Dig In: Startup Tills Satellite Data to Harvest Farm AI

OneSoil converts light waves into heat maps showing crop conditions
by Scott Martin

The farm-to-fork movement is getting a taste of AI.

Startup OneSoil cultivates AI to help farmers boost their bounty. The company offers a GPU-enabled platform that turns satellite data into farm analytics for soil and crop conditions.

The Belarus-based company interprets satellite feeds to show how plants reflect different light waves, and it rates the state of plant growth based off this information for plots of land.

OneSoil’s free platform displays how areas of land measure up on the standard known as the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). Farmers can use this vegetation score to spot unhealthy crop areas that need inspection and to plan watering needs and the application of fertilizers.

The field monitoring platform is available as an Android app and on the web.

OneSoil has developed its platform to cover North America, most of western Europe and some of central Europe.  It aims to have coverage of the entire world by year’s end. The satellite data visualizations are updated every three to five days.

Satellite to Sprouts

OneSoil taps into free satellite data from the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation program. The company manually marked out boundaries on nearly 400,000 fields for training data used on its convolutional neural networks. Now its algorithms can automatically create boundaries from the satellite data.

It processed about 50 terabytes of Sentinel 2 satellite data using NVIDIA GPUs in Microsoft Azure to build out its boundaries of land for the map spanning much of the world.

“With Sentinel images, we need a lot of processing power to analyze those,” said Clement Matyuhov, director of business development at OneSoil.

OneSoil can automatically detect more than 20 different crop types.

Dig the Sensors

OneSoil has developed sensors to work on its platform. Customers can dig a hole and stick in one of its battery-powered sensors that packs a SIM card to start sending data.

The sensors measure air humidity, soil moisture, the temperature of air and soil, and the level of light intensity for the nearby area.

The company has also developed a modem that can transfer data between agricultural equipment and the OneSoil platform over a mobile network.

OneSoil users can enter data, as well. They can make such entries as date of harvest, crop type, average yield, field boundaries and files documenting field work. They can use the app, which tracks location and provides field data, to go examine areas.

Prescriptive Agriculture

On the analytics side, OneSoil Maps makes it easy for farmers to make adjustments on their land. The maps provide a productivity rating of low, medium or high for different areas of the land.

“We can say there is a low productivity zone there, so go check it out. Within one field, the productivity can vary dramatically,” said Matyuhov.

Farmers can use the maps for the vegetation on their land to create prescription maps for fertilizer. These prescription maps, downloadable as a file from app.onesoil.ai, can be uploaded into compatible tractors from John Deere and steering systems from Trimble, allowing tractors to go to the specific GPS coordinates and treat the area as prescribed.

“It’s really an expert assessment for the farmer. The results for the yield can be substantial,” said Matyuhov.

Image and credit: Corn harvest with an IHC International combine harvester, Jones County, Iowa, U.S., by Bill Whittaker under Creative Commons license.