Victorian agronomist Scott Bartlett has been using precision agriculture technologies for the last four years to optimise farm productivity and sustainability for his clients, from the Riverina in NSW down to Ballarat in Victoria.
Through his Shepparton based business, Agpro Consulting, Mr Bartlett and his team offer independent precision agronomy and consulting services, specialising in broadacre cropping and pasture production.
“Our precision agronomy service sees us carry out a range of activities including pH and sodium soil profiling for variable rate applications of lime and gypsum.
“We also combine drone and satellite Normalised Difference Vegetation Index* imagery with targeted soil testing results to interpret variable rate nutrition requirements, and we process yield data to work out variable rate fertiliser applications for sowing,” Mr Bartlett said.
While Mr Bartlett is well aware of the benefits precision agronomy can deliver for growers, he admits that the often complex nature of the software and data means it can be challenging to demonstrate these benefits to clients.
“Many of our clients are quite familiar with precision technology, but for those who are only just starting to look at implementing it into their farming programs, it can be difficult to clearly articulate how and why the various systems are worth the time and financial investment.
“Often these services are quite complicated, and while that’s not a problem for the consultants, at the end of the day it’s helpful if we can easily demonstrate to our growers why we use these tools,” he said.
Simplicity and accuracy
As a leading precision agronomy provider, Mr Bartlett is often asked to try new software, and with the recent boom in the Australian agtech industry, he admits he is spoiled for choice when it comes to providers.
When asked what drove him to incorporate Decipher into his offering, his response boiled down to the fact that the service is both powerfully accurate, and refreshingly simple to use.
“The great thing for consultants is that the whole platform (from app to desktop) is so intuitive and user friendly that demonstrating the benefits for clients becomes very straightforward.
“You go and crunch all the numbers behind the scenes, and then come back to your clients and present the results on one clear, simple platform.
“The geo-referencing accuracy of the DecipherGO app is also unrivalled, and this is extremely important for targeted in-field scouting and crop monitoring. When the whole point of these agtech products is to increase precision in your farming practices, a highly accurate handheld geo-referencing tool is hard to walk past,” he said.
High quality imagery
Mr Bartlett also said the quality of Decipher’s NDVI imagery is excellent.
“We’ve been using the ten and 30 metre satellite imagery on a bi-weekly basis before feeding those images into a third party platform to carry out variable rate calculations, and the crop-on-crop comparison is a powerful feature that allows you to pretty quickly get an in-depth picture of your crop health.
“Beyond the obvious benefits this has for managing crop nutrition, we’ve also had success with Decipher as a pest management tool.
“I recently helped a client locate and eradicate an emerging slater and earwig infestation in a canola crop using Decipher.
“We picked up the subtle differences in crop health with the NDVI imagery, and the ability to quickly compare image on image showed that the affected area was spreading.
“We were then able to locate and treat the infestation before it became a major issue for the entire crop,” Mr Bartlett said.
Where to from here?
As an early adopter of a lot of agtech offerings, Mr Bartlett always keeps one eye on the future, and in his opinion, the future is bright for Decipher users.
“What really excites me about Decipher is the data integration potential of the platform, and the value this will add to the packages and services we can provide to our clients.
“As a consultant who already uses multiple data sets across multiple software programs, the prospect of moving these onto one platform, and having the NDVI imagery, soil testing and analysis and yield mapping all in one place - in a truly end to end product – is exciting.
Add to this the simple layout and user friendly interface which makes it simple to share a client’s farm data with them and you’ve got a winner,” he said.
*NDVI is Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. This is a measurement of how green (and therefore healthy) a plant is, based on the reflection of light.