The value of the Augmenta System proves itself yet again, but this time in Australia. Following field trial results which went beyond all expectations, the system has now become commercially available here for the first time. So, what is it and why should it matter to the average Aussie farmer?
The Augmenta System is a revolutionary plug n' play field analyzer and Variable Rate Application (VRA) control device. Mounted on the cabin top of any standard tractor/implement or self-propelled spreader/sprayer, it is capable of determining field status (crop health/need, areas of poor growth, rocky or waterlogged patches etc.) and acting on this information to carry out VRA in real-time.
It does this by using an array of multispectral hi-res cameras to scan ahead as the farmer drives along. Powerful algorithms and innovative machine vision techniques create an on-going prescription map which is then used to control the VRA of inputs (fertilizer, growth regulators etc.) via an actuated spreader/sprayer. The whole process is fully automatic, done on-the-fly, and only requires a single pass.
It is currently sold and operating in 16 countries in geographies as diverse as Ukraine, Brazil, and the USA, with farmers reporting significant yield and profit increases, in addition to reduced waste and greater sustainability.
To find out just how well the Augmenta System would perform under Australian conditions, Augmenta and local partner OzValueAg conducted a broadacre crop field trial during the 2020/21 growing season. The in-season Augmenta VRA of nitrogen (Urea) on winter wheat and canola grown on a combined acreage of 338.2 ha just outside Ballarat, Victoria produced fertilizer savings of 6.2% and 7.8% respectively (a total of 3.6 tons) compared with that of Fixed Rate applications. With the current cost of Urea at $500 AUD, this equates to a cost saving of $1,800. What's even more significant is that average yield increases were 11.2% for both crops. At current sale prices ($480 AUD/ton for canola, $230 AUD/ton for wheat), and factoring in the fertilizer savings, the total comes to an impressive $65,000 AUD of additional income for the farmer on just 338.2 hectares.
Even if this figure were only half as good as it seems to be, it would still put farmers well-ahead financially. For many, the mental stumbling block here is the counter-intuitive fact that better yield can actually be achieved by using less fertilizer. Yet the Augmenta System can achieve this amazing feat and make such important contributions to the bottom line.
One of its little secrets is that the Augmenta System is AI based, meaning that it learns as it is used. By continuously updating its own algorithms with the data it collects, it improves efficiency. Moreover, because it is connected to the cloud via the normal 3G/4G mobile networks (should coverage be weak, all data is also saved internally for later upload when signals are reacquired), it is part of an integral package accessible through the Augmenta Web Portal. Everything from real-time operational analytics, the automatic generation of operation, ROI and projected savings reports, as well as fleet management tools are part of Augmenta's 360° all-in-one approach.
Indeed, this is exactly what sets the Augmenta System apart. Unlike other offerings in the precision agriculture toolbox, it is an all-in-one turnkey solution, making it incredibly easy to use. The 360° approach is even built into the hardware. The on-board electronics have been deliberately over-engineered to make the system even more versatile than it already is.
This future-proofing is embodied in the growing number of VRA services it can perform. In-season N-fertilizer VRA was the first. At the time of writing, it is now also capable of foliar fertiliser, PGR growth regulator, and Harvest Aid defoliant (systemic, contact, and agnostic) VRA. In response to demand, particularly in Australia, a Green on Brown (G on B) service is slated for later this year. Other services and functionalities are also in the R&D pipeline. All upgrades are via 3G/4G software uploads - no additional hardware is required.
Affordability is also part of Augmenta’s magic mix. Because it is a retrofit using ISOBUS (or similar) to control spreader/sprayer VRA, no new farming equipment is needed. Even if you do not have ISOBUS equipment, Augmenta has a conversion kit, so you are covered. A reasonable purchase price buys you the integral package and free field monitoring as often as you like. The rest is subscription based, so you only pay for what you use. But as demonstrated by the field trial, the financial returns of optimizing inputs will more than compensate for the modest costs incurred. In other words, it offers real value over cost. All this makes it a valuable tool for Aussie farmers, irrespective of the size of their farming operation.