Australian agricultural IoT and data analytics company The Yield has launched a sensing and predictions system called Sensing+ to help growers make smarter decisions and optimise irrigation.

Sensing+ analyses data gathered from on-farm sensors and other off-farm sources to make predictions on important matters such as “hyper-localised weather conditions”, the company says.

By enabling irrigation to be fine-tuned to the needs of the crops, and timing adjusted based on local wind conditions rather than general information gathered from weather forecasts, The Yield claims the system can cut water consumption by 30 percent.

“Around 40,000 Australian growers use 9,000 gigalitres of water every year, most spending between $10 - $65 a megalitre from irrigation schemes,” The Yield says. “With a very dry start to the summer growing season, irrigation is top of mind on every farm. Growers using Sensing+ estimate they will save 30 percent on their water losses.”

According to The Yield’s founder and managing director, Ros Harvey, growers face enormous uncertainty trying to pre-empt weather, with many relying on weather apps that might be showing data from hundreds of kilometres away, and getting wind conditions wrong can be disastrous.

“In a landmark case this year a grower was ordered by a Victorian court to pay a neighbour $7 million for crop damage caused by spray drift,” Harvey said.

“For intensive irrigated crops, hyper-localised weather conditions are the ones that matter. Local topography, windbreaks and farm infrastructure like rain covers and tunnels create microclimates that make standard weather information less helpful. With Sensing+, we can predict hyper-local growing conditions predictions wherever we have our hardware.”

Harvey said Sensing+ had been developed over the past two years through collaboration with a small number of growers. “Key to our approach has been working closely with growers to determine how we can solve the whole business problem using digital technology”, she said.

The Sensing+ system comprises sensors located on the farm that communicate wirelessly to a gateway that relays information back to The Yield’s analytics software running in the Microsoft Azure IoT suite. Smartphone apps convey this information, and advice based on The Yield’s analytics to growers.

The company says it has global patents for its proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms for hyper-localised weather prediction.

The Sensing+ app

Harvey said Sensing+ had evolved from a system developed for Tasmanian oyster farms that combines locally measured salinity data with tidal, wind and weather information to provide guidance on when oysters can be harvested. She said it was now used around Tasmania where it is increasing the harvesting window by four weeks per year. It is now also in use in NSW and used by industry regulators in both states.

The Yield was founded in November 2014 and won an Australian Government Accelerating Commercialisation grant of $1 million in 2015. It went on to raise $11.5 million in investment in April 2017, from lead investor Bosch Global, KPMG and AgFunder.