California cash crop
Prunes are European plums with a high sugar content that allows them to dry without fermenting around the pit and are almost all marketed dried, as prunes or dried plums. California produces 96% of the prunes grown in the US and around half of California’s prunes are consumed domestically and half exported.1
The Pix4Dfields team recently visited United States to attend InfoAg event, to say hi to our Pix4D San Francisco office, and to put Pix4Dfields through its paces in a real-life farm situation.
One of Pix4Dfields’ early adopters: Pinpoint Aerial Solutions (PAS) invited us to visit a prune farm in Yuba City, and see how the team uses Pix4Dfields. Nestled in the fertile Sacramento Valley, Yuba City is in the heart of the dominant prune-growing area in California. Since the 1960s, more than 80% of the state’s crop has come from the Sacramento Valley area1. Pix4Dfields was built with the input of farmers and agronomists like the team at Magenheimer Farms, and we were excited to take the perfect opportunity to speak to our users about their software requirements and learn how Pix4Dfields is integrated into their workflow.
Yuba City-based PAS work as service providers, utilizing multi-spectral cameras to analyze crop health. Part of their role as service providers is assisting farmers or agriculture advisers in crucial management decisions
Crop scouting with a drone
Among 31 acres of prune trees, Nicholaus the owner of PAS, and Alec the manager of the farm, shared more about the project: helping the farmer predict the overall tree health after the last foliar nitrogen application.
Foliar fertilization involves applying nutrients to plant leaves, rather than the root system, which allows growers to respond in a more precise and immediate way. This particular application was extremely important because it was the last one before the harvest, giving the fruit a final boost.
Magenheimer Farms, Prune farm, south of Yuba City, California
We want to give a big shoutout to both MicaSense and DJI – both the drone and the camera worked great in temperatures over 40°C (100°F)!
After the 20 minute flight, 2771 image were collected which ended up being around 6.35GB of data.
The five minute crop protection assessment
Once the data was captured, it was transferred from the drone’s SD card to a computer in the PAS truck.
All 2,771 images were processed on-site using Pix4Dfields in less than five minutes.
After the processing was complete, Nicholaus demonstrated how he uses Pix4Dfields features on the newly collected data.
His five-step workflow serves as the basis of his recommendations to clients.
- Generate the orthomosaic.
- Generate two index maps: NDVI and NDRE.
- Use the comparison tool with the orthomosaic and NDVI to do a quick comparison of the field.
- Use the zonation to create an “easy to read” map of the problems areas which he then focuses on.
- Use annotations to highlight the ‘focus areas’ and adds more information to them.
Having the Pix4Dfields image processing done in 5 minutes, PAS was enabled to do the image analysis on site, discuss the results and immediately scout the focus areas with the Farm Manager.
Crop protection analysis
With the help of the NDRE index map Nicholaus highlighted potential issue areas with the annotation tool to flag to the Farm Manager on site.
Issues noted included:
- A water leak, which was immediately confirmed with the Farm Manager
- A new irrigation pipe was identified as a potential area of concern. This was again confirmed with the Farm Manager
- Identified an area with the significantly less dense growth. The Farm Manager was unaware of this issue, so we decided to visit the area and check
Pix4Dfields NDRE index map used with annotation tool to highlight the problem areas
Once we arrived at the identified area we confirmed the results from the data; around 28 trees were growing less densely than their neighbors. The farmer immediately began the process of gathering soil and leaf samples to figure out what exactly is causing the issue.
With the help of the Pix4Dfields instant processing and analysis tools, PAS enabled the Farm Manager to make the timely and focused decisions on site as a part of their every day workflow.
One of the 28 prune trees in the ‘less growth’ identified focus area with visible fruit and foliage damage
Each tree matters
Prunes from this farm are tunnel dried ahead of packaging and are sold per ton per acre. Depending on the sugar quantity and fruit quality the price varies from 1,300USD up to 2,000USD per ton with an expected yield of three tons per acre. In other words, each tree matters and having stable tools that produce accurate and fast results brings immediate value through enhancing agriculture workflows.
Pix4Dfields enables the Service providers like PAS to do their jobs in a faster and more accurate manner while at the same time providing Farm Managers with actionable data in the field. Pix4Dfields has a direct impact on farm management – and consequently on farm’s profit.
Special thank you to Pinpoint Aerial Solutions for sharing their story and workflow with us.
Enhance your agriculture workflows with Pix4Dfields
Pix4Dfields 1.3 version is now available for download featuring index calculator.