For us at The Yield, there's little point in creating technology that can do great things in agriculture if it's not used by the people it's built for – the growers themselves, working with the land every day.
Since the launch of Sensing+ in October 2017, we've had the pleasure of seeing our solution of hardware, data analytics and apps become a part of daily life for growers around the country, helping them make more-informed decisions around when to irrigate, spray and harvest.
One of the people who has really embraced Sensing+ is Brett Squibb, a third-generation apple grower in Tasmania’s north-west, who grows apples for distribution to the Tasmanian and mainland markets. Squibb uses Sensing+ to stay one step ahead of changing conditions on his 100-hectare farm, giving him and his team a bird's eye view of everything they need to know, with insights and notifications directly on his smartphone.
The Yield has developed and designed the app alongside growers, to ensure a user experience that’s specifically tailored to the agriculture industry. According to Squibb, the attention paid to the needs of growers is evident when using the app.
“It’s easy to use and has the grower in mind," he says.
Sensing+ measures everything from temperature, rainfall and wind conditions to relative humidity, leaf and berry wetness, total solar and photosynthetic active radiation and soil moisture at multiple depths. The technology was extensively researched and tested over 18 months with growers from a variety of fruit and vegetable crops.
"I can look at rainfall, wind speed, temperature, soil moisture, forecast evapotranspiration. It’s almost like having anything you need for farming in your pocket, 24 hours a day."
For Brett, it’s the microclimate sensing that’s really changed how he manages his business; knowing exactly what’s happening in his orchard at any given moment is invaluable now, compared to having to rely on information from a nearby weather station that might be five or six days out, as he had done for years.
The crop water balance, measured as evapotranspiration, which combines data on rainfall, temperature and humidity helps Brett decide when and how much to irrigate. Always knowing the precise water balance on his orchard means he can use his resources more efficiently – and he can also see the impact past irrigation has on his water balance, by viewing graphs for the past 7 days.
“Water is the most valuable resource we’ve got - if we over or under water, it can be detrimental to our crop,” he explains.
“We’re finding, as the years go on, we’re getting a bit less rainfall each year. So, to be able to regulate and know how much water we’re putting on is probably the most important part of my farming.”
Getting accurate information about his microclimate is also a crucial factor for Squibb when it comes to pest and disease management.
“If we know we’ve had a flight of light brown apple moth today, then we need to know what the temperature is here in the orchard."
And when it comes to return on his investment, Squibb believes one of the biggest advantages of having
Sensing+ is the time it saves him, day in day out.
“Time is money. If I can save an hour a day, that’s an hour a day I’ve got to do something else. Instead of worrying about what the weather is doing I can just pick up my phone, have a look at it, and get on with my day’s work.”
Like all growers, Squibb is always looking for that extra edge that can help him increase both the quality and number of apples he produces. Having the system in place is not designed to replace his gut instinct, he says, but is about giving him greater decision-making capability, while making every day activities easier; decisions around irrigation and staff planning is simpler and backed by data with a 7-day forecast on one screen.
“I know Sensing+ isn’t going to change the weather, but at least if the weather changes I know what’s coming,” he says.
“Is Sensing+ going to make me grow a better apple? I don’t know. Is it going to make everything I do to grow an apple easier? Absolutely."