Published on 4 February 2021
Jan van Aardt was active in earlier versions of the STEREO programme as the promotor of the projects HYPERCRUNCH and HYPERPEACH. He currently works at the Rochester Institute of Technology professor where he is helping to develop drone imaging systems aimed at empowering farmers to better manage the nutrients in their vineyards. Professor Jan van Aardt from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science is receiving more than $357,000 in funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to help grape growers make data-driven nutrient-management decisions.
Imagery taken from a drone flight in early September maps the average nitrogen levels measured in composite leaf samples from 100 test vines in this one-acre vineyard block. The rows of vines here were grown with the goal of inducing different nutrient deficiencies for the team's experiment. Each deficiency sub-block consists of five rows separated by one buffer row as indicated on the map. The nitrogen and magnesium deficient sub-blocks each had relatively lower nitrogen levels as represented by the smaller circles.
Van Aardt is part of a large consortium, led by Washington State University, working together to develop the novel approach. Farmers ideally need to analyze the levels of nutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, and others to optimize fertilization efforts and subsequent yields, but current methods are expensive, time-consuming, and require destructive chemical analysis of leaves. The ultimate goal is to provide practical sensing tools that can help farmers improve vineyard productivity, berry and wine composition and quality, environmental sustainability, and business profitability.