Drone technology to predict animal health and crop disease – Agriland

February 5, 2022 10:00 am
An Irish-based company is using drone technology to predict field and animal health, as well as increase farm safety through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
The technology – which is suitable for all types of farms and livestock – enables farmers to make decisions based on real-time data gathered by a drone, according to founder of ZenaDrone, Dr. Shaun Passley.
The drone – which was initially developed for the hemp farming sector – uses high-definition cameras and sensors to monitor large areas, providing surveillance and inspection.

Prediction through scans

A farmer’s land gets scanned by the drone on a daily basis to gather as much data as possible, thus the more data, the better and higher the number of predictions.

“Seeing how things have been in the past, we are then able to predict the future,” CEO Passley explained.

“Seeing how things have been in the past, we are then able to predict the future,” CEO Passley explained.
Flying overhead, the drone uses five different types of scans, including thermal and infrared scans, which then send an image down below.
Before any area of a farm can be scanned, current conditions need to be considered and understood, for instance soil moisture or dryness.

Image source: ZenaDrone

Experts in the field of crop diseases for example, can then access scans of fields to determine the potential existence of a disease. Provided the disease is known, it can then be tracked once the information is put into the AI.
All drones which are already in use add information to the database enhancing credibility of future predictions.
This means that through the use of machine learning, the AI is then able to predict the disease in different stages in another field in the future – thus allowing time to prepare before it spreads.

It can also reduce the use of pesticides as the drone can identify and only apply it on areas that need to be treated.

Livestock management

In the same way the AI is able to detect diseases in plants, the company is also aiming to predict changes in the behaviour of animals.
As animals become pregnant, the size increase can be seen over a period of time and if such, a physical change is recorded. This can be labelled to a number of symptoms.
Scans are then automatically compared to previous ones and therefore, if another animal in future shows similar changes, the AI can predict that an animal is most likely pregnant, Passley explained.

breeding season
The AI is able to predict a potential pregnancy of an animal

Using the same technology, behavioural changes in animals can also be analysed and labelled to symptoms that had previously occurred in another animal.
Scans of livestock taken daily enable the machine learning to assess – through comparisons of past scans of healthy and sick animals – whether livestock are behaving abnormal.
This could include temperature information of animals, i.e. whether an animal is cooler or hotter than usual. All details are added to the database and then a diagnosis can be predicted in future.

Surveillance

Speaking to Agriland, Passley stated that it is physically impossible to scan hundreds of acres of fields with the human eye, however a drone can act as a tool of farm surveillance.
Enhancing safety, the AI is able to detect people that are not authorised to be on the farm too. Since each animal is tagged – which means being identified and put into the database – it can also track where each animal goes or went, through the use of previous scans and monitoring.

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