Crop cost control takes flight

Agtech startup taps plant health potential with drone imagery

National Issues
FluroSat co-founder and chief executive Anastasia Volkova with co-founder and chief scientist Malcolm Ramsay trailing their product in Narrabri.

FluroSat co-founder and chief executive Anastasia Volkova with co-founder and chief scientist Malcolm Ramsay trailing their product in Narrabri.


Agtech startup taps plant health potential


A LITTLE start up company founded by two Sydney University students promises to unlock significant input cost reductions in cropping industries.

FluroSat has commercial trials of products for early plant health diagnosis, which it says will help farmers optimise their fertiliser application.

The technology uses hyperspectral and multispectral cameras with infrared, mounted on commercially-available drones, to detect plant disease and nutrient deficiency.

“It’s like a flying laboratory and the infrared imaging is predictive. The cameras can see nutrient deficiencies in plants one week earlier than a farmer would,” said FluroSat co-founder and cheif executive Anastasia Volkova.

“That’s a powerful tool, which means you can take action before the deficiency becomes an irreversible problem.”

Traditionally, satellite imagery is used to derive the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) as a measure of plant growth. But NDVI captures a broad measure of biomass, which must be fine tuned by in-paddock analysis.

Flurosat’s proprietary algorithms process also satellite imagery, which Ms Volkova says is significantly more accurate reflection of plant growth and yield potential.

“Our analytics inform the decision making process, focusing on the return on investment in fertiliser and how that expenditure translates into yield.

“We want to provide a product that gives simple, actionable information that can be put against a yield map, to display the status of the crop and fertiliser inputs, so you can determine what has worked.”

Work is ongoing fine tune and groundtruth Flurosat’s algorithms. It has trials in grain crops with agronomists Landmark and McGregor Gourlay across the country.

In NSW it working around  Wagga Wagga, Moree and Croppa Creek, Goondiwindi in Queensland, Bendigo in Victoria, Esperance in Western Australia and Jamestown in South Australia.

FluroSat is also taking part in a Cotton-X program, supported by the Cotton Research Development Corporation, to adapt the technology to that crop.

Ms Volkova said along with cost management benefits, regulation compliance to help drive uptake of technology like FluroSat’s, which increase the accuracy of fertiliser applications in the paddock.

The company is also working on similar trials around cropping inputs in California, where regulations on fertiliser and water use are even more stringent than Australia.

“Australian agriculture should invest in products like this, before it becomes too pressed by regulation,” Ms Volkova said.


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