The Living Lab is situated in Merelbeke, a city located in close proximity (<10 km) to Ghent, the capital of East Flanders. Agriculture and horticulture play a significant role in East Flanders, occupying approximately half of the region’s land area. Pasture, grassland, and fodder crops cover over 60% of the cultivated land, while arable crops, including potatoes and cereals, account for about one-third. Potatoes, with a cultivation area of approximately 100,000 hectares in Belgium, hold a prominent position due to their substantial size and relatively high production value, contributing to over half of the total production value in the arable sector. The majority of potato production is exported, establishing Belgium as a leading global exporter of processed potato products.
The primary focus of the Living Lab revolves around leveraging ultra-high resolution RGB technology on drones and artificial intelligence to detect and manage weeds, diseases, and pests in potato crops. The overarching goal is to minimize the use of plant protection products and promote sustainable agricultural practices. The lab’s objectives include testing this technology on more commercial farms, gathering additional data, seeking feedback from farmers and drone pilots, and enhancing the technology itself, encompassing AI models, task map generation, and label tools.
To streamline the application of deep learning for anomaly detection, the Living Lab employs a specific data processing pipeline and methodology that reduces the labor-intensive annotation tasks. This approach takes into account the adaptability of the technology to different cultivars and crops, thereby increasing its adoption among end-users such as farmers, spraying contractors, and technology companies or service providers.