Using data visualization during key phenological stages of your crop

Produceplan.com
5 min readApr 19, 2018

Farming a crop is time consuming enough. Cultivating with precision ag tools is just another thing to worry about. Your best chance to win is by finding the right vendors, the right technologies, and investing in training for key personnel and farm managers before the season gets started.

Lastly, knowing what to “do” with all the data available is a job within itself. With so many variables, interdependencies, and unknowns, having a way to measure key indicators in real time, with real context, is crucial for today’s farm manager. Today we’ll show an example of how our farm managers are using real time data on a tricky crop to cultivate — cantaloupe — using tools designed specifically for the problems we mentioned above: how to beneficially use your farm data and when use it.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — April 2018.

It’s hot outside on Saturday and our local Technology Support Representative, Eleuterio, has a decision to make: Is it time to induce stress on the Golden Crush plant in order to force reproduction to occur (bearing of fruit)? It is indeed. The next question: what method he’ll use to induce stress on the plant — water management being one of his options. By lowering the amount of water available to the plant’s root zone, Eleuterio can “trick” the plant into thinking it needs to survive, and effectively “force” the plant to start creating the tasty melons we all love.

The key over the next two weeks is for Eleuterio to understand the fine line between too much stress versus not enough — which like many things in life — requires measurement. If Eleuterio stresses the plant too much, the fruit won’t survive because there isn’t enough water available for them to live on the plant’s vine . If he stresses the plant too little, there’s high probability the plant won’t think it needs to produce fruit to begin with. Keep reading below.

Eleuterio inspecting the cantaloupe plant in Puerto Vallarta

Enter the era of digital farming — technology for water management.

Week 1 — stressing the crop: no fruit yet. What do we do? How do we measure the water uptake of the plant? These are the questions Eleuterio is asking. Luckily, he is part of the product development team here at Sostena, so he installs a GroundSight System 1 soil moisture monitor, which is basically a battery powered cellular xbox for farming. It monitors key statistics like soil moisture profile in real time. When you power on the System 1, the sensor gives live readings on Sostena.com’s product cloud, which includes other tools like a planting schedule creator and a sales forecasting tool. Enough self promotion.

Announcement: We now have real time visibility for Eleuterio to optimally manage plant stress. Time to grow some fruit.

Example sensor and software in action

Week 1 results: Off to a good start. If you’re still here — keep reading.

First week of crop set with controlled moisture levels on the plant — 1 fruit per plant, with many flowers indicating more on the way.

Using technology to quantify and visualize the amount of crop stress on the plant, Eleuterio is logging on to sostena.com every hour or so in order to check the moisture levels in his plant. He knows that if he runs his water above a certain percentage, he’s probably over watering, and if his reading is below a certain threshold, the fruit in the picture above may start to “abort”. Think of “fruit abortion” like this: because the plant doesn’t have enough water in the root area, it will seek other areas with available water in order to survive. Each of these young melons is around 90% water, so fruit on the vine is the next logical place for a thirsty plant to pull water from. Unfortunately, this will also kill off the fruit, and reduce the crop yield that Eleuterio hopes to achieve. It’s in this phenological stage of the crop’s life that data visualization becomes so critical, something our team at Sostena is keenly aware of. With all the risks associated in farming, better tools can mean faster and more accurate action. Hopefully better action leads to better results.

Week 2 of reproduction: We are officially dialed in…

By the end of the second week — keeping moisture levels consistently between 60 and 70% has resulted in 3.5–4 fruits per plant, a 3x+ increase in fruit from the week prior.

By the end of week 2, Eleuterio will constantly be watering for longer periods of time to slowly grow the size of these melons, preparing them for harvest. Below you’ll see a snapshot of the finished product Eleuterio is trying to achieve, with high enough yield, pressures and sugar content to justify cultivating the crop. It’s a pretty tough gig, especially if you are growing blind.

The final product will be this golden harper melon — with the right size, flesh pressure and sugar content.

Today’s reality: Farm technology must have purpose.

While there is plenty of “technology” out there and available, not all technology is equal. We argue that the most important things to look for when upping your ag-tech game is usefulness and relevance. Farm tech is great, but knowing how and when to use technology (like Eleuterio) is much more important. If your provider can’t answer the how and when questions, keep looking.

For more information about our technology or vegetable seed products please contact support@sostena.com or +1–877–450–0047.

Until next time!

Sostena Inc.

Disclaimer

In our Products, we use information models, research and data (including historical, estimated and simulated weather and agronomic data), and combine it with information provided by you, to generate the suggestions, moisture profile percentages, growth stages, anticipated transplant dates and other information we provide. The generated information and suggestions are estimates based on these inputs, and we cannot guarantee actual results. Our Products, models, data and suggestions may change over time. Individual results may vary, as weather, growing conditions and farming practices differ across growers, locations and years.

Our suggestions and the Products should not be used as a substitute for sound farming practices, including diligent field monitoring, or as a sole means for making farming, risk management or financial decisions. We want to help you make better decisions, but we are not acting as your agronomist, pest control advisor, financial advisor, insurance agent, commodity broker or agent. Consult those service professionals before making decisions.

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Produceplan.com

Founded in 2016, Produceplan is an easy and effective fresh produce software system that drives your agribusiness growth.