Interview with Pix4D: “When we decided to create a product for agriculture, we wanted to go beyond the research and development and create a product that understands agriculture.”
Could you describe in a few words what is Pix4D (objectives, date of creation, team, location, …)?
Pix4D is the commercial leader in photogrammetry software. Founded in 2011 with years of scientific research, Pix4D software uses images taken by hand, drone, or plane and creates customizable results that complement a wide range of applications and software. Our vision of modern photogrammetry is transforming operations and workflows across industries including Surveying, Construction, Infrastructure, Engineering, Oil & Gas, Mining, Public Safety, Telecommunications, Agriculture, and more. Pix4D is a dynamic and rapidly expanding software company based in Lausanne (Switzerland), and local offices in Berlin (Germany), San Francisco (USA), and Shanghai (China).
Specifically, what are your solutions for Agriculture?
Agriculture is one of—if not the biggest industry in the world. There is no wonder why. Humans heavily depend on food as fuel to keep us going. The progress in this industry has gone beyond what we could have imagined, combining drones, sensors, machine learning, mathematical algorithms, and advanced analytics.
When we decided to create a product for agriculture, we wanted to go beyond the research and development and create a product that understands agriculture. So, in July 2017, we opened a new office in Berlin fully dedicated to do exactly that: understand the agriculture industry, listen to our users, and create a product that caters to all the main agricultural practices.
Essentially, the idea behind Pix4Dfields comes from two observations: the need to produce accurate, repeatable measurements of crop health and the need to produce results efficiently and rapidly in the field, while performing more detailed analysis in the office. Both factors are essential to support decision making of the farmer, agronomist or the breeder.
What benefits do you bring to farmers?
Pix4D is a software that has a proven reputation of being ‘the photogrammetry tool’ in the market. It offers agriculture workflows that are fast, focused and above all accurate, which is ‘the game changer’ that matters in agriculture.
With the high-level accuracy of reflectance maps, generated with Pix4D software, farmers can create index maps, classify crops into different regions/zones, and derive prescription maps for their crops (which are important for both production and protection).
As a step forward, they can export their maps in multiple formats that are then ready for the ‘plug and play’ in a Farming Management Platform of your choice (e.g. SMS, Gatekeeper and more).
To leverage the invisible data in spectrums that our eyes can’t see, with the index generator in Pix4Dfields software you can create Index Maps like NDVI, NDRE or any other Index Map on the predefined list of the most popularly used indices in the agriculture industry. Pix4D index maps are weather independent and combine information from the reflectance maps to highlight plant health differences that are directly or indirectly related to issues such as water stress, nutrient deficiencies, diseases and pests or more. Knowing where to put ‘more’ or ‘less’ pesticide and herbicide reduces cost, increases yield and improves the soil and crop quality overall.
Digital scouting has been helping farmers, agronomists and breeders detect potential problems early and tackle them at a faster pace. A view from above gives a better overview of your farm and you can inspect every detail with drone-acquired imagery. Instantly processed images into orthomosaics give more information on potential machinery, drainage, or animal damage. They can even indicate where it could potentially be a nutrient deficiency issue by comparing the crops within the same field.
Erosion / Irrigation
By calculating a Digital Surface Model (DSM) in Pix4D software you can get the answers to questions like: What is the degree of slope of this hill? What is the volume of material in it? Or what is the surface area of crops on this hill? These answers can then help with the decision making when addressing variability in irrigation of different crop zones, as well as pinpointing more dry areas prone to wind erosion. Once again, the accuracy of Pix4D software photogrammetry plays a crucial role in answering these questions with focused and precise calculations.
Is Pix4D developing its own drones or is it outsourcing this activity? Could you say a few words on how your technology works?
While Pix4D doesn’t produce drones, the Pix4D software uses images to create customizable results that complement a wide range of applications and software. For agriculture our users can use RGB cameras or multispectral cameras like Parrot Sequoia cameras or MicaSense RedEdge cameras. Pix4Dfields, just like any other Pix4D product is platform agnostic. You can process images acquired from any platform.
Is there a last topic you want to talk about which characterizes Pix4D?
Pix4D is constantly progressing and moving forward in a fast pace, in all the mentioned industries and with agriculture is no different. By listening to the industry and our user needs, we strive to make the ‘go-to tool’ for drone mapping in agriculture. Our Research and Development team in Berlin is constantly working on new features and updates. With the addition of Machine Learning team working on features like plant counting, there will be some exciting launches around Pix4D Agriculture in the near future.