Tag Archives: agricultural data

Agtech startup FluroSat infuses data for food security

Agtech startup FluroSat, headed by aeronautical engineer Anastasia Volkova, had its origins through the University of Sydney’s Inventing the Future entrepreneurial program. Since its inception two years ago, it has already captured the attention of investors and is now about to launch its new online platform to the Australian market.

Volkova sums up one of the problems the agricultural industry is currently facing in a nutshell: “Farms are large and farmers are busy. The opportunity for different applications of remote sensing technology [to be converted] into crop stress indicators has found resonance in the farming and agricultural community. We’re turning this data into insights.”

Flurosat uses remote sensing images (captured by multi-/ and hyperspectral cameras on board satellites, airplanes and drones) to capture early indicators of crop stress. The team have developed a subscription-based platform (FluroSense™) to infuse this data into a smart solution for precision farming. Agronomists can use the platform to spot crop stress indicators and verify the exact locations at risk. They can then consult with farmers on how to best target the areas which need attention.

Unlimited satellite data is available on the platform, additional aircraft-obtained data can be ordered and users can even upload their own drone data. Volkova explains the critical requirements for data connectivity, from locational identification of the crop stressors through to quantification, analysis and interpretation. “We’re making the remote sensing work for precision agriculture and [extracting] insights from crop stress indicators that crop stress models help us look for. It’s a two-step approach that very few other [agtech] companies are using.”

The agtech startup has three main pillars: agriculture, remote sensing and data science/machine learning. The diverse and international team bring together their expertise in agtech, aerospace, software development and data analytics and are based at FluroSat’s head offices in Sydney and Kiev. “Flurosat was born out of a desire to make an impact”, says Volkova. She explains that she examined the unique value proposition of her skills and how she could apply them to a global problem. “It’s important to have a purpose to wake up every morning to.”

Volkova speaks proudly about the startup and her colleagues: “It’s harnessing people’s superpowers and skills for a great purpose.” She says that one of their biggest successes so far has been convincing clients of the usefulness of the data and that it’s possible to get the full benefits to visit the field in person. “We’ve proven that you don’t need a person on the ground to provide customer service.”

FluroSat is gearing up to conduct the company’s third season of monitoring of primarily cotton crop in Australia this summer and expand its reach globally, particularly to the North and South American markets. “We’re looking at driving the value of the insights on the large scale.”

– Larissa Fedunik

Real-time irrigation monitoring

The biggest challenge farmers face is often underfoot – maintaining healthy soil. But there is no direct method for farmers to measure how effectively they are feeding their plants.

Farmers can measure general soil parameters like pH with handheld probes, but detailed measurements require sending soil samples to a commercial lab, which is costly and time-consuming.

The lack of feedback can lead to under- or over-fertilisation, the latter of which can result in ground and surface water contamination.

CRC CARE (Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment) is addressing the issue through probeCARE, a real-time irrigation monitoring system.

“We can identify the specific elements, like sodium and potassium, that are in fertilisers,” explains Dr Liang Wang, head researcher on the project.

Wang says unlike a lab soil test, probeCARE will only read ‘free’ nutrients – these are not tied up in the soil and are more readily absorbed by plants.

Improvements on current systems are thus threefold: measurements are cheaper, immediate and give more relevant data to farmers than a lab test.

The small, portable and wireless probes will send data over the mobile phone network from the field to a farmer’s computer. The technology is currently in prototype while CRC CARE secures international patent rights.

– Brett Szmajda