Published: March 16, 2020
The New Revolution for Farming
The agricultural industry is accelerating once again.
Almost 130 years ago, the gasoline-powered tractor was invented allowing farmers to plow, till, plant, and cultivate their fields saving farmers hours of valuable time and energy managing their crops.
As the industrial revolution went along, it pushed the agricultural industry forward with new complex forms of machinery such as combines and harvesters enabling farmers to become more efficient with their resources and time.
Today, the agricultural industry is faced with a new revolution and it’s digital.
Major Losses, More Demand
This digital revolution is needed when taking into account the current output of farms and the increasing rise in consumer demand.
According to a UN study, the world’s food industry needs to increase food production by 60% before 2050 to keep up with the world population that is predicted to increase by 2.3 billion people.
Today, 40%-50% of the world’s crops are lost to diseases and pests such as animals and bugs. In Canada and the United States, that number is only 20%-25% but it is still a devastating amount of loss causing billions of dollars to be wasted yearly.
So, how are we able to increase food production by 60% when the average farm worldwide is only able to yield 50% to 60% of their crops planted?
One Canadian company has a solution.
Founded by Claude Duguay in 2014, H2O Geomatics was created as a research spin-off from the University of Waterloo. The start-up uses remote sensing technologies to turn Earth Orbit (EO) data into informational products tailored to meet various customer goals.
With 4 full-time employees and 3 co-op students, they’ve created a new solution called NXT Farm to assist farm consultants in managing the health of their client’s crops using satellite imagery.
Designed as a web platform, NXT Farm uses farmland images taken from satellites to analyze the health condition of crops.
The web platform uses industry-standard algorithms like NDVI, along with cutting-edge algorithms developed by their team such as crop nitrogen levels, crop water stress, and radar soil moisture to measure the crop’s health conditions.
The user goes onto the NXT Farm web platform and selects their farmland on a map. Within a few minutes, the user will get a processed satellite image of the area showing the conditions of their crops and land.
If the conditions are poor, an alert system in NXT Farm automatically identifies and notifies farmers. From there, the farmer can act on the conditions as needed before the crops are permanently damaged.
Using algorithms combined with AI, NXT Farm is also able to create variable rate fertilization plans for farmers to reduce fertilizer usage and increase crop yields.
Rather than focusing strictly on farmers, H2O Geomatics promotes NXT Farm to farming consultants. The API component of their web platform allows consultants to receive new algorithms and integrate it into their processing chain efficiently with API allowing them to deliver more accurate products to their clients.
Ready to Stabilize and Add New Features
Even with such a great solution, NXT Farm’s API must resolve some minor stability issues before it’s fully operational.
However, H2O Geomatics doesn’t have the resources to run this kind of testing at the moment.
NXT Farm also has new features to add including a cloud detection system (real clouds), API functionality to send info on cloud coverage, tracking changes compared to historical data, and new visualization techniques.
These new features, however, haven’t been validated on Google Cloud yet where NXT Farm is being hosted.
Seeking the proper resources, H2O Geomatics has come to CENGN for testing.
The CENGN Testbed
Using CENGN’s infrastructure to simulate Google Cloud, H2O Geomatics will be doing load testing to confirm whether NXT Farm can handle 100k concurrent acres and users without compromising performance. The testing will also validate that NXT Farm can handle 100 API calls per second, per user.
The new features will also be added one by one to validate NXT Farm’s stability.
NXT Farm for the Future
CENGN is looking forward to this cloud project as it will help NXT Farm resolve its stability issue. Once completed, NXT Farm will be more accessible to farm consultants allowing them to help farmers reduce the number of crops lost to bugs, pests, and diseases.
H2O Geomatics is a growing Canadian business that is using the services at CENGN through the Next Generation Network Program (NGNP). The NGNP is a Government of Ontario program offered through a partnership between CENGN and the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) that is providing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Ontario access to the CENGN Testbed. CENGN’s digital infrastructure is connecting SMEs like H2O Geomatics to state-of-the-art equipment and network services, which will allow these companies to test and validate their solutions.
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