Agriculture & AI working together
With automated digital analysis of drones and other images, Pheno-Inspect is helping agricultural companies and fruit growers to improve their crops and harvests. For the calculations, this young German company uses on-demand GPUs which are available on the UbiOps’ platform. “So that we’re flexible and have the right capacity and computing power at all times to handle peaks and to grow”, says CEO Philipp Lottes.
Pheno-Inspect, a pioneering German start-up, is revolutionizing the agricultural industry with its innovative digital analysis of drones, smartphones, and satellite imagery. By partnering with UbiOps and leveraging their on-demand GPU solution, Pheno-Inspect ensures maximum flexibility and robust computing power to meet the growing demands of agricultural companies and fruit growers.
CEO Dr. Philipp Lottes explains, “Our partnership with UbiOps enables us to adapt to fluctuating requirements and rapidly scale our services, ensuring we deliver optimal results and can focus on our core development of self-adapting computer vision models.” Founded in 2020 as a spin-off of the University of Bonn, Germany, the company has already gained significant traction. Pheno – Inspect serves customers ranging from small companies and research institutes to major global operators.
‘Google for the agricultural industry’
Imagine a world where searching for cutting-edge agricultural image analysis is as simple as using Google to search the internet. Pheno-Inspect aspires to become the go-to solution for agricultural professionals seeking advanced crop analysis within the next five years.
“If you want to search for something on the internet, you go to Google. My hope is that in five years’ time, people from the agricultural sector will think of Pheno-Inspect automatically when they need a solution for the image analysis of crops.”
From the very beginning, Pheno-Inspect has attracted a diverse clientele, ranging from small businesses and research institutes to global industry leaders. Their rapid growth is a testament to the exceptional quality of their services. Today, Pheno-Inspect proudly serves clients across Europe and the United States, with a growing presence in international markets like Brazil, Chile, and Canada.
“We already had customers right from day one. The customer base grew relatively rapidly, from small companies and research institutes to major companies that operate globally.”
The data provided by Pheno-Inspect plays a vital role in the development of plant and seed breeding, as well as in the successful cultivation of fruits and vegetables. By offering this valuable knowledge to arable farms and fruit growers, Pheno-Inspect enables them to make informed decisions regarding fertilizer application, irrigation management, and optimal harvest timing.
Furthermore, Pheno-Inspect’s insights into crop cross-breeding and selection offer processing companies a deeper understanding of the traits inherent in advantageous plant varieties. This includes the ability to assess a plant’s susceptibility to stress, drought, and disease under varying climatic conditions. By equipping agricultural professionals with such comprehensive information, Pheno-Inspect is contributing to the growth and resilience of the industry.
Efficient, Accurate, and Consistent: The Pheno-Inspect Advantage
Precise and reliable documentation of plants’ phenotypical characteristics is crucial during field tests. This includes plant counting, growth and condition monitoring, disease assessment, and recording the presence and type of weeds in agricultural land.
Traditionally, these tasks have been labor-intensive, requiring a significant number of expert staff and resulting in high costs. Pheno-Inspect’s AI-driven image processing technology presents a transformative solution. By streamlining the analysis process, Pheno-Inspect enables faster and more extensive coverage of agricultural areas at substantially reduced costs. Moreover, the quality of data capture is enhanced, as the technology eliminates the reliance on individual employees’ expertise and attentiveness. As CEO Philipp highlights, Pheno-Inspect’s approach to phenotyping ensures consistent and objective results, setting new standards for the agricultural industry.
Versatile Image Analysis and Crop Monitoring Solutions
Pheno-Inspect offers a versatile range of image analysis capabilities, utilizing not only drone imagery but also photos captured by smartphones, tractor-mounted cameras, static cameras in fields and greenhouses, and even satellite images. This adaptability enables Pheno-Inspect to deliver precise analysis across various crops and farming situations. CEO Philipp highlights the flexibility of the company’s image-processing algorithms, which cater to a broad array of crops, from common ones like sugar beets, potatoes, grains, maize, and soy to more specialized crops like lettuce and tomatoes.
Additionally, Pheno-Inspect’s technology is capable of detecting bugs, insects, disease, and stress symptoms on plants, facilitating prompt intervention for pest infestations or diseases, and ensuring optimal crop health.
Flexible and scalable
Large quantities of data are involved in the computer images and the processing thereof. “So you need considerable computing capacity, which is why we opted for UbiOps. We also need a scalable environment, and UbiOps’ platform provides that too.”
“In the agricultural industry, you have to deal with seasonal demand. That means that in a certain month, many images arrive that need to be processed in a short space of time. And there are months in which much less is happening. That is already changing with international growth. In December and January, things are calm in Northern and Central Europe. But on the other side of the world it’s summer… and we still need to scale up the IT infrastructure for this.”
It is difficult for a start-up to meet that flexibility and scalability itself. “That’s why we’re pleased that UbiOps gives us access to this flexibility and capacity.”
Step to the cloud
Initially, Pheno-Inspect operated with its own computers and software locally. In 2021, the company transitioned to its own data center, complete with a dedicated hardware infrastructure. By early 2023, Pheno-Inspect took a significant leap forward by migrating to the cloud. After thorough research in 2022, UbiOps emerged as the ideal candidate to handle the GPU-intensive tasks.
During the autumn of 2022, Pheno-Inspect and UbiOps collaborated on a proof of concept, which paved the way for their successful partnership. In a mere three months, they accomplished seamless integration at an impressive pace. Today, Pheno-Inspect is running hundreds of unique algorithms, i.e., their digital phenotyping experts, on the UbiOps platform, ensuring continuous availability and ample capacity for their services worldwide.
Philipp Lottes expresses satisfaction with the partnership, praising UbiOps for their flexibility, understanding of Pheno-Inspect processes, and belief in their mission. UbiOps has demonstrated their ability to adapt their services and capacity effectively to meet the company’s specific needs, backed by a pricing model that aligns with their requirements both now and in the future.
“They are very flexible and understand our processes. They also believe in what we do. They have proven that they can adapt their services and capacity effectively to meet our wishes and requirements. With a flexible pricing system that matches what we need. Now and in the future. We are positive across the board.” CEO Dr. Philipp Lottes