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David Sparks Ph.d Problems with Drones
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: January 11, 2019

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I was talking with Anthony Atlas, VP of product for a company called Ceres Imaging which uses high resolution cameras and sophisticated software to analyze a farmers field for potential problems. I asked him if he used drones to carry his technology and he had some pretty surprising revelations that I had never heard before. He said that drones have short flight times, can’t carry big payloads and can be taken out by predatory birds like hawks and eagles.

“Ceres Imaging’s innovative technology solutions allows them to partner with farmers in California, the U.S. Midwest, and Australia to solve the world’s most important agriculture issues. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to Insight Venture Partners’ portfolio, and look forward to helping the team advance farming efficiency across the globe,” said Harley Miller, Vice President at Insight Venture Partners.


Visionary farmers choose Ceres’ imagery products for early warnings of pest and disease and to better utilize water and fertilizer. Ceres’ actionable images have improved yields for growers by tens of tons an acre, and profits by hundreds of dollars an acre. Clients and partners include Olam, The Climate Corporation, Agtegra, and Evergreen FS.


By using proprietary image sensors, computer vision, machine learning, and plant science, the company allows farmers to react to changes in their fields weeks before they can see them with the naked eye. Unlike traditional legacy imagery, like true-color and NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) imagery, Ceres’ spectral imaging products let farmers monitor individual plant water and nutrient content, as well as stress levels. This helps farmers identify disease hotspots and conserve pesticide and fungicide. It also means greater crop yields from scarce water—“more crop per drop”—and cuts down on wasted fertilizer by highlighting plant-level nutrient status.


“Our imagery helps farmers cope with a changing world full of challenges such as climate variability, labor shortages, and depressed markets,” said Ashwin Madgavkar, founder and CEO of Ceres Imaging. "Like the farmers we serve, we know that agriculture is more than a business. Our growers care deeply about their land and about the food they grow. From grain farmers in the Midwest to California vineyards and almond orchards, these farmers are careful with resources, not just for their bottom line, but because they are stewards of the land."


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