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Portuguese SME is looking for drone operators worldwide for crop monitoring platform under services agreement.

Country of Origin: Portugal
Reference Number: BRPT20210609001
Publication Date: 29 June 2021

Summary

A Portuguese aerospace SME has developed and runs a global, crop monitoring Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based web application that uses satellite and drone data to generate insights for farmers to take action without expert knowledge. They seek operators of drones already established in the market, to collaborate under a services agreement with farmers willing to monitor their crops.
The SME is open to discuss other types of cooperation.

Description

The Portuguese aerospace company – established in 2006 – develops optical instruments with on-board processing and computer vision, artificial intelligence and navigation & control systems for applications ranging from Earth observation to planetary missions to the Moon, Mars and small bodies.

The company has been developing technology in remote sensing, machine vision, data fusion and machine learning since 2008. The initial goal was an autonomous hazard detection and avoidance (HDA) system for a Lunar lander, which spawned other variants for Mars and Small Bodies landers. The system has been successfully demonstrated in flight over a Mars-like terrain on Earth making it the reference in Europe.

Subsequently, the technology developed in this context was spun-off to remote sensing commercial applications, such as crop monitoring. It is a continuous development effort which has been focusing on CNN-based (Convolutional Neural Network) crop segmentation, automatic image co-registration, heterogeneous data fusion (e.g. drone and satellite) and recommender systems.

The company has developed and runs a global subscription-based web app that uses AI, satellite and drone data to generate insights for farmers to take action without expert knowledge.

The application breaks with legacy solutions, in that it fuses satellite and drone data, taking advantage of both sources: high temporal resolution from satellite and high spatial resolution from drone. This allows the application to provide high accuracy plant-level data, plant inventory and gaps, fertilisation zones, user adjustable dynamic zoning.
More than 1700 hectares of vineyards are currently being monitored through the app.

Benefits for users (and value proposals):

- Detect, locate and count crop gaps – manage the exploration lifecycle:
- know the actual number of plants or crop area
- know where to apply resources
- know where to replant

- Guided scouting & sampling – save on inputs & reduce losses
- detect problems before they are visible
- scout suspicious locations more efficiently
- sample key locations based on plant data
- reduce losses
- save on pesticides & herbicides

- Create management zones – save on inputs
- understand intra-parcel variability
- create different management zones automatically
- tailor management approaches to zone specificities
- save on inputs
- monitor impacts of treatments

- Selective harvesting (vineyards) – increase crop value
- assess intra-parcel grape quality and yield variability
- create different harvest zones automatically based on quality
- adjust zone sizes to meet quality and quantity targets
- produce different quality wines and increase returns for the
same area.

The company is looking to partner with drone operators willing to work under a services agreement, however they are open to negotiate different collaboration arrangements.

Benefits for the potential partners:

- The product/technology provided by the company allows the drone operators to transform the images they acquire into higher value data/information/insights.
- The product allows the potential partners to reach a market that needs actionable information, not images.
- The partnership can offer the potential partners a commercial portfolio dating from 2017, including the top wine growers in Portugal.

Advantages and Innovations

Innovative aspects
- Fusion of satellite and drone data
- Plant-level data
- Interactive tools to make data actionable in the field
Competitive advantages (vs. other crop monitoring solutions)
- Ease of use: simple and clear interface, simple setup
- No need of expert knowledge to adopt the technology
- Interactive zoning tools to make data actionable
- Solution based exclusively on remote sensing: reduces
adoption barriers and is highly scalable.

Expertise sought

The partners sought are drone operators to work under a services agreement.

The service expected is to acquire multispectral images over agricultural fields.

They should have its own drone(s) (can be either rotary or fixed wing) and should have the capability to cover at least 500 hectares per week. The partner shall be compliant with the local applicable laws and regulations.

The images acquired should comply with the following general requirements:
- The camera used should be a Micasense©,
- Photos acquired should be free from clouds (above or below),
- 10 cm/pixel of ground sampling distance,
- 10cm of maximum relative horizontal error,
- 50 cm maximum absolute horizontal error,
- 30 deg minimum sun elevation,
- 80% longitudinal overlap,
- 60% lateral overlap.

The images acquired should be uploaded to a provided electronic address ideally less than 24 hours after the flight (maximum 48 hours).

IPR status

Secret Know-how

Stage Of Development

Already on the market

Stage Of Development Comment

The technical solution was validated from 2014 to 2016 in the context of two research projects carried out with one of the reference agronomy faculties in Portugal, an association of growers, and growers/wine makers in the Douro valley.

The application has paying customers in Portugal since 2017. The application is recurringly monitoring more than 1700 hectares of vineyards (as of 2020) in Portugal (corresponding to ~1% of vineyard area in Portugal).

The company is currently expanding the crop monitoring service to other markets, targeting by priority:
1) vineyards,
2) fruits & nuts orchards and,
3) other row crops.

Requested partner

The company is looking for other businesses to partner with: SME, MNE, or other companies.
The partner sought should be a Drone Operator working with farmers.

Drone operation services agreement:

The company is seeking drone operators to acquire multispectral images over agricultural fields. The partner should have its own drone(s) (can be either rotary or fixed wing) and should have the capability to cover at least 500 hectares per week. The partner shall be compliant with the local applicable laws and regulations. The images acquired should comply with the following general requirements:
- The camera used should be a Micasense©,
- Photos acquired should be free from clouds (above or below),
- 10 cm/pixel of ground sampling distance,
- 10cm of maximum relative horizontal error,
- 50 cm maximum absolute horizontal error,
- 30 deg minimum sun elevation,
- 80% longitudinal overlap,
- 60% lateral overlap.

The images acquired should be uploaded to a provided electronic address ideally less than 24 hours after the flight (maximum 48 hours).

The services agreement should be paid by the company at a flat rate per hectare for a given geographical region and minimum area (e.g. 50 hectares) to be agreed.

The target crops are (by priority):
1) vineyards,
2) fruit and nut orchards and
3) other row crops.

The target customers are:
- large and medium growers,
- growers associations, and
- consulting services companies.

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