On 11 October 2018, global precision agriculture company, Aerobotics, launched five new innovations that have never been seen before in the agriculture industry. These innovations were designed with the farmer in mind to build on top of Aerobotics’ world leading solutions that have been helping farmers with early pest and disease detection for years. 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.
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. The events, like Aerobotics’ technology and solutions, were designed from the ground up for the farmer.
“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 star studded 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.
“We congratulate Aerobotics on the release of this exciting new technology which has the potential to save farmers a lot of time and money. Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape, together with the Stellenbosch University School of Business, released research into the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Agriculture in the province,” said Minister Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities.
“That study found that the sector must embrace new technology like artificial intelligence and big data in order to develop the industry and contribute towards food security. We are especially delighted that Aerobotics is a local business, using innovation to develop responses to some of the challenges farmers face, thereby helping to grow our economy and create jobs in the province.”
The Future of Farming 2018 took place simultaneously at 11 satellite events around South Africa, in Citrusdal, Johannesburg, Pretoria, KZN South Coast, KZN Midlands, Kirkwood, Patensie, Tzaneen,
Nelspruit and Hartswater. The event in Johannesburg took place at the Nedbank Auditorium in Sandton. Nedbank is a partner of and Series A investor in Aerobotics and has been a strong advocate for the work the company is doing to help farmers streamline processes and navigate future challenges.
“Nedbank is excited and proud to have taken a minority equity stake in enterprising South African aerial data-analytics specialist Aerobotics, with a view to enhancing our endeavours to do good as experts in the agri-sector.
In July this year, our venture capital team invested in a minority equity interest in this disruptive technology company building advanced analytics on top of aerial drone and satellite imagery to deliver precision farming tools for the agri-sector,” said Nedbank’s National Head of Agriculture for their Business Banking division, John Hudson. “The results we’re seeing epitomise the real value and power of disruption, done right to create new realities for businesses and aligns with our goals to use our money expertise for the good of the farming industry.”
“Technological innovations in agriculture that is accessible to the ordinary producer is crucial for ensuring South Africa’s food security on a sustainable basis,” said Dan Kriek, Agri SA President. “We are proud of Aerobotics for being home-grown market leaders globally.”
Those that missed the live event or stream of the Future of Farming 2018 can watch the event on Aerobotics social media channels. People can learn more about Aerobotics and test the new,
groundbreaking technology at www.aerobotics.io .