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  • Writer's pictureMaxime Dumont

Technological Advancement in Precision Agriculture: A Case Study on Nutrient Management in NB

As the global population grows, the demand for food increases and managing resources such as water, nutrients, and chemical inputs becomes more critical in food production. However, rising costs and climate change impacts can make it difficult for growers and agronomists to produce food consistently. In this case study, we will examine how technology can address these challenges and solve problems in the food production industry, specifically the overuse of fertilizers which poses a risk to growers and food security. These issues can negatively impact growers' profits and losses and have negative environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions and increased water contamination.

Agriculture technologies and AI have demonstrated a remarkable ability to collect, interpret, and share data much more efficiently, leading to increased financial success and better environmental stewardship. An example is an agronomist in New Brunswick who used real-time plant tissue analysis technology to drive technological advancement in local farms and maximize harvest potential. By focusing on data and nutrient management, this agronomist has introduced new techniques to over 20 farms, achieved impressive results, and is paving the way for a sustainable and profitable future for agriculture in the region. Bell Crop Services is an agronomy consulting service that provides a range of services to potato and rotational crop growers, including precision soil sampling, mapping, and nutrient management. The firm's founder, Dave Bell, aims to use the most efficient and effective methods for determining plant nutrient deficiencies and fertilizer management. He stays up to date with the latest technologies to provide his clients with the best service and support. Most recently, he tested Picketa Systems early version of the LENS™.

Dave Bell and Picketa Systems
Dave Bell and Picketa Systems

Current solutions for fertilizer management are slow, costly, and often not tailored to specific growing conditions. Therefore, there is a need for accurate and timely testing of foliage in a crop consulting business to determine appropriate nutrient applications to maximize yield and quality. Current testing methods are slow and can take up to 14 days to return results, causing delays and reducing crop yield and quality, particularly in high-value, heavy-feeding crops like potatoes. This calls for a faster, easier, and more consistent method to determine plant nutrient deficiencies that can be used in-season.

Picketa Systems has developed LENS™, a cutting-edge solution for fertilizer management and plant tissue analysis in the agricultural industry. LENS™ is a data collection tool that allows for real-time plant tissue analysis, using an optical sensor and machine-learning algorithms to quickly and accurately interpret the data. The system offers an intuitive interface for viewing, sharing, and comparing analysis results, giving users complete control over agriculture data collection and analysis without disrupting their existing workflows. This technology enables precise fertilizer management by providing accurate, real-time nutrient analysis results, eliminating the need for slow, costly, and often generic methods. This technology will help farmers, agronomist and crop consultants to optimize their crop management and to increase their yields and quality of their products.

Picketa Systems Plant Tissue Analysis Report

During the 2022 growing season in New Brunswick, a long-term client of Dave Bell rented a good-sized piece of land he had never farmed before. Early in the tissue testing program, levels of plant tissues' nutrient levels were found to be different from this grower's other fields, which indicated a deeper-rooted issue. That allowed Dave to see that this field was trending downhill and recommended foliar fertilizer application to feed the crop through the problem and salvage what was heading towards a total catastrophe.

Besides avoiding disasters and preventing total yield loss from mismanagement, mechanical breakdowns and unknown field qualities, Dave mentioned that tissue testing with the LENS™ also opens up weekly tracking of the health of the plants and where they're at with fertilizer consumption. In light of rising fertilizer prices and consumer pressure to use environmentally-friendly alternatives that don't contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, or require excessive energy, mining, and transportation, it has become crucial to avoid over-fertilizing if one wants to see financial success. According to Dave, the future of crop fertilization lies in carefully timing nutrient application and supplementing as conditions change. He emphasized that we can no longer provide a blanket application and let the plants choose what they need, as it is not financially or environmentally sustainable.

Overfertilization not only affects yield but can also hurt the quality of the produce, increasing the cost and effort needed to create its final product and impacting growers' top-line revenue. That is why it is crucial to monitor and control the fertilizer levels, not just for economic and environmental reasons but also for product quality and yield. By fertilizing at 80-90% of what is expected and closely monitoring and adjusting as needed, growers can achieve the yield they want while maintaining quality. And as new genetics come along, it's essential to watch and adapt fertilization accordingly, as over-fertilizing these new plants could hurt their performance. Keeping a close watch on the nutrients will greatly help the growers to maintain a balance between yield, quality, cost and environmental impact to maximize their payable yield and profit margins.

Last season, Dave implemented Picketa Systems due to the need for accurate and fast plant tissue analysis. Because of this change, Dave gave his clients a fivefold increase in data. This shift allowed him to take a proactive approach to identifying and addressing issues rather than waiting for visual signs of crop stress to appear. In his words, rather than conducting a post-mortem, let's do a "blood test" and make corrections while there's still a fighting chance for recovery. By not waiting for visual signs of stress, growers can avoid the disappointment and wasted resources of "farming last year's crop" - a situation where growers make moves that would have made a difference in the past but are now irrelevant or ineffective in the current year. Dave has been utilizing a nitrogen management planning approach for on-farm climate action for some time now, using Picketa Systems' LENS™ as a poster child of how the latest technology can be used to apply only the necessary nutrients to a crop.

Using innovative technology such as Picketa System's LENS™ rapidly gives detailed data and empowers users able make timely decisions. Helping optimize fertilizer programs and maximizing yields! Get the invaluable info necessary for making the right decisions at the right moments using Picketa Systems LENS™. For more information, visit our website or contact us here.

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