The IRS Foundation, Aurea Imaging and Birds.ai have collaboratively launched a pilot to automate the counting of sugar beets using drones. Currently, the growth and emergence of sugar beet crops are monitored visually and on foot, which is a time-consuming and costly operation.

“Drones of Aurea Imaging and the analysis software of Birds.ai enable the sugar beet crop research of IRS by providing information on crop numbers, emergence rates and crop density”

says Noud van Swaaij, statistical analyst of the IRS.

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“If the sugar beet can be detected in various growth stages, the growth potential of new sugar beet seeds or different crop treatments can be mapped and studied, which contributes to the development of growth models for the sugar beet crop in The Netherlands. Furthermore, the resulting crop density maps enable farmers to fertilize and irrigate their sugar beet crops in an efficient and precise manner.”

Birds.ai uses artificial intelligence to automatically analyse aerial imagery. The software is capable to automatically detect and classify objects in this imagery.

“We are currently investigating the application of our technology in various sectors. For the agricultural sector, this trial is a wonderful opportunity to investigate the performance and value of our software”

says Pieter Oranje, co-founder of Birds.ai.

The test is conducted at five different locations in the Netherlands. Drone images will be collected by Aurea imaging of all the parcels. Subsequently, Birds.ai will analyse all the drone images to find all the sugar beet crops. The various parcels contain sugar beet crops in different stages of growth. In a few weeks it is clear whether the trial can be called a success.