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Mriya Agro Holding creates agronomic evaluation department

Mriya Agro Holding has created a technology and science evaluation department to oversee the introduction of global best practice and production processes. Its new R&D Centre aims to increase efficiency by identifying innovative solutions, trialling them in the conditions of the company, implementing information technologies, and setting up new types of production and new partnership projects. At first the department will cover the five areas of trials, soil quality, the Agronomist’s Tablet, mixers and drones.

The project leader Oleksandr Khmelyuk said: ‘The department was created in response to the imperative to keep increasing the company’s efficiency. We are not standing still, but want to improve and keep up with the times. To do that, we will undertake our own evaluations of advanced technologies, new practices and the best global innovative solutions in crop raising. Once tried and tested in our conditions they will be incorporated into production processes.’

The agronomic evaluation process is quite simple. Requests and suggestions are received from all levels of the company to improve existing technologies or introduce new ones. Stage one of the process comprises theoretical considerations, feasibility studies and calculations. Stage two takes those innovations found to be appropriate and tests them in real production conditions. The final stage, once innovations have proved to be effective, is to introduce them in practice.

Perhaps the most important part of the department’s purpose is the ongoing automation of production processes by intensive introduction of information technology. It is worth remarking that the lion’s share of the software used in Mriya projects is written by in-house specialists. Consequently modifications and upgrades when needed can be made immediately.

Last year Mriya successfully introduced an invention of its own—the Agronomist’s Tablet, which enables company agronomists to access interactive field maps even offline and does away with paper reporting almost entirely.

An upgrade to the Agronomist’s Tablet, due in the near future, will reduce the time spent monitoring each field to 2‒3 minutes and compile reports on growing crops automatically using a built-in algorithm. In the past, it took agronomists 15‒20 minutes to enter the data for a single field. The tablet will also get a series of additional reference materials and tools. In particular, a statistical calculator for determining evenness of sowing will make it possible for sowing machinery to be adjusted while sowing is in progress, instead of waiting for the first growth above ground, by when it is too late to change anything.

Another major innovation will be Mriya’s own soil analysis laboratory. The facility is economically justified because each year the company needs analyses of soil from 30,000 hectares. It will help optimise expenditure on mineral fertilisers, which make up 30% of costs, and manage soil quality.

Meanwhile this is now the second year that Mriya Agro Holding has used quadcopter drones to monitor the condition of growing crops, observe the progress of the harvest, make training videos, and much else beside. This year it is planned to acquire a new drone with an onboard multispectral camera. In the past two years, reliable assessments of the state of the fields were unavailable from satellite imagery as it was hampered by problems of cloud cover and pixel size. A drone, however, carrying several cameras will enable us to get away from less effective monitoring and undertake surveys wherever and whenever necessary. The best possible information to manage risks to crop yields will be obtained using NDVI indices.

Mriya takes a similar approach to crop protection. In the current season, trials are underway on a newly acquired mixer. Its purpose is to increase the quality of crop sprays, ensure the right amounts reach the fields, and introduce the practice of making up spray materials. Mixers may be mobile or fixed, but as they require clean water of the correct pH and hardness, the company intends to site them close to stores of plant protection products and sources of clean water, in accordance with sanitary rules, in order to make most efficient use of the products.

Mriya’s plans for the longer term also include establishing its own seed business so that it can not only meet its own demand but grow seed for sale to other companies. Work has begun already: last year the company’s seed production facility at Khorostkiv began providing seed preparation services (cleaning and sizing) to seed sellers. The facility can handle up to 300 tonnes of grain a day, operates two parallel production lines and achieves a quality standard of over 99% clean product.