The Yield has been featured as this month's technology story in an Australian publication for the Japanese business market. Read the article, back-translated into English, below.
Weather is one of the biggest challenges facing Australian farmers. Increasing uncertainty caused by climate change, and unpredictable environmental conditions directly affect the performance of crops and can cause major issues for growers.
The Yield Technology Solutions tackles this problem and provides a solution to monitor, analyse and predict weather conditions, and predict yields. We spoke with Mr Chris Mendes, the company's chief technology officer (CTO), to learn more about the details behind its ‘hyperlocal’ services to farmers.
The Yield’s Sensing+ solution provides microclimate weather predictions, data and analytics, and yield predictions using artificial intelligence. The microclimate is the specific climatic conditions where growing actually occurs.
“The structure of our service can be described as a hierarchy of data from the field, connectivity, data, AI, and on top of that - tools to help growers make decisions. One of the most significant tools in our solution is our notifications platform providing ‘observed’ and ‘predictive’ notifications.”
The sensors measure a wide range of conditions including: air temperature, humidity, pressure, sunlight, wind speed and direction, rainfall, leaf wetness and soil moisture.
“Firstly, observed notifications enable farmers to digitise and manage their experience and knowledge. For example, farmers can set a number of specific conditions on the app, such as ‘Notify me when humidity is above 40%’ and then receive notifications when the weather conditions actually exceed this threshold.
Taking this further, predictive notifications help farmers to optimise the use of labour, equipment and operations by predicting when notification rules will be met.
Sensing+ uses AI to give predictions in a microclimate up to three days in advance and visually depicts a timeline, providing farmers with a big picture of what to prepare for and when.”
The Yield is focused on removing the uncertainty from the growing process.
“Data from the Bureau of Meteorology could be collected from up to 100 kilometres away. The weather forecast is a mathematical approximation by dividing land into grids. Therefore, you can’t really know for sure what is happening on your farm unless you get the measurement locally. Furthermore, weather stations do not look to the future, they only look at the past.”
When agritech companies work with large farms, often in remote areas, connectivity issues are usually encountered.
“We build our network with 6LoWPAN (low-power wireless communications for IoT), in combination with 4G connection and Ethernet. Our Sensing+ sensors act like routers so they can connect to a wide area - 12 kilometres across - without a base station nearby.
Each sensing device also comes with a solar panel, which solves the problem of having to secure power points on the farm. As a result, we can obtain high quality, accurate data, which is then used in our web portal and smartphone app, to help support a grower’s decision-making.”
The Yield also works with its clients to offer yield predictions.
“In February this year, we introduced yield predictions to Costa Group - one of Australia’s largest fruit and vegetable producers. Costa have rolled out our Sensing+ solution across several of their berry farms in New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland.
As I mentioned ‘hierarchy’ before, growers will be able to receive a number of benefits including yield predictions from just one technology once Sensing+ has been introduced.
Costa also has a global footprint, so eventually we can look to support the company with a roll out overseas. The first step is to ensure our solution works seamlessly in Australia and New Zealand, and then we can look to the United States - which has great potential for us.
Japan, even though a relatively close neighbour to Australia, agriculture there is quite unique, both culturally and economically, so I imagine there will be different challenges. We look forward to further exploring this market when the time is right, and will consider options such as potential partnerships with local players."
When we talk about IT, we tend to focus on software such as apps.
However, when introducing new technologies to fields, it is most likely that you need to improve the communication environment by building antennas, installing physical sensors or securing power sources.
These hardware-related challenges could become a bottleneck when it comes to the installation of technology and I have seen some projects ending up in failure even though their software was innovative.
Since The Yield's service is a comprehensive solution that incorporates not only software but also well-made hardware, there would be low barriers for growers to introduce Sensing+ to their fields, which is a great advantage for its service.
Currently, their target market is intensive irrigated crops, particularly perennials, such as berries, citrus, apples, avocados, nuts and viticulture, but with further advancements in technology can look to extend their offering to other crops.
Yukari Ishiwata / 石渡 由香利