Digitized and automated processes are becoming increasingly important in modern agricultural enterprises. Machine vision methods play a key role here. Among other things, as Christoph Wagner, Product Manager Embedded Vision and Technical Product Manager MERLIC at MVTec reports, they can be used for a variety of precision farming applications.
To remain competitive, farmers must optimize their value creation processes and make them more efficient. Modern digital technologies that are used for intelligently automating workflows and adapting them to actual conditions (known as smart farming) offer practical support. Machine vision is gaining importance in this context. It originated in industrial applications and is now being used more and more in agriculture.
The technology consists of two main components: hardware and software. Hardware refers to what is known as image acquisition devices, such as cameras, scanners, and sensors, which first record a large quantity of digital image data from specific scenarios in agricultural production processes. This information is then processed by machine vision software, such as MVTec HALCON, and made available for appropriate applications. For example, the system is capable of automatically recognizing specific objects and situations based on visual features alone.
Modern agricultural enterprises can make use of drones for the targeted and location-specific cultivation of agricultural acreage (precision farming). The following scenario demonstrates how this works in practice: A drone fitted with a high-resolution camera flies over a piece of farmland. The integrated machine vision software evaluates the recorded images and automatically detects certain features from the air. For example, abnormal chlorophyll content in the crops indicates a fungal disease or pest infestation.
Based on these findings, farmers can take highly targeted measures. For example, they can precisely spray only the affected areas with pesticides or fungicides. Multispectral processes integrated into the machine vision systems help determine the condition of the plants. Special multispectral cameras are used to detect and process additional colour channels that are invisible to the naked eye. This allows abnormalities in the vegetation to be detected automatically, reliably, and at an early stage.
Another application scenario is targeted fertilization. In this case, the machine vision software precisely measures the crop height based on the digital image data, making it possible to fertilize only low-growth areas as needed. According to the same principle, fields can also be irrigated on a site-specific basis. In this case, infrared cameras measure the temperature and prepare a heat map of the relevant area.
Based on the measured evaporation chill, the actual, precise moisture level in the individual regions is then made visible so that irrigation can be deliberately adapted to requirements. The image data does not necessarily have to be recorded by drones but can also be captured by satellites from a great height.
The use of machine vision technology provides farmers with all the benefits of precision farming. Agricultural land can be monitored, fertilized, and irrigated in a targeted manner, which makes for more efficient and sustainable cultivation practices. The optimized, need-based use of resources, including pesticides, water, and fertilizer, allows farmers to save money, reduce effort, and meet legal requirements more precisely.
You can find more information about MVTec and smart farming on its website.