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The Culture of Agriculture Season 1 Ep. 5 – Aerial Vantage

BrentΒ 00:04

Welcome to The Culture of Agriculture brought to you by Spudnik Equipment. We’d like to welcome everyone to The Culture of Agriculture sponsored by Spudnik. We’re excited to have Anna Weigel and Bill Keating with us from Aerial Vantage to visit with us about drone drones and also some imagery and that kind of stuff. And we’re excited to have them with us. I would like to have maybe each of you kind of introduce yourselves and kind of explain some of your background and some of the things that you’ve been doing and then we’ll jump into, into kind of visiting.

Anna 00:45

Alright, Bill, you want to go first? Do you want me to go first,

Bill 00:48

I can go. All right. I started my aviation career in Marine Corps, graduated college, went to the Marines flew fighters in the Marines for about eight years, was also a flight instructor during that time left that went to the commercial airline was a chief pilot at one point and then also did fuel efficiency and schedule efficiency for the airline have been flying drones since the 333 days back looked at for 2015 was when I first got my 333 certification, and continue with 106. I’m the director of flight operations for Aerial Vantage. We currently fly drones in support of Anna and give her all the all the data she can possibly handle for her agronomy duties. And so we work closely together. So that’s my short background.

Brent 00:48

Well, that sounds super, you’re excited when talking about it.

Bill 01:03

I was actually for the very first one. I was at Top Gun when right after the movie came out. And so there were all sorts of celebrities crawling around at Miramar, which is where Top Gun was at the time. So it was interesting.

Brent 02:11

So that’s exciting. It’s nice to meet somebody that likes to fly fast and go I like speed, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get in one of those. So one of those days.

Bill 02:22

Yeah, there you can’t beat the over 700 miles an hour about 200 feet off the ground that just doesn’t get a there’s no better ticket than that one.

Brent 02:33

Well, super well. Thanks, Bill. Anna if you can give us a little of your background.

Anna 02:38

Yeah, so I’m… originally from California. I’m in North Carolina now. But I actually went to school down in Rexburg. So not… too far from you guys. Worked for a couple years, there doing some field trials. So seed fertilizer, pesticide trials, that was a really great experience that kind of started my, my career related to a lot of soil fertility topics. So after I finished up in Rexburg, made my way to North Carolina, and here, I’ve been doing some more research on… phosphorus in the soil, and kind of some of the environmental effects of that also did some studying on GIS or Geographic Information Systems. So as of maybe three weeks from now, I’ll also have a master’s in soil science, which has been very helpful in the work that I’ve been doing with Aerial Vantage. So for them, I am the agronomist and the GIS analyst. So I’m doing a little bit of a couple of things over there. And we’ll get into a little bit more of, you know, some of the use cases. But yeah, Bill, and I work really closely capturing the data and drawing some conclusions from it.

Brent 03:58

Man, that sounds great. Well, we’re definitely grateful for having both of you here today to kind of talk about this new technology. And and some of the, it’s been kind of coming along in the last Oh, what, 20 years, 1520 years? No know we’ve I’ve actually played a little bit in the satellite imagery as well. Of course, cloud cover seems to be an issue every once in a while with that. So I’m excited to kind of host this today. And I’m Brett Rigby, I will be hosting… this meeting today. And I’m excited to have you guys with this to kind of share some of these insights so that the growers can start to use some of these tools and some of them are using these tools but there’s probably a lot more that could use them. It’s hard to go out and just drive by the crop we do real well sitting in the pickup driving by the field saying you know, that looks pretty good. When you get an aerial view, it makes a whole lot of difference on what you’re seeing and being able to use these tools. So I let’s jump right in. Let’s talk… about some of the uses that you’re seeing, and some of the maybe some of the technology that is available now, compared to what there was a few years ago as well.

Anna 05:10

Right. So, I’d say one of the most fundamental use cases that… pretty much everybody’s getting you started when they get there, aerial imagery is an overall look at general crop health. So we have two vegetative indices that are very… common. So there’s VI, which is kind of a measure of plant health plant stress. And then there’s also NDRE. So that would be a non-differential vegetative index. And then ND Ari is read edge, which is a narrower band. So not all cameras are going to measure that. But it’s a narrower band that more closely reflects chlorophyll. So you’re getting some more precise results with that. So you can get a full map of, of your fields, like you said, that you can’t quite see from, you know, driving by, or maybe even if you do go to a few points in your field and try to walk through depending on the size of your fields. That’s just not, it’s not practical to see everything right.

Brent 06:21

Yeah, even when you walk criss cross… these fields, you just you don’t pick up a lot of that. It’s… interesting irrigation wise, you kind of talked a little bit about that, you can pick some irrigation up, that’s probably the first one that I saw back in the day. I mean, they you don’t see necessarily with your eye quick enough, when you see it, but with your eye, it’s almost too late.

Anna 06:41

Right. And so some ways that you can kind of assess irrigation as well, with your aerial imagery, you can look for thermal stress in your plants. So if you have a thermal sensor, you can get that. But also, you can assess if you’ve got issues with your irrigation system. So you can do that. Usually thermal is pretty good tool for that as well. Looking at different temperatures in the soil, because the water is going to drop your temperature in your soil. So if you’ve got a dry spot that shouldn’t be there should have been irrigated. You’re gonna get you’re gonna get notified of that in your your aerial images.

Brent 07:24

So as far as… the images that you’re taking, what would you say, are the most common ones that they like to see weekly? Or maybe every couple days? What is kind of the… timeframe that you’re using these aerial imagery? Is it once a week once every two weeks what… kind of some of the recommendations that you have out there during the crop season and when things are starting.

Anna 07:50

So, depending on every thought, very different ideas of exactly how much they want to have people come out and fly for them, or if they’re flying themselves. For me, a recommendation I have is looking at maybe some of your critical growth stages, depending on your crop. I recommend getting out there a little bit before then. Because for example, looking at nutrient deficiencies, and DVI and Dre, those can, those can catch things that you’re not going to see visually until weeks later, probably. So, if you’re able to fly a little bit before your critical growth stages, that can give you a pretty good idea of where you need to apply if you need to apply. So, you don’t run into some issues. And in the important times. I know some people like to do every two weeks in the growing season. It kind of comes down a little bit to farmer preference. And also as also I think it comes down to how much you want to do some more site specific management during the season.

Brent 08:59

Well, I guess my particular one, I still grow a few potatoes. And am I actually from Rexburg, so I got noticed when you go through the Ag program up there.

Anna 09:12

I did. I got a bachelor’s in agronomy down there.

Brent 09:15

So that’s super Yes. I ended up going through the Ag program up there myself. But anyway, when I was farming, when we started some of these images, I was kind of I liked one weekly. Yes, because if it seemed like every two weeks or three weeks, I’d missed something. But that that’s kind of my preference. It’s kind of like what you’re saying is it’s a preference per grower, what they kind of want to see.

Anna 09:39

Right and it… also differs a little bit. If you know you have some issues typically pop up in certain times during the season and maybe you want to get a jumpstart or maybe you’ve got some disease or pests that are you know are going to be an issue this year. Then probably find a little bit more often is probably a good idea.

Brent 10:04

Yeah, and I would agree with that it… seems like anymore we there’s enough challenges out there that if we can catch and pick them up quick enough, as the agronomy side, you can actually help pick that up and say, This is what we need to do. And maybe we need to look at that area and actually physically go out and look at it again. So,

Anna 10:22

Right. And that’s one thing that when it comes to the use of the impact of amusing drones, I think it’s a very, very useful tool for scouting. It doesn’t answer every single question you’d want it to. And I know there’s some people who will try to tell you that. But you still need, you know, farmer knows their field better than, than anybody, they can look at the image. And they’ll know most likely what the issue is. And if they don’t, it provides a pretty good idea of where you’ve got to go and do your sampling, where you’ve got to go and actually go walk through the fields and see what’s going on.

Brent 11:05

Yes, I totally agree that you still got a ground truth, what’s your… flying all that that makes a big difference when you go out there anymore used to have three or four fields that you kind of monitor drill heavy, now it’s getting to where each grower has got multiple fields. And this is where this comes in, I feel really handy is you can do those drive bys like we talked about, but you really need that, that imagery to a certain point to be able to manage that many fields at the same time.

Anna 11:37


Brent 11:39

Right. Kind of big plus, what what are some of the challenges bill in the in flight? You know, when you when it comes to doing this, like every week, like we’re talking? What are some of the challenges that we’re up against doing during the flight? Well, you’re on mute.

Bill 11:59

[Sorry about that. I didn’t want anybody to hear me coughing.] Yeah, I work really closely with Anna, some of the issues that are very important are the GSD, the ground sampling distance, when you were looking at your satellite photos, maybe while they’re about five feet, and then revolution now, where I’m looking at, like point eight, six inches, so three quarters of an inch for my sampling, sometimes that’s too much resolution. And so we have to down resolve those make really big files when we’re flying over lots of acres. We can’t, we can’t cover quite the area that a satellite can but our granularity is much, much better. And, you know, you’re talking about ground truth. We made a presentation last Thursday to a group that we had flown a multispectral sensor over some of their pastures that had been converted from orange groves to corn, silage corn. And they they knew that they were on a multi year program to get that Pastor up to snuff. But there are some guests in the room when we’re able to show them an as multi multispectral false color image of that silage corn. It was there was it was pretty impressive, to say the least that they could get such a granular picture of what their field look like and, and basically how far they had to go to get in shape to get the yield that they were looking for. So as I said, we can’t cover quite as much we’re flying about 40 miles an hour, depending on the waivers or regulations that we have. Most of the time, we’re capped at 400 feet. For one particular place. We it takes about 90 days to get a waiver to fly over 400 feet and to lengthen or to broaden that footprint. When we broaden the footprint, though, most of the time, especially with the multispectral cameras, we are increasing the ground sampling distance. So that’s a balance that I’m always working with Anna, how much does she need? How high can we fly? Those kinds of things? How much of a sample does she need of this area? Because it satellite covers one pass I can do about 300 acres and about an hour and 45 minutes. So, if everything goes right, and we’re not affected by cloud cover, like the satellites are, but we we are sometimes we have to be cognizant of the sun angle and the reflectance that to make sure that we register our multispectral sensor before we fly every day. And if it changes too much, we need to bring that in or if they’re like the other day one of our missions that we had a grid mission going for pasture got interrupted by a flock of buzzards and so we just really had to quit that one and, and go to our fallback pasture because it was just not going to happen right there. So we have our we have different challenges than the satellite. But by and large, the data that we’re able to provide is much more granular, it can be much more timely, we’re not dependent on the overflights. And it can be much more customized to whatever that farmer wants, or whatever they feel like is the cost benefit for them.

Brent 15:32

What and so that’s interesting, etc, we talked about some of the challenges that you just talked about going out flying grower buys his own drone, and he goes out and flies and there’s quite a few problems that are doing that to a point. But they usually aren’t probably picking up the resolution at some of the things that you are actually picks it up with my correct on that, or, or what’s what just…

Bill 15:58

About everybody can buy some of the sensors that were flying, but we’re flying much faster than most people fly. The ours is a commercial level operation. It’s called a group, group to drone. So it’s I plan the mission on computer, I upload the mission to the to the vehicle. And it’s, I click the button for the auto flight and it takes off and flies and we monitor it for all the regulations and for how, how it’s looking after I’ve designed the mission, and then it comes back and lands on its own. So that compared to a quadcopter, that’s only flying, maybe 10 miles an hour, I’m flying 40 miles an hour, and their mission time, maybe 40 minutes, mine is an hour and 45. So I’m getting a lot more bang for the buck than somebody who’s just got their pro mercial version of a quadcopter. And then flying that way. I also mean, we also have the… DJI Phantom four, and we have a Mitrice 300, we have on trees, 600. And those are all fine drones, but they’re very limited on their mission time. They can get closer to the ground for some applications. But most of the time, that’s not necessary, we can do with the… multispectral I think that’s one of the greatest breakthroughs is the miniaturization of these multispectral sensors. So that we can provide that so that they can fly on these drones and keep the mission time that that really makes starts to make that economically viable.

Brent 17:43

Good information. And it when you when they kind of talk about height, I guess as far as like you said 400 was at 400 feet that you could get up to once you get kind of into that area, you start to see where they should plan ahead of time so that they can get you more footage if they need it. Or who does that planning on that.

Anna 18:05

So that planning kind of goes hand in hand me and bill, it depends a lot on the use case. So for some things like if you just want an end DVI, you’re just want a general look at plant health, maybe you can fly that higher, 400 feet will be fine. Sometimes when I’m first collecting data for analysis, I’ll ask Bill to fly lower. For example, some of these pastures that he mentioned, were flying over. We’re looking at invasive species there, and how they’re moving throughout all the pastures they’ve got over time. So first, I’ve asked him to fly a little bit lower. So that visually, I know I can ID these weeds correctly. From there, I’m building a model out that can probably rely on a bit lower resolution after there. But it comes down to again, each individual use case normally I’d say depending with your sensor 400 Feet has been probably the height we’ve been using the majority of the time, right Bill?

Bill 19:14

Well, there’s a reason for 400 feet. And that’s the limit without a waiver that we can fly. To go higher, we have to have a waiver, as I said, that normally takes about 90 days. And it depends on the geography and a bunch of other it’s not really straightforward. So we’d like to try to limit our operations to 400 feet and then work on the waiver as we go along. If we can, we can do that. Obviously we can cover a bigger footprint at a higher altitude. But that means that the GSD as I explained earlier goes up. So we have to we’re always balancing are not much speed but I can vary the speed about five to 10 miles an hour but I’m asking continually asking Anna What GST? Can you accept? What can I, what do I need to give you? What do you need, so that we can not only cover more ground, but the image transfer process, we’re talking about 10s of gigabytes of data. And so there’s a lot of back and forth with uploading and downloading. And so we need to be mindful of that as well.

Brent 20:24

True, especially if you start to send that file out to us, that’s probably one of the challenges as well, if you have to send that what, after you go up and you do get this data? How do you present that data? I mean, what’s some of the ways I know, as we’ve, as we’ve evolved in this precision ag, we’ve got a lot of pretty pictures, we got a lot of pretty maps. And a lot of times as, as a grower sitting on the side, you start to look at those, and you’ll pick up one or two points. But a lot of times it can kind of overwhelm you, by looking at all that trying to decide how to make even more decisions on top of what you’re doing, what are some of the what are some of the key features that are key benefits that you kind of promote, or kind of help with looking at those.

Anna 21:17

So in the images that I produce, usually there’s a little bit of conversation. So we work on a lot of very specific use cases. So invasive species, or, you know, we’re working specifically on some of this corn, corn analysis. So a lot of it does involve having face to face conversations as we present these images. And making sure that they tell a really clear story, because yeah, it’s nice to see an image and get a general idea. But that only tells you so much. Another thing that I find very useful is adding some statistics to it, rather than just showing a color coded map that says you’ve got some unhealthy crops here, some healthy ones here, or here, the… weeds in bright red. Rather than just presenting that image showing them this pasture has 25% of this invasive weed versus 75. Or hopefully you’re not at 75, and in another pasture. So I think it’s, especially as you get into some of these, these bigger fields, you’ve got a lot of different things going on, or maybe different pastures, you need to be able to compare those a little bit easier. And sometimes you need to be able to prioritize where you’re going to be applying where the biggest gains can be made. So I think providing some statistical analysis, some comparisons, is also very useful when presenting those images.

Bill 22:49

And I just wanted to add to that just, you know, oftentimes we find people plan for data, but don’t have a plan for their data. And the other part of the backside of that is, one can get overwhelmed with data, you can just get so much that you get inundated with it. And so we tend to try to keep it a little bit simple for those that want to drill down and it provides the statistics. But you know, if we really want to shock people, we, we take it out of the primary colors and make them pastels or something, you know, we want to change it up, you know, but a lot of times that that false color image is pretty self evident about what’s going on, you can visually look at a false color color image and say, Oh, that’s about 20% of that field is messed up or something like that. And it’s we can go and do the computer vision calculations, or the percentage of the colors and all that great stuff. But that one picture is 1000 words is very rings true when we making our presentations.

Anna 23:57

And I’ll add to that a bit. Another thing that is really useful for making those images kind of have an impact and be useful is having something to look at over time. So if you’re collecting those images on a regular basis, being able to compare your fields as time goes on, not just within one season, but looking at years past and seeing what direction you’re headed, what issues are still there, even though you’re trying to manage them. I think that’s a pretty valuable tool as well.

Bill 24:30

Yeah, that’s it, you are talking about ground-truthing and walking through your field and that you saw this and you kind of get an anecdotal view of things. One of the things that we provide is a verifiable, searchable archive. So you can go back and look over time and see and it’s not just you taking notes from walking through your field, I’ve got a picture or Anna’s produce a picture that somebody can see and they can keep it you know, that’s not going to go away as long They’ve got the proper archiving and retrieval mechanism. And it’s really easy to see, over time, just what those those images just like I said, you could come up with that 20% pretty much on your own, or whatever the percentage is, if you look at a set of photos over time, or images over time with this false color, you can see quite clearly, hey, you know, it’s gotten better or it’s gotten worse or not, my problem is shifted over here, it’s, it’s really self evident. So you don’t have to drill down, like way into the weeds to see the kind of things that you need to see.

Brent 25:41

And I think that’s a perfect point is, a lot of times, I think we try to drill too deep at times with these maps, because you’ve produced it, and you’ve got it all there. And now you want to make it so that it goes deeper than what you really probably need to do at that particular point. And I think the other part that I’ve noticed in this precision Ag and this kind of goes with that is that data is very beneficial over the years, I mean, one year, you can have a totally different thing happened this year, that you’re trying to take care of in season or whatever. But if you have multiple years of that same crop, or even your other crops that you’re rotating, you’re able to make some decisions, I believe, as you analyze those, like what you’re saying. So I think it’s kind of key that we data can become one of those that we all get bogged down with. But we can also make it more simple. And I think that’s what’s nice about what you’re doing is it’s a live data point when you get that, and it’s key to have some of that in sees,

Anna 26:48

right. And what you said is about, you know, people getting bogged down by data is very, very true, especially with these aerial images. Sometimes, depending on what what height we’re flying at, and how big of a pasture I have bill going over, it can be 1000s of images, especially as you get into your multispectral data, I think the sensor we use right now, for every image, you collect, you have five images, so you’ve got five different bands that’s been collected. And that just becomes a lot very quickly. So you have to have somewhere that can process it. rather quickly. You know, you don’t want to be waiting a week before you can see your data, you want to be able to process it and then go through it. If you’ve got weekly images for the past five years that you’ve been collecting him over the season, sometimes that’s just too chaotic for people to really make use out of it. And so that’s kind of one of our things that we try to go after is, is data management as well. We’ve got I wish we could have Jared here, he works on our platform accelerate, which is designed for data management. So you should be able to pull up your fields and put in date ranges and be able to very clearly look at them, right. Because that’s something that sometimes it’s too much of a pain. So people just don’t, don’t bother, they don’t have the time for it to really make the data work

Brent 28:24

for him. That’s true, you’re trying to make some quick decisions, and you’ve got, You’re up early in the morning and you get those, those pictures and you want to make a decision fairly quick to get out there to be able to manage that. So what you talked about the five different spectrums, maybe you could help help our audience tend to understand those five different spectrums, and what they’re more specialized to do and what they’re kind of looking for.

Anna 28:53

Okay, so we have sensors we’re using right now collect red, green, blue, near infrared, and then also the red edge band. So red, green, and blue are going to be used for your true color photos. So if you looked in the field right now, and you compare it to a photo with red, green and blue, you’re going to be seeing the same thing. Where near infrared comes into play is specifically for looking at like plant stress. And so that comes into effect. Plants are more stressed when they’re absorbing more near infrared. So we can evaluate through those images. That’s what we do with our end DVI. That’s how we’re looking at plant stress. And it’s a very similar process. When we look at the red edge band. That’s just a narrower band that they’ve detected is much more reflective of chlorophyll. So that’s run the same way you run your mdvr eyes for plant stress. But sometimes it can detect things up to two months earlier in some studies, compared to just using near infrared. So not all of them. Not all of them are always needed, but you’re gonna get a lot more accurate and useful data, if you have these extra bands outside of red, green and blue.

Brent 30:31

What, say we have a disease coming into the crop, which band do you recommend at that point to kind of look at,

Anna 30:42

you’re probably going to want I would say, probably your read edge band. So you can detect your plant stress from that disease much earlier. And depending on what that is, it can spread quickly, it can, you know, significantly impact your yield. So you want to catch it as soon as you can. So that’s why I, I really liked the red edge band, because it gives you an earlier start with NTBI, you already get to see things a little bit earlier than you would just scouting by yourself. But some of these things times important. Once you find it, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got whatever you need to apply and, and start to work out all those logistics that come with that whole process of of trading.

Brent 31:29

So would you say insects of the I

Bill 31:32

Was gonna say Anna’s selling yourself short a little bit, she’s got a call book of these equations where they take the bands and bounce them off each other in certain ways that that I watch the YouTube video and just struggled with even I’m an engineer. And so she has a lot of tools, with these things to be able to tell about stress that I think that is probably the biggest breakthrough with the drone. And Precision Ag is that near infrared got miniaturized to a point where it’s flyable on a drone that that can stay in the air for a good amount of time. So it’s been a great tool, as I said, show the farmer, that one slide of what his field looks like. And he’s like, oh, yeah, well, we knew it was bad. But, you know, that’s, that’s pretty interesting that I see this big swath through the middle of, you know, that’s either good or bad or whatever. So that was that’s always been impressive to me. And in the presentations, as I said earlier, when I left Thursday, that there are several of the agronomists that gasped when they saw that one. And the unit manager said, Well, we know it’s, you know, he kind of said, well, you know, it’s bad and this and that. But, you know, that was granular data is that not just walking through the pasture? It was, this is, it’s like digital, you know, it’s, it’s pretty solid stuff. And so she’s done a great job of highlighting that. And she’s taken these tools that and the images that I’ve given her and put together some really fascinating stuff with all all the things that she has at our disposal.

Anna 33:23

Thanks, Phil. And there’s Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean a thing. Oh, yeah. When it comes to fan selection, and what you’re going to do with your analysis, there, yeah, there are just so many things you can do. So if you are looking at and this is sometimes more specialty crops that we see this, but we were approached about evaluating yields on on blueberry bushes. And so if you are trying to look at flowering or absolute yields, the blue band is very, very useful for identifying and counting flowers on your plants. So there’s Yeah, there are just so many different ways that you can use all of these bands, there’s crop water stress indexes, there’s ways for you to look at evapo transpiration. The list is, is very impressive.

Brent 34:20

Well, and… we were learning more over time as you’re able to document these things and look at them and see what those bands are doing. I would say what over the last three or four years, you’ve probably got a lot more information of what you’re looking for in those pictures now or for the imagery to actually know that that’s what that’s doing. I know a few years, I take it back. Well back when I we were farming. Simplot had a plane that they flew once every couple of weeks and we actually flew that with an infrared it was that was all they had back then. But I remember taking that infrared pic Your intent like Bill said, it was like, Oh my word, we’re in trouble. Half the field was read the other half look pretty good. And we came in, and obviously, we, I gave the map to the pilot and, and he flew what we wanted on there with fertilizer and you know fungicide to kind of get things rolling again, the next imagery it picked back up. So I know that today, we’re a lot better than we were then. So it’s very, it’s interesting to hear you kind of talk about the differences there, what you’re starting to see. As far as irrigation, that’s probably one of the easier ones out of the whole bunch to actually spot with, with infrared and all imagery. Am I correct on that?

Anna 35:47

Yeah, looking at irrigation is pretty straightforward. You can especially again, with those thermal bans, if you maybe your crop canopy is covering your direct line of sight to the to the soil, you can look at temperature of your of your plants will give you a good idea, compared to the temperature in the air if if they’re water stressed or not. And then if you have just a view straight of your soil, that makes it really straightforward to see where things haven’t been irrigated, maybe where there’s leaks, or you’ve got a pipe burst or something like that. Especially, you know, some places where they’ve got more precision irrigation, so you’ve got more drip line or things like that. You can’t walk through in and look at all of those all the time. That’s a lot of drip line. And so that’s a much quicker way to target your analysis of what’s going on out there.

Brent 36:52

Have you played much with, say harvest dried them? saying, Okay, after looking at this image, we’re ready to start harvest, or anything. I did that a few years ago, which is very interesting. I’m just wondering if you’re playing with much of that.

Anna 37:10

Yeah, so we’re starting to get into some of that. This year, we’re focusing on a lot of corn imagery, seeing exactly how much we can get from from our imagery with corn and coupling that with some ground truth data. It’s not something that we’ve gotten to yet in our in our stages, but it is something we’re interested in looking at.

Brent 37:35

Because it was interesting, we actually played with the game of kind of looking at moisture. And as the grain dried, I was watching the whole field and it got down to where I thought, Okay, it looks pretty evenly across there. And we pull the combine in. And it was spot on. We took off and harvested and I thought it was pretty interesting to see that. So there’s so many uses for this, what’s the one or maybe listed some of the uses that you’re seeing for this technology right now.

Anna 38:08

So some uses that we specifically have been working on recently. And you know, you’ve got your general crop stuff you’re looking at, but outside of maybe some of the traditional ways. We’re also involved with some invasive species in forestry as well. Invasive species in pastures. And there’s another one that I’m thinking of. Bill, can you think of any other use cases we’ve been working on recently

Bill 38:40

was the comfort factor has been pretty big with the invasive species trying to try to figure out, you know, when the pastor needs to be renovated, they’re actually looking at taking the data that we get, and doing more precision mitigation of that, and not doing the whole pasture, but doing the part that’s invaded, saves with the 2x minimum of inputs for all these things. Now, along with increase in labor, all the inputs are way, way up. Nitrogen was like 5x I think something crazy. So that really saves a lot of money for the farmer if they can pick that part of the pasture that they want to renovate and not the whole thing. Also the opportunity costs of having that pasture pasture out of service, you know, the cost of moving the cows, all the rest of that there’s a lot of savings to be had by being much more precise in handling these in these species.

Brent 39:45

It’s interesting, you know, coming from probably more of the normal crops, wheat, barley, potatoes, that kind of stuff to listen to pasture wise. It’s very interesting to hear that because it is very important that you are utilizing that pasture like you’re saying, if you’re got invasive species coming in, to be able to manage that, as well,

Bill 40:08

I think and also apply that to row crops. So you can look at the, the, like the near infrared, the red edge spectrum and see a this part of the row crop field has a problem, I don’t have to spray, I don’t have to, to get the crop duster, I can do something either on the ground or the near ground sprayers now that our precision targeted their drones, that precision targets spraying, it’s much more targeted. So that that cost of the whatever the chemical is going down is significantly reduced.

Brent 40:48

Yes. What what are some of the things that you are looking in the future, I mean, tenant, as you sit and you will see what’s happening is free, especially with what you’re doing. What do you kind of see over the next four or five, six years? Do you see technology wise, you also see more use with this? What What are kind of some of your outlook over the next three or four years with what what you’re doing?

Bill 41:16

Want to go first Anna?

Anna 41:18

Yeah, I can go first. So for me, I see. Moving forward. I think for some people, some drone operations are a little bit pricey. And the analytics, sometimes our people don’t want to do it themselves. Because it’s too much. You have a lot of data, you have a lot to learn if you’re running those analytics. So I think increasing availability, and understandability, I guess of these things is, for me one of the biggest hurdles that needs to be crossed, because we’ve come a long way, I think, but there’s still a lot of progress. For these tools to be really usable and really valuable. They need to be easily implemented, and easily understandable. So I think that some of the impacts I see are kind of gonna come from data management and analysis aspects of it. We do have sensors coming out all the time that are impressive, and always new improvements on that side. I’m sure Bill will talk about that a bit. But on the analytic side, I think you’re gonna keep getting into more specific use cases, more identification of diseases or pests that make things a little bit easier.

Bill 42:41

Well, I’m only an amateur agronomist. So like, Anna has been tutoring me and friend of mine whose father is a real agronomist, I started spouting off some stuff and she said, Well, you’re just a seriously amateur agronomist now. And that’s true. Anna talked about the… resolution of the sensors getting better and better as the miniaturization, we’re about to get a new sensor that has an even better resolution than the one that we’ve been using, plus some other bands in it that will be helpful, along with an RGB, so I can get real color and generate false color all at the same time. So there’s that there’s also the data management and curation part, which I think is getting better and better. That’s something that we’re trying to do with our accelerate platform. I believe aggregating the data is important, we can take satellite and… overlay our data on top of that. So you get a big picture with augmented by this granular picture that that we’re generating. That’s another thing, then also, we’d like to make this available to just the normal size farmer that’s not an industrial size. And so we’re looking to aggregate groups of farmers and the more contiguous the better, obviously, we can fly that whole area. And it’s it lowers the farmers cost per data unit. And they get the data that they need so that they can act on it. So they even the smaller farmer can become a precision ag farmer, just about everybody has GPS in their equipment now. And so with the data that we’re able to generate, when Anna does all of her magic GIS stuff, everybody knows exactly where stuff is down to the several centimeters and so that’s a that’s a really cool thing. Another thing that’s coming on the horizon that we’re working really hard on is the ability to fly over this 400 feet without as much hassle right as I told you, it takes about an hour 80 days to get a waiver to do that, we’re working with the consortium and the FAA to be able to fly with a certain use case in certain areas, classified areas by the FAA without having to apply individual case by individual case. So, for example, if I’ve got a sensor as the GSD drops, I can fly higher cover more ground, maybe even less overlap, because right now we’re overlapping about 65 to 70%, on our images, just to make sure that we’ve got that map. And the higher I can fly, I can oftentimes generate data for Anna that’s just as usable and easier to manipulate than that really granular stuff. So as we get this ability to fly higher, and cover more area, that just makes it better for everybody, it lowers our costs, we can lower our cost to the farmer, and it makes it easier to get that aggregate aggregation with the co ops or you know, bands, you know, whatever the organization is a farmers all together so that it’s available for the little guy as well as the big guy,

Brent 46:20

Which I think is very key as we go forward. Because this was this was this technology, I think it’s going to be key in in monitoring, kinda as we go forward, have less chemical, less fertilizer, and put it on where we need to, and tend to help in a lot of aspects of making a better crop.

Bill 46:43

And one of the things that we’re starting to look at as some people have asked us to look at carbon sequestration issues, because that’s certain states are really getting interested in hearing what the farmer is doing for carbon sequestration, that you talked about the chemical thing, you know, there are a lot of states that are very tight on chemicals. Now, one readouts exactly what you’re doing. And so there’s a lot more bureaucratic and administrative stress on the farmer to comply with a bunch of this stuff a bunch of our data makes it a lot easier to do

Brent 47:18

that. Well. And with that data to it shows that we’re pinpointing more of what we’re doing, rather than just going out and saying up, we’re going to handle this field as even though this only three or four acres over here has got the problem we’re going to, we’re going to handle whole acreage is got the problem. Right. So what, as far as states you were talking about, you know, changing some of those elevations and some of that stuff, do different states have different rules, I’m sure or different counties even

Bill 47:50

know there, it’s mostly the difference between municipal and ag areas. That’s, that’s the difference. Most of that airspace is classified as what we what the FAA says Class G, so it’s unregulated. No problem below 400 feet, but right now, we have to get a waiver to fly above 400 feet, as we get closer to airports or other things start to fly over people, then we’ve gotten a lot more a lot more administrative work that we have to do in order to be able to do that. But for most farms, that’s not an issue. The person owns the farm, they give their they give their permission to fly over whatever houses are there, because that’s their land. And we also know that they’re not going to be crop dusting during that time, because they’re the ones that contract it. And so we don’t have much problem with that. It’s just a matter of getting that waiver from the FAA that says, Oh, you can fly above 400 feet, because we’ve made the safety case for it.

Brent 48:58

How long when you when you show up? Obviously you make your flight plan, and then show up and get that up and go what kind of timeframe are you looking at from start to kind of finish before you send it off to Anna and then she gets it already and ships it off to the to the grower the or whoever’s after that data.

Bill 49:20

If I’m rolling up and the aircraft doesn’t assembled, and I haven’t been able to make a flight plan, it can be about an hour to get in the air. If I can pre plan the flight plan. If the app is able to give me the coordinates I can set the boundaries of the area, I can plan the grid mission then set up to fly is 30 to 45 minutes depending on on what’s going on. There are certain things that I can only check right before we fly like the weather. Certain you know the sun angle makes a difference sometimes. Depending on the sensor I might have to read history that might take a couple more minutes. But yeah, the 30 to 45 minutes if if things are going well, I can be in the air and be flying. But we have when limits to just like, just like the sprayers or other people, you know, if it’s, if it’s just the Europe of thunderstorms or things like that in the inter area, I can’t fly in the rain, and I can’t fly right next to clouds, I’ve got to stay about 1000 feet away. So there are those kinds of issues. Or we also, depending on the area, we may touch base with the local air strips. Or maybe the if the military flies in the area, we’ll call that controlling authority and tell them I’ve got to file a NOTAM, which is a notice to air missions. That’s an FAA method of telling everybody else, hey, we’re going to be flying in this area, something that everybody’s supposed to check before they fly. So I have a few things to do.


Yes. It’s kind of like taking off on a plane. Yeah. A little bit. Make sure everything’s okay.

Bill 51:14

Yeah, I have a pre flight checklist. I have a mission checklist, I have a cruise checklist, I’ve got all sorts of things going on, it’s not just putting my feet up on the desk and saying, you know, go for it. And then as we look at some of these other things, beyond visual line of sight is the I think the I don’t really like the term, but for one of a better one, the game changer, because we’re able to fly beyond visual line of sight beyond, you know, three to five miles, so that we can’t see anymore, our coverage gets a lot higher, it’s just much, much more efficient. Another thing we’re working on is one person controlling more than one drone or monitoring more than one drone. So that once that, you know, it’s a force multiplier. That’s another thing that we’re working on. So we’ve got some things that are coming down the pipe that we’re working on with the FAA, and as I said, that consortium of trying to, to unlock some of these issues that will make make it much more cost effective for everybody.

Brent 52:24

That sounds great. It’s good, like you say, Make as you can unlock get some of that stuff working, it’s gonna make it more reasonable to do it. What, what is an average, if you were to say show up and visit with a grower, and say, Hey, we’ve got this this imaginary program to put on your farm? What kind of price range? Are you kind of looking at? Just to kind of give everybody an idea of where they’d be?

Bill 52:51

I really need Jared to do that. But we are not exactly sure how to answer that. Because it depends on the sensor, the amount of data, there are lots of variables in here. So if I just threw out $1, then, you know, somebody’s gonna say, Well, you said this, and things are a lot different. So for example, if we take that initial crop, Stan, that three week shot at the row, you guys are are doing one row, we can do a very large area at a one centimeter ground sampling distance to see these really small plants. Well, that is a lot more intensive than that, once we get into it and doing that multispectral imaging, imaging, but that multispectral imaging generates massive amounts of data. So, we’ve got the data transfer part that costs more on that side. So it’s, we like to make custom solutions. We are extremely competitive. We beat the pants off helicopters and fixed wing general aviation stuff. But it’s not a one size fit all we like them to tailor to exactly what we’re doing. So, it’s, you know, we’re right sizing the economic equation, but

Brent 54:19

Putting the package together that you feel that they need.

Bill 54:24

And it’s expensive, but we try to minimize your time.


She’s well worth it.

Bill 54:30

Absolutely. I’ll ask Absolutely. I love working with her. We’ve done some really great things. It’s fantastic having an agronomist and a GIS person all in one because there are lots of times where we’re talking back and forth about a somebody gives me this really loose thing and she can tighten it up, give me the coordinates, you know, help me plan my mission so I can tailor it to exactly what’s needed. We talk often about you know, as I said, the ground sampling distance or what sensor, she needs what she’s looking for. And so we are a team. And that’s really important. It’s not. I think that’s another thing that we have over the individual farmer that goes, grabs his quadcopter. And, and rolls out there is we have a system, we’ve got a plan, we, we know what we need to get, and how to handle it, once we get it. It’s not just taking up storage space somewhere, we come across customers quite often that have just gigs and gigs and gigs of data. And they have, they’re just paying for the storage in some fashion. And they’ve got nothing, you know, no plan for that data. They’ve got reams of data, but no plan.

Anna 55:46

And I think that’s also kind of why it’s hard to sometimes answer that question as well. A lot of what we do is very specific. So, you know, you can go out and do your fights and provide basic analysis, but a lot of what we do is related to specific scenarios that people have. So like we’ve been, we have a contract with a timber producer. So valuating, those stands, getting analytics on what they’ve got before they harvest to decide when you’re going to harvest that is a lot different than, you know, some of the imagery we’re taking for some other people and, and flight planning and sensor and aircraft requirements are very different for some of those scenarios as well.

Brent 56:32

No, I appreciate you. And so that was a good answer on on how to, because it is it’s kind of tailored to what the growers or what the industry that you’re after, is kind of needy. So what kind of getting to a point we’ll wrap things up what, what are some of the things, we’ll start with you, Bill, maybe have kind of follow up or finalizing and finishing up? What are some of the things that you would kind of say that would help somebody looking into this, then we’ll go there.

Bill 57:07

I would say that most people really haven’t talked to folks that are heavily into this, doing it on a commercial basis, and flying often to know what is available to them how to interpret what they’re doing. Either with generating their own data, or us or somebody else generating commercial grade data. I think that’s the biggest thing as the industry is changing and evolving so fast, that it unless you’re in it every day like we are, you might not know what what is capable, or what is available to you to to handle your particular situation. So that along with the on the other side, mean, the farmer is not going to care about me being able to fly over 1000 feet or beyond visual line of sight. That’s one of the things that I’m concerned with. But on the backside, that gets them their data, either cheaper or better or more tailored to what they actually need. So that’s the word of that technical expertise comes in. Anybody can fly, you can get a you know, one of those red edge cameras and fly it on your, you know, little quadcopter and you can get data. But if you don’t really know what to do with it, you don’t have the tools to process it. You don’t know exactly what you’re looking at, you don’t have a train agronomist that has all these 500 Little equations that she she can water your eyes with, you’re not really getting the value out of the time that you’re spending flying that. So we’re trying to maximize that that time equation.

Anna 58:57

I think probably the points I would emphasize are pretty similar to what Bill said as well as I think if you’re going to be investing in aerial imagery for your operation, one of the things you should have set before you get started is what you’re doing with the data. Don’t just dive right in and try to figure things out, you know, after you’ve got all this data saved somewhere, and it’s hard to access taking up space. Make a plan for your data when you start. So you know that your money is going to be well used. You can access it over time that you can really get some value out of there. And the second thing I would say is, especially if you’re using hired flights versus doing it yourself, make sure you have somebody that you can ask questions to see you know what, what issues you’ve got in your field. You might have a general idea of what can be done with aerial imagery, what conclusions can be made from it. But just ask there’s so much more that can be done with the imagery, then even I would expect, I’m always finding new use cases, more ways we can get down into the specifics in ways that are, are very useful and address a specific problem. So just going down those different routes and asking and seeing what’s possible, is very important. Because your your imagery can give you a lot, lot more than just the basics.

Brent 1:00:31

Man, thank you. I think this has been very educational. I think we need one more session to kind of show a few aerial photos and some of that stuff that that you’ve been doing. They that might be another follow up that would be good to, to maybe be able to do but I sure appreciate to Anna, your time and Bill your time to come today and to join us here for the culture of agriculture. And we just really appreciate that. And I think this technology I’m excited about I’ve always been excited about technology, kind of like flying planes. I’ve always been excited about that. But I’ve never done. But… in the agricultural world, I’ve always been excited about, you know, the precision side and what it can do, because I think that as we continue to try to feed the world, we’re going to need a lot of this technology to go forward so that we can become better at what we’re doing and produce more produce better crops. So thank you very much for joining us today. We’d like to thank all our listeners out there. There are joining us also we appreciate your time man. Join us here for the culture of agriculture and we wish you a wonderful week. And hopefully everybody’s enjoying summer and we’re getting these crops grown well. So, thank you very much!

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