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‘Small Data’ the future of orchard management

Technology & Data

tie up farming small data

Tie Up Farming, a startup based in Melbourne, has eschewed Big Data in favor of what founder and CEO Roei Yaakobi likes to call ‘Small Data’. Instead of collecting data from every orchard and drawing broad conclusions, Tie Up Farming inserts modules in your orchard which feed data to a learning algorithm that then forms the optimal process specific to your orchard.

Commonly referred to as ‘machine intelligence’, this learning algorithm takes everything into account, from the composition of the soil to things like trellis and net usage. Using data collected from a grower’s orchard and parameters set by the grower themself, the AI teaches itself how to optimize each orchard through ‘reinforcement learning’, which is another name for machine intelligence that learns the most efficient path based on what result the user sees as positive or negative outcomes. It even takes variable conditions like weather into account.

“It means you can spend less time working, and more time thinking,” said Roei.

Tie Up Farming’s distinguishing feature is that it treats the orchard and the packing shed as one entity rather than processes to optimize separately. The modules can work with old packhouse technology too, meaning older packhouses can be linked with newer orchards and vice versa.

Tie Up Farming doesn’t just focus on yield, but on optimizing fruit quality starting with smaller components, such as focusing just on applications of chemical fertilizer. But modules like the Spray Diary are “more than just a data entry program”; they record the history of a block in real time, recording what chemicals and processes have been applied in one place, which can later be used to directly trace results to processes performed. GPS tracking of tractors can let you know if you’ve skipped a row, managers can see if notices and work orders have been viewed and can receive progress status as it happens, and batch numbers of chemicals are easily recorded so traceability is guaranteed. With Tie Up Farming, you should be able to trace any apple back to block and row.

Data entry software is just that, while Tie Up Farming is a product that provides value. Successful integration can lead to automation, flow of information, and one central data source with simplifies your orchard and leads to transparency and minimal human error.

“You can clearly see which blocks, and which varieties, aren’t making money for you, and you can pull them out,” said Roei.

“A lot of things will open up. You’ll have a lot more control.”

Tie Up Farming is not an all-or-nothing expense either. The goal for growers is to integrate the modules incrementally so they can slowly take the burden away from more manual systems without requiring a jarring adjustment period. Rather than a magic wand, Tie Up Farming is all about the user experience and the day-to-day routine.

“It’s like buying a new tractor. You might have to learn where the new buttons are, but it will improve your efficiency in the long term.”

Roei will be speaking at the Grower R&D Update on November 13.

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