Of Drone Technology In Precision Agriculture
The American Farm Bureau Federation, Information
Economics and Measure, a drone as a service company, have released a
study that identifies and quantifies the benefits of drone technology in
precision agriculture. Version 1.0 of the Return on Investment (ROI)
Calculator quantifies the economic benefits of drone as a service for
three applications: field crop scouting, 3D terrain mapping and crop
insurance. It initially covers corn, wheat and soybeans—three of the
largest production crops—which allows growers to quickly and easily
determine if drone technology would be worthwhile after getting results
from farm data entered into the ROI Calculator.
The ROI Calculator will be available as a web-based application on the
Measure website, with additional functionality added over time to
include more drone applications and types of crops, Measure said. “There
is no other tool like this available to farmers looking to drones to
increase yields or save money,” the company added.
“While lots of drone hardware has been sold to farmers, until today, no
tool existed to help growers actually quantify whether the benefits
exceed their costs, especially when farmers want to outsource these
types of services,” said Justin Oberman, president of Measure. “Working
with the Farm Bureau and our partners, we have created the only ROI
Calculator for drone use in precision agriculture. This tool will help
growers understand how drone technology can improve their performance
for the benefit of consumers in the U.S. and around the world.”
The study occurred in two phases. Phase 1, completed in February 2015,
culminated in the production of a nearly 100-page report highlighting
the best use cases for drones in precision agriculture. In Phase 2,
Measure and Information used data collected from desk research,
interviews with industry experts and drone flights to aid in the
construction of the ROI Calculator.
“This study and the ROI Calculator will help make drones a reality for
farmers and ranchers,” said Julie Potts, executive vice president and
treasurer of the American Farm Bureau. “Every year we must feed more
people on the same fields while protecting the environment we all share.
Precision agriculture and drones in particular will be an important part
of executing on that mission.”
Is an agronomist
No an agronomist is not
required to read the data as many large scale farmers are quite familiar
with NDVI and they have been using Farm Management software that will
create management zones and prescriptions as well as satellite based
NDVI imagery for many years. However, there is a misconception in the
UAV industry which is NDVI will tell you exactly what is wrong in your
The reality is that the NDVI vegetation index
is a crop health indicator telling you if the field is healthy and doing
well or if it is stressed and the locations (i.e GPS markers) of the
stress and total areas or acres stressed. Stress can be caused by
numerous different causes including but not limited to: too much water,
water drought, pest infestation, nitrogen leaching, hail damage, wind
damage, fire damage, diseases...all of these can be stressors. The
agronomist/farmer/scout can get an aerial view of the field quickly and
then go pinpoint the locations to investigate to see what is causing the
crop to be stressed. So we like to think of the UAV/payload/software as
a tool in the ag professionals toolbox.
Not only does it minimize compaction in
the field but the largest advantage that Sentek sees is from a biology
standpoint with the current glyphosate resistance issues due to the
Roundup Ready era. According to Kim Salant of Sentek, "when attending
many conference proceedings at Commodity Classic last year there were
several presentations given by farmers especially in southern states
right now that had applied roundup on everything for a few years. They
said they thought they had 15 years before the weeds would start to
evolve and become resistant. However in only a few years the weeds
rapidly evolved and became resistant and there were farmers there saying
they now have entire fields covered 100% in weeds and there is currently
no technology on the market that will allow them to plant crop again.
There are mitigation techniques that are now being recommended by the
Monsanto R&D researchers which is rotating crops and pesticides and
herbicides to maximize the amount of time you have before this happens.
We see that if you could put together a plan with crop rotation, as well
as rotating herbicides, along with selectively spraying only the
locations in need this will prolong the life of the chemical to ensure
its effectiveness. Anyways this may help put it in terms the farmer may
understand since they are living through these problems right now! "
The manufacture reps at Sentek, the makers of
the GENS all-in-one hardware/software package is also available to talk
to the potential customers and explain that selectively spraying their
field has many strategic advantages.
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