Farmers gaining access to latest satellite technology

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
October 11, 2017 - 12:14pm Updated: October 16, 2017 - 5:19am

LETHBRIDGE - An eye in the sky has the potential to give farmers an ever-growing ability to stay on top of crop conditions.

Winnipeg-based Farmers Edge has struck a deal wtih Planet, giving it the exclusive rights to high-resolution imagery from the company and its three satellite constellations. It means rather than having access to images as much as a month old, producers will have access to data that's updated as often as every day.

"We see it as game-changing," Farmers Edge chief operating officer Patrick Crampton said. Crampton explained it's typical with the commonly available satellite images to use the information after the fact, to try to find out what went wrong. Now growers can get real time info, with a resolution of 3.8 m or even sub-metre.

The new satellite data can now be combined with Farmers Edge's processing technology to allow producers to make decisions in real time. Crampton added that cloud cover is the only limitation to getting new images on a daily basis.

The company works with growers, agronomists, and retailers to provide maps and data on things like crop health, which can also give indications on yields.

"Another innovation we introduced this spring was what we call our field variability maps, which have just provided amazing resolution," Crampton said. "Early-season, just after planting, seeing issues in the field like a second flush of weeds, a missed spray operation; some growers, if you're into areas where you might have cutworm or wireworm damage, you see these kinds of things in your field just as they're starting to happen, and are able to get out there and deal with them before they become bigger issues."

He said it's not limited to certain types of crops. While it doesn't replace field scouting in person, it lets growers target their attention to the areas that need it.

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