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Exciting technologies among 2020 SproutX cohort

Technology & Data

The list of start-ups for the 2020 cohort of SproutX’s accelerator program has been announced, with several of interest to apple and pear growers.

SproutX is a joint venture between Findex and the National Farmer’s Federation. It’s an innovation hub and startup accelerator designed specifically for the Agtech sector-  that supports building world class technologies in Australian food and Agtech. Past program participants include SnapTrap, Fresh Supply Co, AgUnity and Tie Up Farming.

The 2020 cohort features technologies aiding soil mapping and helping to close the gap between financial institutions and growers when it comes to yield prediction, among other problems.

Accurate yield estimation is a key challenge. Yield is influenced by a wide range of factors including weather conditions (rain, temperature, etc). Accurate information about history of yield is important too for making decisions related to horticultural risk management and future predictions.

There are several factors to consider when estimating yield – fruit per tree, fruit size and overall number of trees. While crop density is generally predicted from extrapolating a fruit count from one to three limbs per tree this method is time consuming and doesn’t provide an accurate estimate of either the number of fruit or average fruit size for the entire tree. There is quite a bit of variation from one limb to another – sampling only three limbs is usually inadequate to estimate the entire tree.

Image processing for yield prediction is not exactly new. A 2018 project in China that used image processing to predict apple yields found issues with identifying apples in certain light. A particular issue has been detecting sunburnt or lighter green apples, which don’t show up on the processing technology. There has also been remote sensing and 3D bunch modelling used to measure crop estimates, with varying degrees of success.

Yield estimation is also used to assess crops, and provide data for ag-loans. Having an accurate representation of crop value is therefore essential to assess lending risk on both sides of the coin.

Using satellite, climate and on-farm data, Agtuary is a SproutX-backed start-up which provides insights for both growers and financial institutions to de-risk agriculture and drive efficiency in the marketplace.

Agtuary’s team are made up of rocket scientists and aerospace engineers as well as number-crunching actuaries. Whether they can make the big leap to an affordable and reliable method of predicting apple and pear yields remains to be seen, but teaming financial and horticultural/agricultural expertise when it comes to asset evaluation and crop valuation is a combination worth keeping an eye on.

Agtuary says the difference between its method and that of other yield estimators is that it uses space-based data such as satellite imagery to help both sides of the equation – not just growers. Agtuary gives banks data around financial risk and asset evaluation, while farmers get free tools that help increase productivity and receive early warnings about potential deteriorations. It says it aims are to foster a healthier agricultural economy, environment and farm-lender relationship.

Agtuary’s app is reviewed as  “online platform is super practical and clearly explains how the models are generated from satellite imagery and on-farm data to give creditors more information, while providing stronger evidencing for the farmer” by

Click here to read more about SproutX’s AgTech accelerator program for 2020.

agtech innovation

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