Drones vs pests and diseases

October 19, 2018

Aerobotics CEO, James Paterson.

Disease identification technology and database launched precision agriculture event...

Cape Town start-up, Aerobotics, provides farmers around the world with world-leading pest and disease management systems for tree crop protection using drone and satellite data. The company was co-founded by James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO) in 2014.

Farming is a risky business with pests and disease often reducing a farmer’s yields. Aerobotics’software, Aeroview, empowers tree crop farmers to identify early stage problems in their orchards. Used in conjunction with the Aerobotics’ Aeroview Scout App on their smartphone, farmers are able to locate problem areas on a tree-by-tree basis.

Achieving success for more than 6 million trees to-date, Aerobotics is setting the standard for tree crop analytics globally and innovating the agricultural processes as we know them.

Aerobotics’ new leaf-by-leaf Drone Scouting Application will give farmers access to artificial intelligence (AI) that detects the exact problems impacting their trees, quickly, accurately and without having to step foot onto the crop themselves.

Five new innovations launched at the Future of Farming 2018 events held in October:

● Automated problem detection for trees using multispectral cameras, visual cameras and satellite imagery

● Scouting routes generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI)

● Drone scouting within one metre of individual trees to capture imagery

● Artificial Intelligence (AI) disease identification through Aerobotics’ database

● Intuitive reporting to give the farmer key, actionable insights

The announcements were made during Aerobotics’ Future of Farming 2018 events, which were not held in city centers, but in 11 locations in mostly farming communities around South Africa with more than 700 people in attendance.

“We have been working extremely hard over the past few years with growers and industry partners to create technology that will completely change how farmers manage their crops, identify stressed trees and spot individual pests and diseases without stepping foot on the farm,” said Aerobotics Co-Founder and CEO James Paterson. “This kind of technology has been the stuff of agri-tech legend, but today we are making the Future of Farming a reality.”

Once the drones capture high resolution images of stressed trees, these images will be run through Aerobotics’ first-ever tree crop and vineyard pest and disease detection database. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, pests and disease will be identified, and the results then communicated via push notifications to the farmer. Additionally, the Aeroview system will now automatically generate scout routes for farmers using Aerobotics’ AI.

“Until now, the farmer has had to take time to visit each individual tree and rely on past experience and knowledge in the field to identify pests and disease,” said Aerobotics Data Science Manager Michael Malahe. “Now, Aeroview has the technology to do all of this for the farmer. The amount of time, energy and money that farmers can save with Aerobotics’ new technology is impressive.”

Once the system has automatically detected problem trees that need further investigation and a scout route has been planned using AI, Aerobotics’ Drone Scouting Application will send the route to a drone.

The drone will take off and fly a custom-designed mission, locating trees which have been identified as experiencing stress. The drone will come down to approximately one metre above the tree to take a high-resolution image. This image will capture data at leaf-specific detail and be uploaded to Aerobotics’ pest and disease database.

“Aerobotics has been looking at how we can combine our technology and farming knowledge to help farmers streamline their operations and save time and money,” said Aerobotics Co-Founder and CTO Benji Meltzer. “This has massive implications for the farming sector as early detection of these risks will enable early intervention, saving farmers costs, protecting crops and saving yields exposed to harmful pests and disease.”

“Our clients look to us to bring innovative solutions to market which save them time and grow their yield. This is definitely going to do that on a large scale,” said Aerobotics COO Andrew Burdock. “The more data we collect over time, the quicker and more accurate the system will become in identifying the pest and disease risk in the future.”

“Farmers once roamed their crops, inspecting their plants manually. Our initial solution enabled drones to survey the route and guide farmers to the location of trees under stress, but still required manual scouting,” said Aerobotics Head of Product Nasreen Patel. “Now, the drone will do the scouting, enabling the farmer to review their orchards from their web browser.”

“Aerobotics has built an application that enables drones to do the work in minutes that used to take farmers hours,” said Aerobotics CFO and Head of Growth Timothy Willis. “We can now use Aeroview to find stressed trees and vines by creating a scouting route for farmers without them having to lift a finger.”

The Aerobotics Future of Farming 2018 main event featured guest speakers and panel participants from major businesses, organisations and farming partners. The panel discussion was moderated by Editor of Landbouweekblad Chris Burgess and featured Nedbank Head of Agriculture John Hudson, AgriSA Head of Natural Resources Janse Rabi, 1st Fruits Farmer Hein Gerber and Economist and National Policy Advisor and Strategist Miriam Altman.

For more info visit at www.aerobotics.io .

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