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Case Study: Maximizing Yields with Sentera’s PHX Drone System
| March 28, 2023 |
How ForeFront Ag maximizes yields with Sentera

With more than 50 growers serviced by ForeFront Ag Solutions, technology serves as a differentiator for elevating relationships – helping to build trust and provide deep insights into crop health.

ForeFront Ag Solutions focuses on helping growers make informed business decisions by providing progressive, science-based data. Located in northeast Indiana, the team focuses on improving production at all points in the season to help lower costs and maximize yields.

For Erich Eller, president of ForeFront Ag Solutions, and his team, precision ag – including drone technology and analytics – serves as one piece of the puzzle to maximize grower relationships and help build trust with growers.

 

The Solution

Ellers’ team focuses on helping to inform growers how to maximize yield. This boils down to insight into where they should focus their time, whether it’s early in the season for replant or to identify input needs and amounts.

“Anyone who works with growers know they have more priorities than time in the season,” said Eller. “Our goal is to provide data to our growers so they can make decisions – while knowing what acreage needed the most attention at the time.”

Using Sentera’s PHX Fixed-wing Drone paired with the company’s Double 4K Sensor, ForeFront Ag Solutions focuses on capturing high-aerial resolution imagery across grower acreage, which are then translated into insights like Stand Count or Tassel Count via Sentera’s data science ecosystem.

“Flying with the PHX means we can cover 700-1,000 acres in an hour,” said Eller. “Once we look at the data, we can take the tablets back out to the field to focus on problem areas. Overall, the scouting process is just much faster and more productive.”

The aerial imagery can be used for a mosaic to indicate NDVI values early in the season, helping to indicate where there may be plant stress or health issues. And, with Sentera’s analytics, his team can take it one step further with analytics that provide crop performance data for every acre.

“Every season brings its own challenges,” continued Eller. “Weather tends to be the most unpredictable early in the season, and getting initial emergence data really starts to paint the picture of what the rest of the season may look like.”

Beyond Sentera’s Stand Count, Ellers’ team also uses Tassel Count, which helps to indicate yield late in the season.

“Comparing Stand and Tassel Counts on the same fields helps us see how the season progressed,” said Eller. “With that data, we are able to clearly understand where there may be some losses – and dig further into the data, whether its inputs or weather, to understand the why.”

 

The Results

Eller and his team have changed the level of insight they can provide to their growers.

“Stand Count data gives us an early indication of yield estimates,” said Eller. “But, it also helps us understand how much nitrogen may be needed throughout the season, as early as first emergence. This is a gamechanger for our customers.”

In one instance, the team did a study on the value that Stand Count was able to provide to their customers. It started at emergence, with the ability to inform key replant decisions.

“Throughout the season, we focus on identifying problems in the field, consulting with our growers about the issues, and then providing solutions to limit the impact to yield,” said Eller.

With that approach, ForeFront Ag Solutions helped one grower make an extra $50,000 on a 150-acre field.

“Once you use an ag drone system to capture data throughout the season, you won’t go back,” said Eller. “From knowing where you need to replant or whether you need to go spray, the insight you get from the aerial imagery helps identify priorities to maximize yield – which is what matters most at the end of the day.”

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