Project Uses Drones to Scan the Needs of Every Tree

Tecnolivo pursues the modernization of oliviculture with the creation of a pioneering technological instrument based on precision agriculture.

By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas
Aug. 29, 2018 10:34 UTC

Olive groves in Huelva and Southern Portugal are the focus of Tecnolivo, a research project which exam­ines the use of pre­ci­sion tech­nol­ogy for the man­age­ment and super­vi­sion of olive tree cul­ti­va­tion with a view to max­i­miz­ing research, tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment and inno­va­tion to gen­er­ate busi­ness in the olive sec­tor.

The €2.5‑million project, led by the University of Huelva through its TEP-192 group devoted to con­trol and robot­ics, seeks to man­age agri­cul­tural areas con­sid­er­ing the pecu­liar­i­ties of indi­vid­ual olive trees rather than han­dling entire plan­ta­tions homoge­nously.

To accom­plish this, the project uses drones with sen­sors and mul­ti­spec­tral imag­ing cam­eras.

The sen­sors are placed either on the ground sur­round­ing the trees, or on the trees’ bark to obtain infor­ma­tion about their nutri­tional sit­u­a­tion, hydra­tion, flow­er­ing and fruit.

The cam­eras take mul­ti­spec­tral imagery that cap­tures what is vis­i­ble to the human eye and infrared images that can detect the radi­a­tion gen­er­ated by each tree and the land that sur­rounds it.

Many con­sid­er­a­tions can be deter­mined depend­ing on the analy­sis of band spec­tra. These can reveal whether a plant lacks water or fer­til­iz­ers, if it suf­fers or is at risk of suf­fer­ing dis­eases, and the progress of flow­er­ing and fruit growth, among other con­sid­er­a­tions. The greater the num­ber of spec­tra ana­lyzed the greater the num­ber of vari­ables that can be iden­ti­fied to man­age cul­ti­va­tion more pre­cisely.

What makes this project unique, though, is that it allows to con­fig­ure a com­pre­hen­sive solu­tion that com­bines the data obtained, sent out, processed, inter­preted and visu­al­ized with guided actions in a pio­neer­ing tech­no­log­i­cal instru­ment that is user-friendly for farm­ers. Its devel­op­ers claim it allows for the thor­ough, eco­log­i­cal and opti­mized man­age­ment of olive groves through the non-inva­sive mon­i­tor­iza­tion of agro­nomic para­me­ters that might be rel­e­vant for pro­duc­tion.

Experiments are being held in Andalusia and Portugal, con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios for olive tree cul­ti­va­tion accord­ing to loca­tion and plan­ta­tion den­sity: a tra­di­tional approach with trees planted apart from each other, an inten­sive approach with a greater num­ber of trees per hectare, and a super-inten­sive approach with the great­est den­sity per hectare. Oleodiel Cooperative in Huelva and Portuguese com­pany Elaia col­lab­o­rate in the project.

The project’s ulti­mate objec­tive is to pro­vide farm­ers with an easy-to-man­age tool that could be used on a reg­u­lar basis, just as trac­tors or other indis­pens­able equip­ment.

Training will be pro­vided to explain how to use the tech­nol­ogy and inter­pret indi­vid­ual tree data to man­age olive groves accord­ing to each tree’s respec­tive needs and with the great­est pos­si­ble sus­tain­abil­ity, favor­ing the opti­mal use of resources and envi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion.

Olive cul­ti­va­tion is the focus of the project because olives are the crop with the great­est added-value and eco­nomic poten­tial in Andalusia, but the University of Huelva is explor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of apply­ing the method­ol­ogy to other crops.

In addi­tion to the University of Huelva, other Spanish enti­ties col­lab­o­rat­ing in the project include the National Institution of Aerospatiale Technique (INTA,) and Nuestra Señora de la Oliva Cooperative Society in Huelva.

Portugal’s National Institute of Aerospatiale Technique (INTA,) the National Institution of Agrarian and Veterinary Research, Ubiwhere, and Murtigão-Agricultural Society also par­tic­i­pate in Tecnolivo.

The project is led by José Manuel Andújar, a pro­fes­sor at the University of Huelva. The R&D project is financed with FEDER Funds from the European Union.


Related Articles