Life Resilience interviews Jorge Blanco, R&D Director of Greenfield Technologies by Agrodrone, one of the project’s nine partners.
How does Greenfield Technologies help farms to be more competitive and sustainable?
The competitiveness and sustainability of farms, today, is closely related to their ability to adapt to changes in the markets, which are increasingly demanding. Greenfield Technologies helps these farms to modernize, providing the agricultural sector with information on new technologies, such as satellite or drone images, geo-referenced soil maps, etc., but transforming them into an everyday language for agricultural companies. Terms such as NDVI, satellite bands, mosaics or reflectance, among others, are not usually known to field technicians, much less their applicability. For this reason, Greenfield Technologies gives a twist to the raw information that new technologies offer us and makes it available to the farmer in parameters that they use in them day-to-day, such as irrigation dose, water retention capacity of a soil or seed density per hectare.
A clear example is that a farm usually has different types of soil. The farmer usually knows that they exist, but he does not have an exact record of where the change from one to another takes place and how much area each of them occupies. These soil differences can cause the crop on each of these soil types to behave differently. Greenfield Technologies helps to know the physical, chemical and biological parameters of each one of them, allowing the agricultural company to design a more effective irrigation or fertilizer plan according to the potential of the soil.
Another example is given during the cultivation campaign. Greenfield Technologies provides, through satellite images, advice on monitoring its vegetative development. Offering alerts about specific locations where it is observed that the crop is responding or developing in a less efficient way, even before it can be seen by the human eye. Thus, a periodic report or access to a viewer that interprets satellite images allows the farmer to anticipate problems and make sound decisions that may otherwise be too late to maximize production or quality.
The importance of precision agriculture has been increased in recent years thanks to the arrival of new technologies. Do you think it is agriculture of the future?
I really think that it is a tool that will be present in the management model of agricultural companies. In fact, it is already present in many of them. However, not all companies have to do precision agriculture to the highest degree, but each of them will take from these new technologies the part that they need and that adapts to their economic cycle.
Several decades ago, the use of GPS systems in a tractor was a great novelty and, at that time, not all agricultural companies could afford it and, even, they did not see it with good eyes. Nowadays, I don’t think any tractor driver wants to take a tractor without GPS and self-guidance system if they give him the option to use it. This same simile is occurring with precision agriculture. New technologies are appearing that technicians do not know their usefulness or are not familiar with them, but that in a short time it will be in common use in crop management. Of course, not all the technologies that appear are going to stay. Some will be improved, others will disappear and others, which we do not even think about, will appear to remain fixed in the agricultural sector.
What advantages does Greenfield Technologies bring to the fight against Xylella fastidiosa?
Transmission of the bacteria from one plant to another occurs mainly because there are carrier insects that can reach the xylem vessels of an infected plant and transmit the pathogen present in the raw sap to the xylem of another healthy plant. For this reason, the LIFE RESILIENCE project studies all those environments that allow limiting and controlling both the pathogen and the transmitting vector, such as the health of the soil and the plant, the efficient use of water and the biodiversity around the foci of infection.
Greenfield Technologies, with the application of precision agriculture, makes available to the rest of the project partners information on the soils and on the vegetative development and water stress of the crops throughout the campaign. This information, given from a different perspective than “at the foot of the field”, allows us to have an understanding of each environment through location plans of different parameters related to the soil and crops. Maps of variation of the available water capacity of a soil, its microbiological activity, or maps of spatial and temporal variability of the degree of development of a crop, its photosynthetic activity or the temperature of its cover, are some examples of the Information that Greenfield Technologies can contribute to obtaining sustainable practices for the prevention of Xylella fastidiosa in the cultivation of olive and almond trees.
How do you get detailed knowledge of the different areas of the farms of the Life Resilience project?
Greenfield Technologies collaborates as several partners in the LIFE RESILIENCE project, contributing the new technologies that we have been discussing and their interpretation through our Map2Soil and Crop2Health services.
The first of them is based on a service for zonal differentiation of agricultural soils by means of the optimized analysis of its physical, chemical and biological parameters, while the second service allows the monitoring of the vegetative and humidity development of the crop by satellite view and drone, in this case, of the olive and almond trees, in the different farms belonging to the project. Each of these services has the task of showing the spatial and temporal variability, both of the soil and of the crop, within each of the farms of the project.
On the other hand, Greenfield Technologies makes available to the different partners of the LIFE RESILIENCE project a web viewer that contains all the farms of the project and to which are added, as layers, the visualizations of the maps of the different soil parameters and of the satellite images processed to extract all the information and put them at the service of the partners. In addition, this viewer has the possibility of adding other types of layers, such as limits of varieties of olive and almond trees, statistical treatments contemplated in the project, irrigation designs of each of the farms, periodic weather conditions, etc.
Each partner, with their actions, can visualize through this web platform the effect of the same on the development of the crop, as well as obtain information on the parameters hosted in it from other partners to be able to analyze their results together with those of the other partner and, thus, obtain reliable predictions on methodologies to combat the spread of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria and its disastrous effects on the cultivation of olive and almond trees.