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Looking Beyond the Obvious

A story by Ingenio Mayagüez

To address the challenges in sugarcane farming, agro-industrial companies increasingly turn to cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and ultra-high-resolution imagery to thoroughly analyze their crops.

One of the critical aspects to analyze is depopulation (areas without sugarcane) and identifying the depopulated furrow segments (that do not have or show resprouts), as this analysis allows for making decisions to optimize resources, yield, and productivity.

Before the Manglar methodology arrived in the sugarcane sector, depopulation was calculated using manual measurements carried out by crews of people projecting the overall depopulation of the entire area. However, as it was only a sampling, the measurement was imprecise.

Detecting minor sugarcane resprouts, even when walking through a lot, is difficult for the human eye. However, our algorithms are capable of detecting very small resprouts, thanks to our use of ultra-high-resolution images.

To learn firsthand the benefits of depopulation analysis carried out with Manglar, we spoke with Catalina Delgado, Precision Agriculture and GIS Director at Ingenio Mayagüez.

Catalina has always thought that AI tools applied to agriculture are a strategy under which precision agriculture implementation processes should focus. Initially, it was not something tangible because different models were used (predictive models, machinery with systems that had some artificial intelligence), “but Manglar made it visible, tangible, and a tool for accurate and timely decision-making that helps us to seek that goal we all have: to improve our field labors, increase productivity, and improve our sucrose levels.”

“Manglar became a strategic ally to develop processes that generate more accurate decision-making.” She insists on the decision-making issue because agriculture is usually based on averages and empirical data. However, Manglar allows for precise measurement and quantification, for example, of depopulation issues; this has resulted in more efficient use of inputs and resources and better decision-making to increase productivity.

In addition, one of the most significant changes for Ingenio Mayagüez was in the field management culture. “The word ‘change’ always generates resistance, even more so in an agricultural environment. For example, telling someone that they no longer have to go out to the field to count how many spaces they have in sugarcane and how many packages they need and that we will deliver these quantified processes to them under a high-precision tool always generates resistance, always generates fear: ‘If I’ve always done it this way, why should I have to change?’ But we have demonstrated directly in the field with consistent, precise, and widely validated data that technology is an ally and is here to stay. Today, it is already a steward or a person in the field who requests the generation of reseeding or spacing maps to determine how much reseeding is necessary, aiming to have a response to the problems they have in the field and thus maintain productivity standards.”

“We are a team that strongly believes in technology, but we also believe in validating it in the field by going out to check that what this tool offers us is true. We believe this is the best way to communicate the message to the staff working daily in the field. We have conducted a meticulous count of depopulation through manual teams, and the differences between this methodology and the methodology Manglar were less than 3%.” This indicates a high level of accuracy and generated confidence among their staff and department and, especially, among their cane suppliers by accurately measuring depopulation calculations. More than 65% of the area in Mayagüez is of cane suppliers, “so we did not limit the implementation of these processes only within our immediate administrative areas. Instead, we expanded it to our business partners as a tool that allows them to see that we care about their field and productivity and are with them in this continuous improvement process.”

Regarding the reseeding plans, Catalina feels that Manglar is concerned about meeting their needs as a sugar mill and as people working in the field with numerous additional jobs (not just reseeding). “They go beyond and add value: it’s not just about delivering an image, it’s not just about delivering the total linear meters of sugarcane; it’s about generating reports that field personnel can understand. Then, when they see the reports, a steward knows perfectly where the focus of the problem is, where to focus their action plan, and where to start working hard.”

It has been gratifying for us to collaborate with the team led by Catalina Delgado, and we are proud to be part of the impulse toward a more productive and sustainable future for Ingenio Mayagüez.

At Manglar, we are committed to innovation and the continuous improvement of agricultural operations, and we are excited to continue working in this direction with each of our clients.

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