By Keina Chiu | More than ever, businesses are able to capture data, make decisions and act on them far more quickly, accurately and systematically using drones and artificial intelligence solutions.
Presently, many industries benefit from drone-assisted data crunching. However, Garuda has a particular interest in traditional industries such as agriculture, infrastructure maintenance, and construction that often are reliant heavily on manpower and manual processes.
With drones being the prime enabler of instantaneous aerial data mining, businesses are increasingly turning to Garuda to fulfill a myriad of agricultural endeavours such as plantation management, tower inspection and maintenance, automated aerial security patrols – just to name a few.
“The ability to survey large areas of land rapidly with a variety of sensors is paramount in agriculture. Not only that, it is vital for us to maintain high image resolutions that are far higher than satellite imagery. This allows us to perform automated detection of trees and health analysis of crops within our proprietary software,” says Mark Yong, Co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based Garuda Robotics.
Primarily, Garuda’s tree maps allow plantation managers to visualize their assets and order the correct amount of fertilizer and pesticide. Similarly, the health maps helps by enabling agronomists to focus their attention on the worst-performing crop areas. This is where technology creates the most value by connecting itself all the way back to customers.
Without a smooth workflow in place, businesses can be hesitant about implementing technology in their works.
“Whether you’re a small business operating a single drone, or a large plantation operating 100 drones, Garuda’s software makes it easy for users to manage drone equipment and pilots, plan and schedule drone flights, enforce maintenance schedules, and even track drones live as they fly,” says Yong
Ultimately, Garuda’s audacious goal is to ensure the sustainability and security of the world’s food supply. That means improving the efficiency of plantations, ensuring the traceability of food products, and ascertaining that the workforce is augmented with the appropriate technology to maintain productivity. To do so, it is paramount for businesses to fortify their resilience against variables out of our control, such as unanticipated weather calamities.
Agriculture has always been a labour-intensive industry. To give businesses a little push, Garuda helps integrate the physical and digital worlds through digitalisation and data exploitation.
“They’re asking for more data and deeper insights into how their plantation estates are operating. And right now, our artificial intelligence algorithms is the perfect solution for generating meaningful insights and targeted reports that guide estate managers on the ground,” says Yong.
Implementing new technologies is a daunting task because of the sheer amount of land involved, the number of workers to train, and even the physicality of the work.
“Automation alone will never suffice, because the real gains come not from simply replacing humans performing repetitive labor with machines,” says Yong.
Garuda works with customers by digitizing all previous manual or paper-based methods used to manage plantations and farms.
“We develop tools to automatically and periodically collect and generate data which previously had to be manually collated, such as harvest, crop health, and worker productivity figures. Our cloud and mobile software is designed to match the way supervisors, field workers, and managers expect to view and interact with data,” says Yong. “We learn something from every customer about how to build better products that solve even more of their problems.”
Digital, Connected & Sustainable
The agribusiness of the future will be digital, connected, and sustainable. Digital, because the march towards digitalisation of industries is inexorable. “There is an opportunity for agribusinesses to jump past simple automation and rethink their businesses in the digital era where more and more transactions and operations take place online,” says Yong.
Regarding connectedness, meeting consumer demands is expected to become easier for forward-looking agribusinesses because plantations, mills, distributors, and buyers will be increasingly linked in the digital era. For example, improved traceability in the agriculture supply chain by technologies such as blockchain will respond to customers’ demand for information regarding the provenance of their food.
Finally yet importantly, the sustainability factor lies within where environmental issues have finally become an actual concern businesses in the modern agriculture era. The global food demand is rocketing the supply of such is hardly keeping up. It is high time that we drive up land productivity before a world global food crisis ensues.
“Climate change is real, and weather events are expected to occur with greater volatility. Manpower shortages and the difficulty of retaining skilled labour in the agriculture sector remain perennial problems. In the face of all these problems, plantations and farms need to be able to grapple with the long-term sustainability and viability of their operations,” says Yong.
Singapore At The Core
In order to push for the modernization of airspace usage, one of Garuda’s core efforts is to work closely with civil aviation authorities. Said frameworks have so far been designed around manned aircraft. In Southeast Asia, Singapore is pioneering in developing new airspace frameworks and regulatory thinking in support of widespread drone usage.
“Realising our vision requires to interact with a large ecosystem of players, and in many cases, build part of the ecosystem from scratch. At this time, Singapore is the best base for that core effort, while our satellite offices are responsible for localising our core products and performing minor customisations as needed,” says Yong.
Speaking of Garuda’s location base, Singapore also forces the company to address upfront the technical and regulatory challenges that come from operating drones in a densely populated city. On top of an impressive pool of local talents, Singapore also boasts a formidable backing by local statutory bodies that actively support drone deployments in real-world scenarios under a public-private partnership model.
At present, Garuda Robotics is focused on the Southeast Asian market, and hire locally for satellite offices. The Singapore team comprises engineering and operations staff from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, ensuring the company remains connected to its key markets.
About Mark Yong
Mark is CEO and co-founder of Garuda Robotics, a leading developer of enterprise drone and data solutions for the agriculture, infrastructure and security sectors. He was previously an award-winning lecturer in the School of Computer Engineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Mark has 20 years of experience designing and building robotics systems in domains ranging from Urban Search and Rescue to STEM education. He was trained in computer science and engineering and economics at Carnegie Mellon University (BS/MS) and the University of Michigan (MS).