Innovative Investments for Farming
In early January, we always find ourselves learning about the newest technologies hitting the national and international agriculture scene. Over the last three years, there has been an explosion of data pointing to the use of drones in farming and their ability to change the way things have been done for thousands of years in efficiency and productivity.
As a farmer, this is always worrisome as we like to think that there is no better tool than institutional knowledge. Investments for farm tech innovations naturally feel counterintuitive, but the fact remains that drones can provide farmers with many important views not available before. Advanced sensors are providing farmers with new ways to see problems quickly and address them before they become catastrophic. Seeing a crop from the air can immediately image irrigation problems, soil variations and elevation variation, all of which would change thermal readings and pest infestations (factors in plant health and productivity).
Do we have plants that are stressed because they don’t have enough water or enough fertilizer, or because of a pest that is infesting it? All of these are sometimes difficult to tease out from the ground and often easy to see from a bird’s eye view. Some sensors on drones are now set up to take “multispectral images” that capture data from the infrared as well as the visual spectrum, which can focus on the differences between the healthy vegetables and the weaker ones that are not always perceptible to the naked eye. One of the most effective features is that all of this surveying can happen every week, every day or even every hour, which again can speed up the process of trying to remedy the problem before there is complete crop failure. We definitely see this as an opportunity to breathe in new strategies for healthier soils and plants while at the same time saving on a labor-intensive data collecting process. This health analysis of course has to be weighed in value against the obvious operational costs for the medium to small farm of seed purchases, soil amendments, fuel, etc.… As the price of drones and do-it-yourself drone technology is becoming cheaper, it is an opportunity we may take advantage of sooner than later.
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