Startups Aim to Aid Citrus Industry

Josh McGillFlorida, Technology

Two University of Florida (UF) startup companies have formed a union to help reverse the trend of declining Florida citrus production. Agriculture Intelligence and Satlantis believe they can offer a powerful tool to help the state’s growers more closely monitor their trees and manage problems faster. The startups, housed in one of UF’s business incubators, will combine expertise in precision agriculture with leading-edge aerospace technology.

Photo by Tonya Weeks/UF/IFAS

“The war for improving productivity starts with understanding the real inventory,” said Matthew Donovan, chief executive officer of precision agriculture company Agriculture Intelligence and resident client at UF Innovate | Accelerate at The Hub. “We need to know how many productive trees there are, and just as important, how many are missing. How can you run a business at all without having an accurate inventory?”

An accurate inventory of citrus groves and other specialty crops around the entire state is what Agriculture Intelligence and Satlantis hope to make possible by joining forces. The relationship could create the opportunity to monitor inventory more frequently, perhaps even monthly.

Agriculture Intelligence harnesses a system called Agroview, the brainchild of UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Yiannis Ampatzidis. Agroview captures inventory data using drones. The collaboration with Satlantis could drastically speed up that data collection using a satellite pointed at Earth. Satlantis is a space technology company offering satellites for Earth observation and universe exploration. If Satlantis were to point its cameras downward, it could fly over areas that Agroview has already mapped. It could repeat it every month if desired or after a major storm or freeze to capture changes.

Using Agroview’s powerful artificial intelligence software, the companies could produce not just maps but data demonstrating the growth and health of the trees. That information could include nutrient analysis that informs practical decisions to reduce per-field fertilization treatments, a crucial step in improving sustainability.

“Without that information, the citrus industry is like a cardiologist trying to diagnose a patient without taking his pulse,” Donovan said. “The doctor must take the vital signs to know how to treat him. The analogy is appropriate. If the Florida citrus industry is the patient everybody is trying to stabilize, then Agroview gives the vital signs, the metrics.”

Source: University of Florida

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