The Livestock Improvement Corporation or better known as LIC, has a remote pasture measuring platform named LIC Space. The arrival of this service was in 2018, the same year as our very own Pasture.io service went live. There are significant differences between our pasture measuring practices highlighted below. We get asked a lot of questions from New Zealand farmers, so will endeavour to tackle some of them below.

Does Pasture.io work in New Zealand?

Yes, it does. We have customers in both the South and North Islands of New Zealand. These customers stretch from Southland to Northland.

Is Pasture.io similar to the LIC Space program?

The main difference is that we use a machine learning environment that utilises three primary information sources. 1. Satellite imagery. 2. Weather data. 3. Farm records (such as grazing records, or when fert was last applied).

NB, you do not need to measure with a rising plate meter or with bike-mounted pasture measuring devices such as a CDax Pasture Meter or Pasture Reader. Our program operates independently of manual measurements. If you choose to keep physically measuring, kudos to you, you can enter your measurements in beside the satellite measurements. With our platform, you can say goodbye to manual measurements.

I haven't used LIC space, and from what I understand, they use a static algorithm that tends to break from season to season, farm to farm, region to region. Furthermore, the LIC Space program relies heavily on satellite imagery, specifically the index NDVI. NDVI is what gives satellite pasture measuring a bad wrap due to its severe limitations. The models we've developed follow the seasons and learn each paddock and work anywhere in the world. Instead of relying heavily on NDVI, our models ingest approx. 30 indices. So rather than use a static model that tends to break from paddock to paddock, season to season. We use a highly dynamic model that adapts to each of your paddocks and understands seasonality.

What is the difference between Pasture.io and LIC Space with pasture measurement results?

Okay, so where you might get a flatter looking feed wedge with space, we tend to get a sharper looking feed wedge. Our measurements tend to reach the post grazing residuals and the pre-grazing covers (up to approx. 3500 KgDM/ha with reasonable confidence). In other words, we have largely overcome the limitations that LIC Space are still tackling and with their current methods will not overcome. This difference is one of the core aspects of our offerings.

Our platform achieves levels of accuracy once only dreamed about with satellite pasture measuring. I know what you're thinking, "you sound confident". Well, we happened to get our hands on data that allowed us to test both LIC Space measurements against our very own. We then tested this data against manually measured pasture covers taken on the same day in the same paddocks.

Before I show you the results, I want to express that we made this test as fair as possible. Remember above that I said we used a machine learning environment that uses farm records such as grazing and fert records? Well, for this test, no farm records were used, only weather and satellite imagery (until later in the test). This way, our models would behave in a similar way to the LIC Space models, as the limitations would be reasonably similar. Okay, let's get into a bit of analysis.

When comparing a regression analysis between LIC Space and Pasture.io, we calculated:
R2 = 0.42581
When comparing a regression analysis between a manual measurement on the same day, we calculatedtextile:
R2 = 0.58539

What do these R2 values mean? Well, the closer the R2 = 1.0, the better in this case. Though care must be taken to understand that we're comparing to an on-farm measuring device and assuming the manual measurement is from an accurate tool.

Pasture.io and LIC Space
Pasture.io and Manual

To take the above further, when we look at the average farm pasture cover across the three methods, we found the following.

Pasture.io without farm records:

LIC Space = 1977 KgDM/ha
Pasture.io = 1942 KgDM/ha
Manual = 1874 KgDM/ha

Now, let's go back to what happens when we have farm records such as where your animals last grazed and how much fert you've recently applied. This additional data point is when the Pasture.io measurements take the podium in sharpening up the feed wedge. This point is where our platform shines above any other remote pasture measuring service.

Pasture.io with farm records:

LIC Space = 1977 KgDM/ha
Pasture.io = 1893 KgDM/ha
Manual = 1874 KgDM/ha

When we open up the magic of our remote pasture measuring, you can see that with farm records, our average pasture cover measurement significantly improves. So much so, to within 20 KgDM/ha of the manual method.

Okay, so that is enough on the difference in the pasture measuring results between our systems. The important take-home message is that there is a distinct difference in the results due to our different methods.

What is the difference between the Pasture.io company and LIC Space?

To start with, LIC Space is a service that is part of the New Zealand cooperative Livestock Improvement Corporation. This coop serves many thousands of New Zealand dairy farmers that make up its shareholder base. Conversely, Pasture.io Pty Ltd is a private company passionate in helping farmers with livestock that graze pasture across the sheep, beef and dairy industries worldwide.

LIC has a paddock app LIC MINDA Land and Feed. This program is rather basic, and at best is a paddock recording app rather than a decision support tool. The Pasture.io platform has been developed to handle your paddock records dynamically. An example of our platform is where fertiliser records flow into the grazing planner. Conversely, grazing records flow back into the fertiliser records. Grazing activities, farm pasture covers and growth rates, paddock activities such as fertiliser, spraying, planting, harvesting are all interlinked in the infrastructure of our management platform. This interlinking of your farm records behind the scenes is what makes the program powerful. Not only that, it is an automated record of what happens on your farm, keeping you ahead of the compliance curve.

As you can see, we're passionate about providing you with the best pasture management tools. We're highly enthusiastic about pushing the latest in agtech to bring you the best remote pasture measuring platform for making the right grazing decisions every time. We're a dedicated company that isn't spreading our wings thin. What we want to do for you is to stay highly focussed in our specialised offering. That is our promise to providing you with value.

If you'd like me to cover more in this article, let me know in the comments below.

Happy farming!

- Ollie Roberts, 7 Aug 2019