Provar, South Africa's independent new variety evaluation company, developed an inhouse evaluation data collection and reporting platform, called Culteva, for their own use. It has proven to be successful and has been adopted by a number of local and international clients, the company says.
Culteva's standardised and centralised variety evaluation platform saves evaluators many hours of tedious administrative work.
An orchard manager running evaluation trials has told Culteva's developers that with other generic tools, he had been spending at least 100 hours a year just on generating reports, accessing data from various files and consolidating it - and this does not include time spent (wasted, in effect) on collecting field data in an inefficient manner.
Now he can create dynamic reports throughout the season which can be shared with others interested in following the evaluation in real-time.
“Time spent on tasks like report-creation is essentially eliminated,” Miaan Kramer, Provar software project coordinator, explains. “The time saved in this way is enormous.”
Detail from the Culteva report builder, comparing pre-storage fruit weight of cherry varieties
The standardised protocols for many crops within the platform allow “apples to be compared with apples” across the world, he says. “Culteva allows a vastly more effective way of collecting and collating data than generic tools because of the specific protocols for specific commodities we've developed in partnership with our clients.”
Client inputs improve the backbone of the platform
As Culteva's usage has both widened and deepened through its expanding client base, it has come a long way, he notes, with regards to the increased flexibility they have built into the system.
“In fact,” adds Cobus von Wielligh, Provar chief technology officer, “SK Südtirol, one of our clients, had significant inputs into our new features which will be released in the middle of April. It's a win-win situation because all of our clients benefit from these changes.”
Other clients include tree nursery GRIBA in Italy, German variety manager Artevos, France's Blue Whale and in South Africa the platform is used by Dutoit Agri, Fruitways and Stems Fresh Fruit as well as variety developers TopFruit.
Among the new features they are introducing is a storage regime more focused on controlled environments and atmospheric measurements. They have streamlined the process to allow an evaluator to swiftly access the data required for a specific day's evaluation, instead of wading through lists of criteria.
Detail from the plant sample index for apple evaluations, showing information like the scion and rootstock and plant date
Breeders’ module in development
The Culteva mobile app collects data from bar-coded plant samples in the nursery or the orchard which immediately accesses the particular sample's data sheet. The mobile app has been designed to work offline as well, but in case evaluators prefer printed data sheets, that option is also possible. A single data collection methodology is not enforced on users.
Through developing a module for cannabis evaluation for Portuguese company Alto, a process which entails hundreds of cannabis seedlings to be evaluated three or four times a week to select for further crossings, data between evaluation and breeding have been linked. The logical next stop was the development of a module for breeders, and its release is planned for the end of May.
“With time, Culteva has become much more dynamic,” Miaan says. “You can create your own templates, select which protocols you want to include. You have a lot of freedom within the platform. Every additional client brings more knowledge to the platform.”
The Culteva Report Builder's section on fruit ripening
He continues: “We want to free our clients from the tedious administrative tasks in order to focus on the important things like decision-making.”
Hereafter, they aim to free up time and make it more convenient for tasters attending fruit exhibitions, scientists and students collecting data and eventually for producers to simplify orchard data collection.
"The endless possibilities and potential that Culteva offers all along the agriculture value chain, in the fast growing agri-tech industry, makes the platform an attractive investment and collaboration opportunity," Cobus remarks.
Air temperature measurements within the Culteva weather station
Culteva has grown substantially since it was initiated in 2017 and still has a lot of potential to grow, this, he notes, is merely the beginning.