The only thing worse than no data is bad data, which is why at Catalyst Farming we take great care to gather accurate and reliable data from all sources and have been happy to collaborate with a leading UK research institute to verify new technology.
New satellite technology
A PhD project at Rothamsted is looking into providing satellite-based soil and crop productivity indicator maps for on-farm management. This involves using complex algorithms to analyse satellite images, which will produce models to show how the crop is progressing through the season.
Ground truthing information
To test that the models are accurate, and the technology is reliable, ground truthing data is needed. This requires a large dataset of accurate agronomic information across the last four seasons. At Catalyst Farming we already gather field by field information on yields, average grain moisture and specific weight, drilling date, harvest date, nitrogen applications, variety, previous crop, seed rate, tiller population and dry biomass.
At harvest, every trailer load from each field is weighed on one of our weighbridges and a sample is taken for moisture and specific weight (plus protein, nitrogen, and oil). This information is automatically recorded onto a spreadsheet for quick analysis of field yield and quality information. Drilling date and seed rate are recorded by the operator on our Catalyst Farming app together with other efficiency information (fuel, time) and the harvest date is recorded on the combines’ telematics. Nitrogen applications and varieties are recorded on our crop planning software. Tiller populations and dry biomass are recorded throughout the season by our data analyst.
The project is being run by PhD student Nikolaos Vavlas and is still being tested, therefore, no solid conclusions have been made yet. However, from the progress reports we have received so far, the SAR satellite data is correlating to our own data which we have shared with Rothamsted. This must be verified through many repeated statistical analyses. So far, they believe they have been able to extract key crop development stages, allowing them to quantify crop productivity indicators, which combined increase the predictive power for yield.
Collaborating with Rothamsted Research
We share Rothamsted Research’s vision that science holds the key to a food-secure world, where farmers make a fair living and where crops are grown in harmony with the natural world. Therefore, we believe that collaborating with world-leading research organisations like Rothamsted Research, helping their research and the development of technology we can adopt, is key to further improving the way we farm.