Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

Digital pest scouting turns pest oasis into pest nightmare

Climate change-fueled extreme weather conditions are posing challenges especially to those growers who regularly deal with an already fluctuating climate. "Usually, we have a rainy and a dry season, but recently, things have been changing," says Juan Roberto Barillas from Floricultura, a PanAmerican Seeds partner. The ornamental seed grower is out of Guatemala, where they grow in greenhouses spanning more than twenty-two hectares. "We are getting dry months during the rainy season, which is a huge challenge." Growers in such climates usually grow crops that benefit from the humidity of the rainy season. If that is lacking, the flower wouldn't produce as much pollen, crucial for growers like Floricultura, which then sees their planning requiring adjustments if not getting delayed altogether. At the same time, there's something on top going on at Floricultura. "We are in a rural area, and there's a lot of agriculture around. In the dry season, people in the area abandon their crops, and our farm becomes like an oasis for pests and diseases."

Upping automation and digitalization
Lately, Floricultura has been investing in middle-tech automation to improve the greenhouse efficiency and resiliency. "We have invested in automated shade screens and fogging systems, and we strongly invested in precise irrigation systems. We've seen the benefits of those as we've recorded an increase in productivity, so far. I'd say that right now, 15% of the farm has this kind of automation." While that all helps reduce pest and disease pressure, Floricultura could see how their defense mechanism could be further improved. After all, PanAmerican Seeds is one of the biggest breeders globally, and as such, highest standards and timely delivery are of the utmost importance.

"Over the last couple of years, we have been experiencing a strong digitalization of the farm, both from a production and administrative perspective," he points out. "Among the many partners, Floricultura was chosen by PanAmerican Seeds to look into the market and trial a digital solution for disease detection and prevention. We set up our greenhouse to conduct trials, and selected MyCrops from several other candidates."

Managing the farm
MyCrops is a company specializing in farm management software and hardware integration that has developed three distinct products which all follow the same principle: be on top of everything going on at the farm. "At our Guatemala farm, we have been using their Dash and Scout solutions." The Dash Farm Management Software allows a grower to record farm activities at batch level to improve the efficiency of day-to-day operation, ensuring precise planning down to a T. "In the past, we have been using Excel sheets, but it wasn't a very well-organized system, and we didn't have a database. We see our plants as doctors see their patients. We need to constantly know the entire 'medical history' and make decisions accordingly. This helps us get much better planning. If we make good planning, then we will have more chances to succeed." That is especially true when the Dash app is used together with the Scout app, according to Juan.

"The Scout is an IPM mobile and desktop app that allows us to easily collect data and track pest outbreaks in real-time. Our scouting groups go around our greenhouses constantly collecting all sorts of information, from notes to pictures, and upload them all into the system. Because we have different varieties in the same greenhouse, we want to know not only how a pest problem is going, but also to what extent a variety is susceptible to what. The Scout collects all the information necessary, and our growers on the field can make the appropriate decisions in real-time," says Juan. He continues to point out how good detection and timely reaction have reduced the amount of chemicals and have increased their beneficials. "Alongside a 10-13% reduction in data collection costs, we see an average of 8% decrease in use of chemicals since we started to use MyCrops. This aligns with our sustainability value. In the past, chemicals were used as a form of reaction. Moreover, we have been using beneficials, but we get them from the Netherlands or Mexico, so getting a constant and speedy supply is a challenge. Since we can now plan much better and are using fewer chemicals, our beneficial releases have become much more effective and efficient."

Custom control
Juan continues to explain that the close relationship with MyCrops was instrumental in fine-tuning the apps to their needs. Given the positive results of the trial, the two applications were adopted by two additional sites and are slated to be implemented in other PanAmerican Seeds and Ball Horticulture partner farms. "We have established a true partnership with MyCrops. They have supported us and are still supporting us. The results we are getting show we made the right decision to select them."

There's more to come. MyCrops indeed made the headlines thanks to their innovative off-the-shelf, AI-powered cameras that constantly monitor a cultivation for pests and diseases. Such a feature may be implemented into the Dash and Scout apps, in the future. "The horticulture industry needs to go into AI and automation, that's the way to go. As a corporation working in such a competitive market, it's crucial to grow efficiently and reliably. At Floricultura, we have way too much info for a person to process and manage. If we can use all that info, with the support of AI, we'll certainly greatly improve our operation and especially our strategy planning."

For more information:
[email protected]

PanAmerican Seed