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Mriya Agro Holding moves into unmanned aerial vehicles

Mriya Agro Holding has invested UAH 500,000 in an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to monitor its fields. The new UAV is capable of covering 700 to 1000 hectares in a single sortie, sending back high-quality information on growing crops.

It carries two cameras. One, a spectral imager, collects imagery suitable for analysis by NDVI (Normalised Differential Vegetation Index), enabling better and quicker monitoring of crop growth. UAVs beat satellites because they provide higher quality images. On a satellite image, a single pixel represents an area of 10 × 10 m on the ground, but on a UAV image, depending on the flight altitude, a pixel may represent an area as small as 8 × 8 cm. Thus agronomists are able to make out individual plants and determine their condition, detect germination, measure contamination and disease, calculate biological yield and, consequently, carry out qualitative analyses and rapidly make any changes necessary to the cultivation technology.

Equally valuable is the ability to analyse images by means of special software using an agronomical knowledge base to perform an initial field analysis without the intervention of a human agronomist. The software will be evaluated to determine its suitability for use in the decision-making process in future, one of the criteria being a comparison of its outputs with the agronomists’ recommendations.

‘When Mriya began field monitoring two years ago, we used little drones and satellite data,’ says Mriya chief agronomist and head of technology and science evaluation Oleksandr Khmelyuk. ‘But those methods are relatively inefficient compared to UAVs. Certainly the satellite lets you see how much green there is in the fields. It overflies our fields once every three to five days, but because of cloud cover in the region we get a photo once a month, which isn’t enough to give us the true picture. Small drones are not, I don’t think, the most efficient instrument now available either. Their batteries give them a flight time of only 40 to 50 minutes, so the area they can cover is relatively small. Consequently we use them mainly for making in-house training materials or point monitoring.’

Mriya has acquired a UAV primarily to monitor fields growing sugar beet and potato. These are the most input-intensive agricultural crops relying on complex cultivation technology and requiring a high level of care.

UAVs are just one area of the work of the Mriya Agro Holding technology and science evaluation department. In addition to the new UAV, the centre will also have its own soil analysis laboratory, mixing station and seed production. It will run trials and work on further upgrades to the Agronomist's Tablet.