In the scorching heat and swirling dust of the Arava Desert, Bayer Crop Science, Israel, has just concluded a collaboration with Fermata on a project designed to validate a model for reducing the use of pesticides through the application of artificial intelligence. The project involved conducting a feasibility study of Fermata’s automated pest & disease detection platform, Croptimus™, with the goal of verifying the capabilities of this computer vision system and proving how early detection of pests and diseases increases sustainability. To this end, Croptimus was installed to monitor melons growing in mesh-covered tunnels within this harsh environment.
The system employs AI to analyze thousands of images collected daily by cameras installed within the facility to detect the tiniest indications of both pests and pathogens, which, left untreated, quickly get out of hand — leading to crop loss and a reduction of produce quality. Early detection being key, Croptimus is designed to substantially reduce crop loss and crop inputs (including pesticides) and dramatically reduce scouting time — in significant aggregate savings.
The endeavor was an unqualified success, according to Imri Gabay, Crop Protection Customer Advisory Manager at Bayer, Israel, “The initial experiment was extremely successful, and the system copes well with the many challenges in the field. We are already working on continuing cooperation between our companies.” Commenting further, he elaborated, “Early detection enables the application of less toxic substances, quickly dealing with the pest or disease before a major outbreak, allowing for precise spraying of a small area — and as a result, saving pesticides while obtaining cleaner produce.”
Alon Kapon, the grower heading the study, concurred, “Often Fermata found things I did not see at the time. The later I discover a problem, the more treatment is needed. If I find a problem later, I need to do two to three treatments before it helps, but if I find it early enough with Fermata, even one treatment can be enough, and I can use targeted mitigation — without spraying the entire facility.”
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With energy prices soaring and greenhouse profits shrinking, Croptimus boosts the bottom line for growers while simultaneously reducing the need for pesticides and other inputs which would be otherwise wasted on lost crops — dramatically improving sustainability in agriculture.
Fermata CEO, Valeria Kogan, PhD, added, “We at Fermata very much appreciate the opportunity to work with Bayer on reducing the amount of chemicals applied by growers. We are looking forward to this continuing collaboration and making our AI for early pest and disease detection available to farmers around the globe.”