Drones for sustainable increase of potato and pear cultivation

Drones with a smart camera are eminently suited to monitor agricultural crops and fruit plants. VITO’s drone technology helps farmers and fruit growers increase their production in a sustainable manner.

Potato cultivation is one of the largest production flows in the Belgian agricultural sector. VITO, CRA-W and the University of Liège have started the iPot-project in collaboration with the Belgian potato trade and processing industry. Together, they are working on an online platform that will centralise information on the growth and development of potatoes. With that information, farmers and potato processors can, for instance, estimate the development stage and possible harvest date of the crop, or chart the profitability of production areas. This involves data collected through inspections on the field, but also based on observations from the air with drones and from space with satellites.

In pear orchards, the measuring technology of VITO offers yet another dimension. With the SNEDEBAC project, established by VITO and the Test Centre for Fruit Cultivation (Proefcentrum voor Fruitteelt), unmanned aircraft look for symptoms of fire blight. This disease mainly affects pear trees and is the reason why pears from the Hageland and Haspengouw are subject to strict trade restrictions. Compared to traditional remote sensing systems, the VITO drones above the orchards are far more flexible in use. An important advantage is that they can make extremely detailed images, where 1 pixel is equivalent to 1 square centimetre.

VITO's role

VITO excels at remote sensing and image analysis. Based on remote sensing data, it helps develop online geo-platforms through iPot and SNEDEBAC for farmers and fruit growers. 

iPot in figures
  • Partner project with four Belgian partners: VITO, CRA-W, the University of Liège and Belgapom
  • Duration: June 2014 - June 2017
  • Budget: €305,000
     
SNEDEBAC in figures
  • Partner project between VITO and the Test Centre for Fruit Cultivation
  • Duration: February 2014 - January 2017
  • Budget: €150,000
     
With that information, farmers and potato processors can, for instance, estimate the development stage and possible harvest date of the crop, or chart the profitability of production areas.