“There’s been plenty of times when we’ve commented that Ceres Imaging has paid for itself straight away. We estimate that we’ve been able to identify and correct 30-40% more irrigation issues since we started using the imagery.”
Based in Mildura, Southern Cross operates farms on behalf of various land investors and private funds. Head office staff provide a range of services—from accounting to agronomy—to help guide local managers on sites ranging from the Riverland in South Australia to Sunraysia in Victoria and the Riverina in New South Wales.
General Manager of Operations David Lyell supervises a team of farm managers, who in turn direct the day-to-day business of each site under Southern Cross management. There’s significant variety to account for in these far-flung locations: while Southern Cross manages more citrus than anything else, they also grow almonds, wine grapes, and other specialty crops. Some farms are on light sand, some are on fairly heavy clay, and some farms’ soil differs dramatically within a single field. Some farms have uneven terrain. In his senior role, David needs to provide the best possible guidance to his team across all of these complex conditions—but he can’t be everywhere at once.
David uses aerial data from Ceres Imaging to direct the farm managers. He reviews the imagery for each farm, identifies priority issues—often plugged lines or leaks caused by nuisance animals—and consults with the on-site staff to make the necessary corrections. “The farm managers have been amazed with the accuracy of the imagery, and would love to have it every week if they could,” David says. “With imagery, seeing is believing: being able to pinpoint issues and show the irrigators exactly where to find the problem has made the farm managers believers in the product.” Ceres Imaging has also changed the way that David communicates upward to farm owners. Aerial data reveals and clearly illustrates areas where further investment—for example, in soil amendments or better drainage systems—could improve uniformity. “It provides us with great supporting evidence to show investors what the problem is,” David explains. “We’re able to quantify the effects and the outcomes. For example, with imagery, we can show that a three-acre patch is producing at 60% [the rest of the field], so that if we fix the problem we can gain the investor 40% more.”
Ceres Imaging helps Southern Cross communicate effectively with owners and farm managers alike.
“The farm managers have been amazed with the accuracy of the imagery. With imagery, seeing is believing: being able to pinpoint issues and show the irrigators exactly where to find the problem has made the farm managers believers in the product.”