In 2021, Veracruz formed a partnership with Aerobotics, a company set up in South Africa, which captures and processes aerial images especially in farming, using artificial intelligence through machine learning algorithms.
This intelligent tool enables producers to access various indicators that provide them with an all-encompassing vision of their product, leading to gains in associated efficiency and management, which would otherwise be impossible using only traditional farming methods.
One of the pillars of precision farming is precisely the detailed information that is obtained, making production much more efficient and reducing the impact of all uncontrollable variables, such as water scarcity, pests or diseases, thereby decreasing potential costs. As such, that critical, detailed information enables the producer to speed up their entire reaction and decision process.
“The indicators used make it possible to measure a series of parameters individually and also to compare them with each other at different times of the year. It is another essential tool that aims to provide a much more detailed vision of the reality of our crop”, underlines Alexandre Sousa, Director of Veratech.
Veracruz is currently already using this system at the Carvalhal and Vale Serrano estates and its aim is to extend this resource to the other estates.
Bernardo Costa, head of global partnerships at Aerobotics, explains that “ the almond sector in Portugal has grown and gained increasing relevance and Aerobotics works with high resolution aerial images and processes them through machine learning algorithms, which we are working on and want to gradually extend and improve.”
Alexandre Sousa also adds that “this system makes it possible to automatically detect which trees have been planted and count and compare those that are living and those that are dead, but also to provide details about the treetops, otherwise imperceptible, thereby assuring gains in efficiency on the one hand and a reduction in associated catastrophes and potential costs on the other.”
16 flights are planned for 2022, starting in April, which will allow information to be collected and detailed reports to be drawn up, providing accuracy on the health of the sector, which will simultaneously contribute to further increasing productivity and providing a rapid and efficient response when solving any problems.
“Precision farming is relatively recent and is being successfully used in perennial crops – almond groves, vines, citrus fruits, for example. For precision farming, it is essential to invest in technology, not least because production costs are going up and up and labour is getting scarcer. It is therefore my firm belief that it is the producer who must become more efficient”, adds Bernardo Costa.
In 2020, Veracruz created Veratech, the group’s technological arm, which has its own team, comprising a drone pilot, a data scientist and a software developer, ensuring the adoption and daily application of all the smart farming tools, including a blockchain system and analyses using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, applied to real time data.
Over the next five years, Veracruz plans to invest over 6 million euros in technology, which will enable it to use resources effectively, while drastically reducing waste.