Business Opportunites for Drones in Agriculture

I was just at a conference in Los Angeles and the secession speakers seemed to be in agreement there was not a outside business opportunity for drone use In agriculture.  They invision the farmer having everything in the back of their truck to do their own surveys and make corrections quickly as needed.  Or the biologist or horticulturist will fly the drone and make the interpretation of the information as needed.

I disagree but that is not worth much, do you see drone operators getting involved in helping farmers?  Maybe what do you see them doing.

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    • I believe this is a new tool and finding the best use is going to require input from farmers.  I suggest setting up demonstrations of the drone technology and then asking farmers how it can be put to use.  Seems like spotting a black grass outbreak may be doable if the grass has a different NDVI color than the croo.

    • Interesting discussion, it all ends up in the value equation, and this has been broadly spoken, but I´ve seen not much proof in practice. For now, and on the agronomy side, I see no much more that drone imagery just being a "help" for farmers or farm managers / agronomists. Not sure how much that help is worth. 

    • The value is the question, there are quite a few companies doing surveys for 5-20$/ acre so there is value in some crops with some farmers.  The market and technology will need to continue to develop.

      I heard of another service which uses an airplane and they fly your farm for $500/ flight, typically weekly depending on what you order.  The collect images from many farms in one flight and try to sign farmers up for the services to cover the total cost of operation.

    • Good info Pat, I would be curious in what exactly and how (format, platform, email? cloud?) is that the airplane service delivers, when, what the user does with the info, and how does he capture value. 

    • I don't know how it is used, the format is typically  NDVI and RGB.

  • For shure, drones are going to have lot importance in farms and business oportunities, some farmers that like technology have their own drone but others prefer a Drone services; new laws in my country looks an obstacle to develop agriculture services because it wasn't take in consideration this activity, only video industry, but, I hope that is going to change in the future.

  • Thanks for the reply, I agree showing the value up front will be difficult.  Along with that is interpretation of the data collected to show the value.  I have discussed with many people and the feeling the value is there.  Here in the US there seem to be quite a few early implementers, probably like you say 500+ acres.

    In the US agriculture is projected to be the single largest use of drones, but we will have to see how.

    My other point is I do not see the farmer filling this need on their own, some will but most if the value is there will hire outside help.

    BTW what is blackgrass? What is the opportunity?

    • Agree with your response. 

      Those that don't get a drone at this stage, will sometime in the future, be exposed to one if there agronomist or consultants have invested in one.

      Blackgrass is an extremely invasive and prolific weed. It is quickly taking over in the UK and is very hard to rid from land. Farmers are spending £100's (sometimes upto £1000) per ha just to control the weed in a growing crop.

      Long story short some startups now offer a specialised UAV service for mapping of blackgrass.

      If the state of a farms weed problem is revealed in the data report then the few farmers that use the services, can start to control the impact of the weed.

      It is really at the start of the adoption curve for blackgrass mapping to farmers. 

    • Did a bit of reading on black grass, this looks like a good application where a drone discovers the problem and another drone is deployed to do a week killer application.  I had been looking at this and thought the limited capacity to carry a liquid would be and issue.  I can see a service where a person does fields for several farmers on a regular basis to keep the week in check.

    • Don't want to be the negative one but realistically, drones wouldn't be the best for treatment of the blackgrass problem.

      The amount and manner that herbicides are applied to the blackgrass means that the blanket spraying of fields is not easy, efficient or as cheap if performed by drones.

      Yes, the mapping provides a better indication and detailed ida of areas and locations of blackgrass. However the weed is widespread and requires large, efficient spraying equipment to attempt control. 

      The time of year the weed emerges and becomes a problem; post harvest and into the emergence of a new crop in the autumn, means the weather window for spraying is limited, the workload is higher with less time to constantly be filling a drone sprayer tank. To give an idea, common sprayer sizes are 3000l and will spray 100-300l/ha.

      The answer to controlling and eradicating the weed is not just sprays. The problem has been that that is the mentality of many farmers and is partly the reason the weed has grown to prominence recently.

      An approcah which combines many factors and practices, not just chemical control is the answer. 

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