New RHIZA tools extend precision capabilities


AUGUST, 2022



A series of updates and new modules is set to improve and extend RHIZA performance over the next year.

The Contour digital platform is growing rapidly with updates to existing products and the addition of new modules broadening its capabilities and supporting its value to both agronomists and customers. This is a constant process of product development intent on meeting the management needs of a modern farm business.

By the end of the year, ClearSky will have completed two complete re-trains of the machine learning algorithm that drives it. The purpose of these updates, says Sam Fordham, RHIZA head of technical, is to improve the overall accuracy, and therefore value to the user, of the imagery produced.

“The launch of ClearSky in April introduced new technology to crop imagery and was an industry-first for RHIZA. In the proceeding months we have dropped 220,000 images into the Contour platform. This is equivalent to a new image every six days into every account we service. I’m incredibly proud of this achievement,” says Sam.

Until the first re-training at the end of June, the imagery had a deviation from Sentinel imagery of between 8 and 12% depending on the crop. This has been improved by 2%. With the support of agronomists who have been busy ground-truthing many of the images and a pixel-by-pixel comparison of ClearSky imagery with that from Sentinel, the deviation has been reduced to 6 to 10%.

Retrained ClearSky imagery in the Contour platform.

Although the gain may seem small, Sam is confident that users will notice the improvement once the revised imagery is released into Contour over the summer.

Beginning this autumn, the task will be repeated with a second re-training expected to be complete in the new year.

“The purpose of this is to continue refining the system and improve accuracy of the imagery. In winter wheat the deviation is already low at 6%, but we can improve it further. This is a remarkable achievement and continues to be ahead of what other providers can deliver,” says Sam.

“The launch of ClearSky in April introduced new technology to crop imagery and was an industry-first for RHIZA. We have dropped 220,000 images into the Contour platform. This is equivalent to a new image every six days into every account we service. “

Yield maps

Yield maps are the exam results of agriculture, but unlike exams you get a chance to improve on the performance in the following years. By overlaying yield maps with other forms of data, such as sample date or NDVi imagery, it is possible to understand how performance varies between seasons.

To make this possible, a new module, appropriately named ‘Yield Maps’, will be launched within the Contour platform in August. Central to its appeal is the ease at which maps can be uploaded for analysis.

Yield Maps will be available in the Maps and Analysis tab in Contour from August.

ingng“We have developed it so the system does the hard work, not the user,” says Sam. “The customer uploads their yield data, both current and historic, into their account and then the program automatically uploads the data into the correct field and year including if there is more than one machine in a field. It is also compatible with all the major machinery manufactures, so there is no need for prior file conversation or formatting.”

An important feature is the bespoke file management system. This allows the user to see which files have been imported, if any have been duplicated, which were rejected and why.

The time needed to upload a farm’s data package depends largely on the size of the files, but while upload time is largely dependent on internet speed, the processing is often faster than other programs on the market.

“To test the system, I uploaded six years of historical data for a 400-hectare account and from the start of the process to being able to view the files in Contour took about 17 minutes,” says Sam.

Once the process is complete, the user clicks on the ‘Yield maps’ tab, selects the year they want to view and uses the filters to select the data range wanted. For example, a user might want to look at the distribution of yield throughout a given field. Having selected the desired range, the map automatically updates. This can be overlaid with other maps to explain variations in performance.

For those looking to compare performance over years or the impact of changes in management practice such as Nitrogen rates, this is extremely valuable.

“In some cases, the agronomist will be called on to help the grower understand these changes in performance, for instance, an EC map could be used to highlight changes in soil texture and explain areas of poorer establishment,” says Sam.

“This may then prompt conversations around how to respond. In this example, the solution may be to increase the seed rate in certain areas or if drilling after a certain date,” he adds.

With these new developments, the potential for analysis is considerable.

A series of “how to” video guides will be available on the RHIZA website, and local account managers will able to assist in uploading yield data to show the benefits of closer scrutiny when it comes to the final results. Yield maps will be available to all RHIZA customers at every package level.

Nutrient management planning will soon be available in the Contour platform.

Nutrient planner

The nutrient management planning tool is one of the most requested developments to be offered through RHIZA. Its rollout is progressing well, says Sam and it will be gradually incorporated into Contour as its component features are finalised.

These elements are not yet visible to users but are part of the deployment process. By the end of September, there will be a fully functioning nutrient management tool for arable crops. This will allow users to develop a nutrient requirement plan and nutrient management plan incorporating variable rate P and K (where applicable).

By the end of October this will include NVZ compliance and by the end of November this will be extended to include grassland nutrient planning. By the beginning of 2023 this will include livestock manures and full compliance for every arable business.

“The tool has been designed to be intuitive and fully compliant with all the farm types within the RHIZA portfolio of customers,” says Sam.

“It has been our intention from the start to make it easier to use, more up-to-date and practical than some of the alternatives currently on the market. It will also be comprehensive in its scope thereby removing the need to use other programs,” he adds.

Once the initial rollout has been completed, the team will gather feedback from users ahead of releasing a series of updates towards the end of 2023.

Future releases will introduce precision tools such as the ability to set target indices, minimum and maximum application rates for variable rate systems, and smart recommendations whereby the program is able to consider nutrient indices and soil and crop type to advise a product suitable for the situation to allow growers to get best use of the data they have currently on their farm.

“This further extends the range of precision services and supports the development of tailored nutrition plans. It brings all the platforms together in to one system making it easier to use and maintain,” says Sam.