners in the field of application and potential further development extending beyond Germany’s borders.

Our developments in the practical application of remote sensing data for agronomic purposes are continuing and we will report on them here.

News about Project SNaPwürZ

Translation: smart, sustainable, precise, repeatable, transferable and resilient – Agriculture under the changing conditions of the future

Chances through digital innovations in On Farm Research and precise trials

The first meeting of the Operational Group (OG) took place on 13 December in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kiel University of Applied Sciences. A total of 18 people took part in this hybrid event, including OG members, external speakers and guests. The event was characterised by short keynote speeches and open discussions.

Prof Dr Ute Kropf from Kiel University of Applied Sciences kicked off the event with a pitch on field trials at Lindenhof. She focussed on the technical aspects of field trials, and the presence of the trial technicians contributed to an in-depth discussion about the current challenges in planning and implementing precision trials.

Mr Bastian Brandenburg from R&D Centre FH Kiel GmbH gave an insight into the farm knowledge infrastructure as a knowledge transfer platform (www.farmwissen.de). He explained the structure of the infrastructure and how Farmwissen can serve as the main channel for publishing the project results of the OG SNaPwürZ and create a wider reach.

Mr Moritz Gassan from EXAgT GmbH reported on the current status of the experimental guide for on-farm research. Although the project is still at an early stage, the guideline is already well advanced.

Christoph Ratke presented the terms of reference for the on-farm research toolbox, thereby initiating the discussion. This then moved on to practical experimental questions and the challenges in practical agriculture when implementing on-farm experiments. The practitioners present provided important suggestions for overcoming these obstacles and helped to concretise the experimental plans.

Sebastian Ramm, R&D Centre FH Kiel GmbH

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