Fine Tuning the components of IPM: a conversation with Fargro’s Ant Surrage
Ant Surrage is a technical development specialist at Fargro. We spoke with him recently about integrated pest management, the challenges facing greenhouse growers, and where technology — and most importantly, data — can help inform strategy and fight disease.
What are the challenges growers face when developing an IPM strategy?
Application uncertainty has been a big problem for the industry, though there has been significant information produced by research bodies such as the AHDB and Warwick crop centre on how to best apply biopesticides as part of the AMBER project. However, new technologies and their increasing adoption within the industry give possibilities for further information to be produced on how to best apply biopesticides based on environmental data.
Firstly, having a higher resolution picture of the environmental conditions within a cropped area can allow for the detection of areas with “Goldilocks” conditions. Those being areas that are at a higher risk for pest and disease establishment. Growers can, therefore, be highly proactive with their monitoring of these areas, and as such, can spot treat with IPM compatible biopesticides at very early signs of pest and disease.
To give an example, on a nursery I worked on we often had situations when grey mould (botrytis) would take hold in a corner of a glasshouse in a cyclamen crop and then migrate up through the crop. It is of no doubt to me now that the homogenous environment that we assumed was present was not. The corner must have been a “Goldilocks” zone for the disease to establish. Having a more granular environmental picture would have allowed for early identification of this, therefore meaning either the conditions could be changed, or area could be treated with a preventative spray.
Secondly the effects of environmental conditions on the pest and in turn how this affects the efficacy of products. Dr Dave Skirvin of ADAS is developing a “boxcar train” model to describe pest populations increase. A key factor is environmental conditions and the effects these have on the developmental stages of a pest and intern biopesticide efficacy. Some biopesticides take 5-7 days to take effect, if the environmental conditions are such that reproduction in a developmental stage is less than 5-7 days then the pest will be able to reproduce before death. Having large amounts of data centralised on a single dashboard allows for a grower to easily keep track of the environmental changes that may influence pest population dynamics.
How can understanding changes in the environment improve IPM efficacy?
Many biopesticides are living organism and as such have certain conditions under which they work best. Take for example Naturalis L which is a product containing a fungus called Beauveria bassiana, the label states that the product is active from 10-37 ºC and above a relative humidity of 50%. Actually, we know that to see the best efficacy the product should be applied between 20 – 30 ºC and with a relative humidity over 60%, sporulation only occurs above 80% relative humidity. On a diurnal basis this is a relatively narrow window of time, however, having real-time alters notifying you as to when conditions are perfect at crop level allows for a grower to be confident that they are applying the product in the optimum conditions.
I also think the improved ability to share ideas and collaborate with others is going to be revolutionary. Not only in how quickly and accurately we will be able to advise on crops, but also the ability for innovative solutions and management strategies to be shared in our community.
This, of course, all forms part of an IPM programme. HortAmericas explains excellently how macro biological controls can be optimised through environmental conditions and we should remember that by altering our environmental conditions through ventilation, screening, irrigation can greatly prevent pest and disease establishment. However, we are seeing now that the separate components of IPM can be fine-tuned with new tech and data creating overall more effective programmes with a reduced need for conventional chemistry.
If you want to know how to optimise other biopesticides contact the Fargro technical team.
Have we mentioned mentions?
No one ever said that agriculture was a slow-paced industry. (And if they did, they were mistaken)
ZENSIE is growing and evolving to keep up with growers’ needs. New customers are joining the platform daily, and we’re releasing new features and updates on a weekly basis. Thanks to the consistent input from our community, the ZENSIE platform has become much more than just a home for sensory data and analytics. It’s become a living, breathing resource bringing together a variety of live and historical data sources, empowering users to share insights and interact around them in real-time, wherever they are. They’re augmenting data, exchanging knowledge and preserving wisdom, ensuring that learnings from every previous harvests help optimise the following, and that current conditions help nip threats to crop health in the bud.
Communication around crops is key, and we’ve just made it easier.
With mentions, the conversation can be even more direct, directly alerting specific colleagues when you’ve got something to share.
Simply type @ to tag a colleague, and a list of names will appear. Select the people you want to mention directly, and they’ll be alerted to your comment. That’s all there is to it.
Sensory data makes pest management smarter, and more cost-effective
The 30MHz team is constantly discovering new applications of sensory data across horticulture and agriculture. Customers are using live and historical data— captured predominantly by wireless sensors— to make better decisions increasing productivity, reducing waste, refocusing and optimizing manpower, saving resources and improving yield quality. The 30MHz agri-data platform provides a quick and precise feedback loop, enabling growers to verify and tailor their approach to crops.
This combination of real-time and historical context on crops and their needs is proving crucial to the optimization of integrated pest management strategies. In the case of one customer, continuous monitoring of soil temperature and soil moisture with GS3 sensors was central to the creation and optimization of a successful vine weevil strategy. Because different biological controls work at different temperatures, understanding environmental conditions enabled the customer to reduce costs when deploying. There was a significant cost difference between two products. With real-time data on soil temperature, the customer could deploy a cost saving strategy (which included using until soil temperature fell below 12 C.) With notifications based on custom triggers, customers can set alerts to understand when conditions change. Immediate insights help customers make decisions quickly in response to changes in the environment or crop needs. With alerts, the customer was able to quickly decide when application could switch to Nemasys L.
The interactive visualizations, comments and project groups within the ZENSIE platform can help ensure knowledge exchange across departments and locations within the organization. Groups make it possible to share alerts within an pest management team, for a more proactive and connected IPM strategy— allowing agribusinesses to prepare for, for example, colder weather. Animated heatmaps make observing changes in temperature more tangible, visualizing fluctuations on customer-uploaded images.
Using data captured by the pointed microclimate sensor, another 30MHz customer was able to increase precision while fighting spider mites. After installing sensors in a problem area, the customer discovered that conditions were not optimum for phytoseiulus above 25C and blow 70% RH. Armed with insights, the customer implemented a series of alerts to increase application when conditions were reducing phytoseiulus productivity.
The use of granular, crop-level sensors can assist greenhouse growers in identifying when insect and disease outbreaks might occur, and confirm strategic decisions. At Newey Roundstone, growers managed to produce a number of flower batches with no signs of pansy mottle syndrome (PaMS) in a historically challenging season. With insights from monitoring plant stress and environmental conditions, screen settings and irrigation timings were manipulated to reduce leaf and air temperatures and reduce VPD peaks. Following a change in weather conditions, very strong winds (over 15 m/s) led the climate computer to shut the vents based on thresholds set to prevent weather damage. High radiation and closed vents raised the temperature and VPD dramatically. As horticultural consultant Chris Need put it, “two weeks later, we saw that PaMS had developed. From my point of view, this experience confirmed that we had been taking the right approach to prevent pansy mottle syndrome to begin with. And if we didn’t take this approach, we would see the problem. We now have evidence to back our approach: we know we need to focus on what we need to control stress, and we see that if we don’t control those factors, we’ll have a negative result, with a delay of about two weeks ”
The collection of crop-level data is especially important when using biological controls. In another customer case, insights on microclimate helped optimize a strategy to fight thrip. Thrip had caused over 30% in losses. Through real-time monitoring, the customer had discovered that RH should never fall below 63% to reduce hatch rates. With ever-evolving new insights, the customer developed a new strategy, with a new predator, and had increased confidence in biopesticide application with data. Given the number of interrelated factors determining IPM performance, precise and accurate data captured in real time, even from hard to reach places, offers great potential for the optimization of pest management.
Our customers tell us that there are three objectives in pest management: the identification of developing pest pressures, ensuring the correct timing and conditions for the use of biopesticides or predators, and the understanding of the context within which previous issues developed— to learn from and prevent future problems. Accurate, interactive real-time and historical sensory data can make a significant impact on all three.
Keep your agri-data on brand with customisable themes
There’s so many ways to work with 30MHz technology.
Some of our customers use the ZENSIE platform to work across teams and locations within their agri-business. Others use ZENSIE to share certain data with partners and peers across the chain. Some use the platform to power their consultancies— sharing knowledge remotely in groups. Flexible data visualisation, accessibility on any device, and a nimble architecture that can scale when needed (and however quickly) make it easy for our customers to use their agri-data platform their way. So why would we limit its look and feel?
Branding is more than just aesthetics. When showcasing or sharing your data externally, it might be crucial for anyone viewing it to understand who that data pertains to. Those insights are, after all, your intellectual property, expertise and business advantage.
When working with different teams, local logos or branding can be key to quickly differentiating between data in groups, making discussions and data navigation even easier.
For consultants, customer-specific branding in groups and dashboards is not only organisationally efficient— it’s good customer service, keeping the customer— not the consultant— at the centre of the conversation.
We’ve added custom themes to ZENSIE account settings to make your platforms and groups more… you. Change colour schemes and add your own logo(s) to the interface in just a few steps.
Select custom colours for groups and dashboards, upload logos, and define as many preset themes as you like, with a handy preview as you tweak your settings. Don’t worry, you’ll always have the option to return to our standard colour and branding. Add as many preset themes as you like and watch your data come to life on your terms.
Any questions? Get in touch below, we’re happy to help.
Pinata Farms collaborates on a global scale with ZENSIE
Australia’s largest pineapple producer, Pinata Farms started with a single pineapple farm in Queensland in the 1960s. Today it is the only year-long supplier of fresh pineapples, a leading producer of summer and winter strawberries, and with joint venture partner, BerryWorld Group, produce specialty berries for BerryWorld Australia.
30MHz and its local partner in Australia, Royal Brinkman, have been working closely with Pinata Farms since late September, 2018. Pinata Farms deploys 30MHz’s pointed micro-climate sensors, substrate moisture sensors and 3G gateways in its Applethorpe and Wamuran farm locations. With the 30MHz agri-data platform, Pinata farms is able to monitor and optimise irrigation, and collaborate with berry growers across the globe, at BerryWorld in the United Kingdom. Pinata Farms uses the EC and water content readings from the wireless sensors to appropriately adjust its drip irrigation system and nutrient dosing. Through the ZENSIE platform’s collaboration features, growers at Pinata Farms can share dashboards and create groups with the growers at BerryWorld in the UK. This allows easy comparisons and contrasting of the various berry varieties across locations, and enables growers to create comments and ask questions in the dashboard, streamlining the exchange of information.
The 30MHz platform is currently used by 5 growers at Pinata Farms, including Technical Manager Lee Peterson.“The ability to reprogram our irrigation and nutrient dosing is invaluable. If we get the substrate wrong for even one day then we stand to lose 20-30% of our yield,” Lee points out. “The 30MHz solution provides us with accurate EC and water content information from which we can take immediate action. Furthermore, through its intuitive dashboards and collaboration features, we can easily share the data with our partner company, BerryWorld, in the UK.”
Easily gauge your sensor values with this new widget
Accurate, real-time sensory data is crucial to running an efficient, cost-effective agribusiness.
It informs decision making around everything from irrigation, lighting and IPM strategy, to hiring new team members and setting their agendas, and can help improve crop quality, cut energy costs, and help streamline knowledge sharing across departments and locations.
How data is expressed and visualised can impact the ways in which it’s most useful. That’s why we make dashboards in ZENSIE modular, customisable and widget-based.
Single value widgets give a good overview of the big picture, showing values at specific time periods. Charts show continuity and change across time periods (they’re interactive so you can change time periods, compare with other sensors, view notification or target parameters, and add comments).
Image widgets make sensor measurements more tangible, with the ability to view data corresponding to a location on a photograph, map or chart. Heatmaps take this a step further, showing changing value distributions.
Now, meet gauges. An easy way to see your metrics relative to maximums and minimums.
Choose your sensor, choose your metric, select a time period, set your max and mins, and get monitoring.
Questions about our platform? Get in touch below!
We’re not done being excited about VPD
Can there be such a thing as a “hot new metric?”
We’ve been hearing (and reading) innovative growers talking about the relevance of vapour pressure deficit (VPD) for a while now. We’re seeing the difference monitoring VPD has made to our customers’ crop performance, and we’re always glad to see the word spreading. Earlier this week, an article in HortiDaily provided a nice breakdown of why this metric is so useful in crop management.
As the article points out, VPD “is used by growers to assess how dry the air is at a given moment. If the air is too dry, photosynthesis will stop in order to protect the plant from exhaustion.” If there is insufficient moisture in the air, there is a risk of crops halting photosynthesis during key hours of daylight. In other words, VPD enables growers to make the most of sunlight for plant productivity.
Growers and researchers alike are excited about VPD. But what is it?
According to Michigan State University’s Heidi Wolleager and Erik Runkle, “vapor pressure deficit is the difference between the amount of moisture in the air and how much moisture the air could potentially hold when it’s saturated.” Put simply in Maximum Yield, “VPD combines the effects of both humidity and temperature into one value; it’s basically a measure of the drying capacity of the air, which in turn drives transpiration, an essential plant process.”
VPD is a key metric for maintaining optimal plant biomass and yield, and the right VPD is central to preventing mold and disease, avoiding poor nutrient uptake— particularly of calcium. VPD measurements help growers calculate crops’ water requirements, and according to Maximum Yield, can help prevent “negative effects on plant growth including reduced photosynthesis, reduced fresh weight yields, plant stunting and physiological problems such as leaf curl or burn.”
According to Michigan State research, VPD is a more useful metric than relative humidity. Wolleager and Runkle emphasize that because VPD is independent of temperature “when measuring plant transpiration and water loss, it provides greater insights than temperature and relative humidity on their own.” Read more of their findings here.
Capturing VPD (and other metrics) with 30MHz technology
30MHz tech has always been designed with growers’ needs at the forefront. Developed with input from growers, the pointed microclimate sensor can capture plant temperature of individual crops, ambient temperature and relative humidity (RH). With the power of the cloud, though, we can anticipate “hot new metrics” like VPD based around these measurements.
The ZENSIE platform is designed to make the most of customers’ agridata. With the data captured by the pointed microclimate sensor, calculations in the cloud can provide insights on dew point, vapour pressure deficit (VPD), absolute humidity (AH), humidity deficit and the absolute difference between air temperature and dewpoint.
And we’re adding new calculations, based on customer needs– that’s the power of a cloud platform.
Make sure your colleagues get the picture with image comments
When we speak to our customers, we tend to take notes.
We’re a tech company, so those notes tend to be digital, but if they were on paper they’d have “teamwork is key” underlined ten times and circled in red. Because every conversation we have, this is a key takeaway.
There are so many combined years of experience, so many interdisciplinary perspectives, and so many new ideas for new methods within our customers’ teams. These teams, depending on how you define them, include growers, R&D, IPM specialists, irrigation specialists, third party consultants and advisors, as well as other organisations across the chain. They all benefit from a greater understanding of crop conditions, from seed to finished product.
Agri has 24/7 needs. The discussion shouldn’t be 9 to 5.
If you’re in the horti- or agri- industry, whether you’re pooling knowledge and exchanging insights with colleagues a continent away or a greenhouse away, the conversation shouldn’t stop (or be any less informative) just because you aren’t face to face.
A good, comprehensive (and interactive) record of this shared knowledge is also highly valuable— it ensures all teams are on the same page, provides great documentation for new employees, and can serve as a blueprint for future problem solving. Besides internal knowledge exchange, this kind of documentation can be used to demonstrate compliance, or to minimise liability. When it comes to our customers’ needs, we’ve found it’s usually a combination of all three.
Accurate crop data is crucial to a healthy, productive harvest. But so is communication. We know that live sensory data can be a game-changer, but to make the most of it, growers need to be able to discuss that data, and make better decisions as a result.
Keeping the conversation around agri-data going— seamlessly— is our mission.
In our last major release, we brought you comments and groups to drive greater collaboration. Comments make it easy to annotate data on any widget type— heatmaps, visualizations, single values or charts.
Our next release, feeds, made it simpler to watch colleagues’ discussions unfold, and jump in when needed.
Now, with image comments, we’re taking collaboration around agri-data to the next level. And we’re still far from finished.
Better decisions with visuals
As we’ve seen from our customers, decisionmaking in horti-and agriculture is very visually-driven. Chris Need may have put it best when he said “It’s not about replacing looking at the plant, or going into the greenhouse. It’s about adding a new level of context and insight that we previously didn’t have. The problem with only looking at the plant is that you’re just seeing the snapshot, the plant at a given moment. You don’t see what it has experienced, or what it will experience.”
With comments that enable image attachments, we’re bringing together the power of looking at a plant, and the plant’s historical context with sensory analytics— all while leveraging the wisdom of the group from anywhere in the world.
When adding a comment, ZENSIE users can now attach multiple images in JPG, PNG or GIF.
The data expressed through widgets in ZENSIE is anything but abstract. It’s not just numbers, or a dot on a chart, it corresponds to a real crop, pallet or container. Images add another tangible anchor to the information ZENSIE widgets provide.
We haven’t reinvented the wheel, but we may have streamlined it a little
As with all our hardware and functionality, images in comments came by request, suggested by growers in our community.
Growers have always been innovators, and we know that many of our customers have been sharing knowledge with the use of photographs already. But whether they’ve been doing so with screenshots from ZENSIE and image attachments on email, or group chats on third party messenger apps, these exchanges have happened in a fragmented way, away from the live data they’re based on.
Sensor data, and the discourse surrounding it is valuable intellectual property. This new feature not only ensures that our customers’ charts, heatmaps, visualizations, and the conversation around them are interactive and accessible in a single location on an ongoing basis, it guarantees that this conversation occurs within a platform that’s clear on who that intellectual property belongs to. (Spoiler: it’s the customer).
Adding visual context to live crop data has so many potential applications, and we can’t wait to report back on how our customers (200+ of them) will put this feature to work for them. Here’s some feedback we’ve already gotten from our community, about how they’re excited to use the feature:
Watching crop development as it unfolds
In R&D, real-time monitoring provides the opportunity to manipulate plants and the grow environment, and do research in commercial conditions. With images as part of the discussion, researchers have further context when evaluating and sharing their results.
With visual attachments (photos, diagrams) to comments on dynamic charts, growers can see the exact microclimate and environmental context when a crop changes appearance (indicating, for example, when it is generative or vegetative). Because dashboards are modular and highly customisable, each user can organise data in their own way with widgets and tabs. Growers can track crops across locations or sections of a facility, and anchor their understanding of crop states with images.
Continuous pest management, from anywhere
We hear it all the time: from counting insects to diagnosing leaf maladies, a good IPM strategy relies on visualisation. With image comments, growers and consultants can leverage the visual component of pest and disease management, identify and compare inconsistencies and pathologies across locations, work together to optimise strategies remotely and keep a continuous record of the best conditions for healthy crops.
Traceability and quality control
Granular, sensory data and traceability software are a match made in agri-heaven. Live data helps monitor storage conditions, identify anomalies and prioritise pallets for delivery.With images, data from ZENSIE can now provide a visual record for quality assurance pre-dispatch. (Our customers have mentioned two examples: images of potato cross-sections for quality assurance, and sample images of berries before dispatch.)
From photographs to diagrams, maps to screenshots of documents, image attachments in comments are another step to making working with agri-data more collaborative and dynamic. We can’t wait to share more real-life customer applications of this feature as they emerge.
Sharing agri-data in groups just got even easier.
We’re on a bit of a roll here at 30MHz. We released an updated version of our ZENSIE platform a few weeks ago, and since then we just can’t seem to stop rolling out new functionalities to make collaboration around agri-data even easier.
Last week, we introduced social feeds.
Today, we’ve made it easy to copy dashboards to groups in just two clicks.
To those who aren’t familiar, dashboards are completely customisable. Every user can construct a dashboard based on interactive widgets: single values, heatmaps, images, charts.
These building blocks make it possible for multiple users to express and view their data in whatever combination is most useful to them.
Groups are a new way to work together on specific projects monitoring and responding to crops’ needs. Simply click to ‘add a group’, name it, invite users and set their permissions. Collaborate with colleagues within your company or organisation, and easily add external collaborators.
Sharing dashboards to groups
We’ve made it even easier to share agri-data captured by sensors (or from other sources like climate computers) within groups– users can copy full dashboards to their groups in seconds.
Agritech is great, but what’s the ROI?
What’s the ROI of data-driven agriculture? What are the benefits of real-time, remote monitoring for agribusinesses? How does a collaborative data platform help you have a better harvest?
When you’ve developed technology you’re excited about (like we have) that’s helping real customers (over 180 of them) be more productive, you want to put some of the big numbers in bold:
ROI >3000% ROI >250% ROI 128% 2.5% increase in production 256.4% ROI within a year 5% reduced annual energy costs
We don’t just share these to pat ourselves on the backs. They’re our customers’ achievements, and they’re worth talking about. Good ideas are worth sharing. We’ve seen growers within our community sharing experiences, sharing strategies and replicating each others’ successes. Some grow the same crops— but we’ve seen firsthand that growers don’t necessarily have to work in completely similar contexts to face similar challenges, or learn from one another.
But if you ask us what smart, wireless sensors, a robust (and extremely scalable) network and an ever-evolving, integration-friendly agri-data platform can do for your business, you won’t get a hard number. And that’s not because we aren’t confident in the technology.
Agribusinesses are unique.
Comparing performance 1:1 can be very difficult. So many factors can impact a harvest, and context matters: the region, relative technical advancement, manpower, the specific crop to name just a few. We wouldn’t want to simplify a complex industry with so many moving parts– an industry that still depends on cooperating with nature!– for marketing purposes. So we don’t.
Instead, we share real stories of innovation to demonstrate what’s possible. And show that it’s been possible for customers of all sizes, with various crops, in a variety of contexts, farm to fork, across the globe.
So what are the returns on crop monitoring?
They’re usually interconnected. We’re constantly discovering the impact of 30MHz tech on customers. Depending on the unique context of the agribusiness, a different aspect of the tech can be the game changer. Remote, accurate monitoring saves time on manual data collection, and enables more granular and consistent measurement than previously possible. Because sensors are wireless, can be placed anywhere and moved when necessary, agribusinesses are able to quantify and monitor the entirety of their environment, without limits. With time saved on measurement, and new insights on crops, manpower can be refocused on other tasks, and labour productivity can be increased.
The power of real-time feedback
With a near-instantaneous feedback mechanism, growers, IPM strategists, irrigation specialists and R&D can more confidently take risks and experiment with their approaches— knowing that results and changes can be explored and analysed in graphs, anomalies will be immediately identified with notifications, and social features like groups, comments and feeds make it easier to crowdsource expertise within (or outside) the organisation. In a chat about the benefits of 30MHz, Siberie Gubbels crop manager Geert Colbers mentioned: “I used to play it safe more often before working with 30MHz technology, now I feel I can try more approaches, like letting in more sunlight to optimise profit from the sun.” Accurate measurement that can be presented in multiple forms (charts, heatmaps, visualizations), drilled down and shared with live updates can help validate strategic decisions. When discussing his work on preventing pansy mottle syndrome through microclimate management, horticultural consultant Chris Need points to 30MHz insights to confirm his team’s strategy: “We now have evidence to back our approach: we know we need to focus on what we need to control stress, and we see that if we don’t control those factors, we’ll have a negative result, with a delay of about two weeks.”
The factors that affect harvests and agri-business productivity are interconnected. So are the results of optimisation. A UK-based (Kent, to be specific) Packhouse for 50 farmers monitors conditions using the 30MHz ZENSIE platform, capturing data with temperature and humidity sensors. The packhouse has significantly enhanced its quality control with the wireless sensors, as more accurate data is now collected to an electronic record in real-time. This process had previously been manual, and required 2-3 hours of work daily. In one instance, the customer was alerted to an overnight coldstore malfunction with ZENSIE notifications (based on real-time monitoring). Not only did identification of the malfunction avert a potentially significant loss, it helped save energy.
The bold numbers above are all results from real customers. 30MHz tech has helped a customer see 5-10% reduction in energy costs across large scale greenhouses by monitoring temperatures at extremities of greenhouse and maintaining more constant temperatures. It’s helped a flower grower significantly reducing mildew (and so boosting production) by maintaining humidity levels below 80%. Besides reducing production losses by 2-3%, it’s given an ROI of >1000% to a pepper grower, with a 1-2 month payback. It’s helped a plant breeder pay for the investment within 2 months, by almost completely eliminating pesticide use, using microclimate data to maintain conditions that are inhospitable to pests.
Agribusinesses are ecosystems. Behind every ROI metric, there’s a series of related benefits that have yet to be quantified.