Science Technology

How Drone Technology Can Help Farmers Improve Agriculture

Photo: DroneDeploy

DroneDeploy’s Groundbreaking Technology

As an avid photographer, my uncle is the type of person to run head-first after a bear in the deep woods of Yosemite just for a picture. We all have that one friend, right? Two years ago my uncle received a present that changed his life: a drone. Although drone use is not allowed in national parks, my uncle’s first drone altered the way he thought about capturing moments and exploring the world from a different viewpoint, and that brings me to DroneDeploy.

DroneDeoply’s mission is, “…to make the skies open and accessible for everyone.” And with their revolutionary live mapping technology, DroneDeploy is changing the way business owners see and understand the world like never before. Commercial use of drones is on the rise, and DroneDeploy’s user-friendly platform allows businesses to improve their workflow on the ground and in office. Specializing in the industries of agriculture, construction, inspection, mining, roofing and drone services, DroneDeploy provides data storage, customizable tools and unlimited resources for business owners. We’re taking a closer look at DroneDeploy’s impact on the agricultural industry and how it plays a vital role in field intelligence.

Heirloom tomatoesPixie tangerines and Microgreens – they all come from the Earth, and quality produce starts with the growers and farmers that nurture the soil and tend to their crops. With DroneDeploy’s mapping technology, farmers can more efficiently problem solve and deliver bountiful harvests so that you can have the very best at your dinner table. That said, we’re turning it over to the experts at DroneDeploy to learn more about their revolutionary technology.

Q&A With DroneDeploy

Agriculture is one of the fastest growing markets in the commercial drone industry. How does your Precision Ag Package assist farmers with their day-to-day responsibilities?

DroneDeploy: The Precision Ag Package was designed with growers in mind. Its curated features provide everything ag pros need to generate aerial insights and boost efficiency in the field. DroneDeploy also integrates with the common ag software that growers use and gives them access to 70-plus apps. DroneDeploy has the first ever drone App Market that integrates with major industry leaders like John Deere, so they can fit drones into their existing workflows and reap the benefits of drone data.

Instead of doing spot testing — testing one area of your farm and extrapolating the results — our user-friendly software allows growers to examine their whole fields quickly. Real-time insights like Live Map deliver actionable information, meaning that growers can make the decisions that boost yield and minimize crop loss without ever having to leave the field. It also helps identify variations and problem areas with NDVI, VARI and more.

How do crop field scanning and GPS map creation bring innovation to the field? 

DD: Scanning a field on foot for problems is much like looking for a needle in a haystack. With DroneDeploy you can cover hundreds of acres in a single flight and pinpoint exact locations of stress using a drone map — such as disease or irrigation issues. Then you can use this map to walk to the precise location, ground truth the data, and determine what’s wrong. You can even attach notes, photos and annotations in the field with your mobile device to share with your agronomist or foreman. All in all, it’s improving efficiency in an industry where every second counts. By catching an issue quickly, you can save an entire crop and preserve your harvest.

What kind of information does the ag-specific technology provide for farmers regarding plant health and growth? 

DD: Growers can fly their crops to quickly measure plant health using built-in vegetation analyses using just an iPhone or iPad — all in real time. Once they spot troubled areas with these analyses, they can then use DroneDeploy to generate prescription application zones in their field, enabling them to target specific areas with pesticides or fertilizer to ensure a prosperous harvest.

By integrating with other apps, growers can count crops and determine the economic impact of lost plants using artificial intelligence (Agremo), identify damaged crops caused by severe events to support insurance claims (Skymatics) with cutting-edge computer vision, and more.

How does ag-specific drone technology cater to pre and post-harvest challenges and practices? 

DD: You can use drone data to help prepare for a growing season by assessing barren soil, reviewing historically challenging spots in the field, and mapping your irrigation setup. And using plant health indices you can precisely determine the right time to harvest your crop to maximize your yield.

What’s the benefit of using drone data and stitch crop imagery versus manned aircraft imagery? 

DD: In short, drone maps real-time data and higher resolution images. Farmers no longer have to wait days for aerial images as they used to in the past. Drones are also much cheaper to deploy and can integrate with more tools to streamline the whole process. While manned aircraft imagery is useful for analyzing vast amounts of terrain (think around 2,000 miles), the average farm in the U.S. is under 450 acres, and considering drones can fly 160 acres in less than 15 minutes, they are more than capable of mapping out farms across the country.

What are some of the ways farmers can utilize your DroneDeploy App Market to collaborate and grow their business?

DD: All the industry leaders — farming and otherwise — have tools on the App Market. From small business to enterprises, tens of thousands of drone users from more than 180 countries trust DroneDeploy to power their operations.

What each app does ranges in complexity. On the simpler end, there’s a Box integration that helps everyone in an organization collaborate and upload data to a Box account. On the more involved end, the John Deere app helps sync drone data to their MyJohnDeere account to produce variable rate prescriptions, analyze soil makeup, and review historical field data to make predictions for the coming year.

How does your partnership with Agremo and access to their crop reports, including Stand Count and Plant Population data, provide farmers with the best data for their needs? 

DD: Agremo is an industry-leading agricultural sensing and analysis platform. We’ve partnered with Agremo to bring drone crop reports to DroneDeploy, so our agriculture customers can create actionable reports that drive down costs and improve crop performance. These reports improve efficiency and eliminate error by leveraging the latest in machine learning and AI to provide easy-to-digest information, and actionable insights they can put to work to improve their harvest.

How do you see this technology revolutionizing the industry regarding finance and plant/crop prosperity? 

DD: It’s a much more efficient method of surveying a field. Not only do you eliminate the substantial finances needed for manned flight surveys, but the cost to purchase and operate a drone is relatively inexpensive — even under $1,000 — with hardware prices plummeting in 2017.

Live Map will continue to allow growers to derive more detailed insights on crop health, helping them spot diseased crops before it can spread further and whether it makes sense to replant a dead section of crops, for example. These quicker and smarter decisions will continuously improve growers’ plant and financial prosperity.

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Article by Jessie Yount for Sauté Magazine. Photography by DroneDeploy. Read the original article here.

Culture News Technology

Farmers Are So Desperate For Field Workers That They’re Resorting To Robots

If you ever find yourself out in the Salinas Valley of California in the spring or summer, you’ll come across quite a few berry fields, many of which supply Driscoll’s, one of the largest berry companies in the world. You’ll find workers out there harvesting the fruit, but not as many as there used to be.

Those who oversee the harvesters are finding it much harder to find employees to come work in their fields. One such foreman from Scurich Berry Farms in Salinas told me that farms in the area attempt to draw away workers with competing wages and benefits, and often times, that results in a shortage of workers for some farms as they all move to where the most money is.

Between that, an overall shortage of field laborers, and the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration that could potentially take out half of the available workforce, farm owners are struggling to find people to harvest their crops. Yields are affected as a result, with some major berry farms in the area operating at a paltry 40% yield due to these factors, according to the aforementioned foreman.

It isn’t just a problem in Salinas Valley, however. Many fruit orchards and other farms across the country are experiencing similar labor issues, and are looking to solutions to up their yields and fill needed jobs in a market where there are way more available positions than willing workers.

Most are looking to harvesting robots as the future for their fields. According to Popular Mechanics, a couple are almost ready to launch and can pick produce for 24 hours a day at a 90-95% yield.

Harvesting robots can currently service crops like wheat and corn that don’t require careful harvesting to prevent crop damage, but fragile crops like apples and berries are still harvested by hand. Both robotics companies (FFRobotics in Israel and Abundant Robotics in California) that are almost done developing machines for these fruits say they can pay back themselves in a couple of years, putting the cost of these machines at a couple hundred thousand a pop at minimum. Prototypes will be tested in fields as early as this fall.

In a future of food where these farmers can’t find enough workers to tend to their fields, robots might be the only solution to help ensure we harvest enough produce to feed the planet.


Ebola May Cause Chocolate Prices to Increase This Halloween


Chocolate prices have gone up and are expected to go up more thanks to Ebola. According to NPR, chocolate bars like Hershey’s milk have already increased by 5 to 10 cents and may continue to do so as Halloween approaches.

Jack Scoville, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group, has been tracking the price jumps and the reasoning behind them. Scoville told NPR that chocolate prices have hit a three-year high now because of the Ebola crisis.

Before panic sets in and you trash your secret stash of office sweets (you’ll never find them, Elie), it should be mentioned that one cannot contract Ebola from eating or handling chocolate. The reason for the price hike is a fear of Ebola spreading to the Ivory Coast, causing cocoa farmers to move to avoid exposure. This leaves crops of cocoa beans unpicked and unready for shipment.

Now that the borders are sealed, they can’t just hop back and start harvesting again. While farmers are looking to hire locals to pick the cocoa for them, the uncertainty of the Ebola crisis has left the cocoa market in the dark.

Thus, because supply is limited, prices increase.



Research Shows Slow Jams Actually Help Cows Get Into the Milking Moo-d


According to a study by psychologists at the University of Leicester, milk production can increase by as much as 3 percent when cows are listening to slow music.

Similar to humans, slow jams can help relieve stress and relax the cows getting them in a friendlier mood to be milked. While 3 percent may not sound like a lot, but when you multiply that by all the dairy cows it could really help out the milk industry. So the next time you need Bessie to bust out a gallon, throw on some Barry White so she can get it on.

Though the study is over ten years old, farmers agree with the results. Modern Farmer talked to some farmers who believe it’s not so much the genre of the music that matters as much as the beat of the song:

“[In studies] animals seemed, in general, to find slow, rhythmic music most relaxing. Perhaps easy listening or new age would be best.”

Besides simply calming the cows, the music also helps to drown out more unpleasant sounds such as machinery and other loud noises. As much as the cows love music, apparently they aren’t fond of Willie Nelson’s stuff — the country legend tends to rile them up.

H/T Consumerist, Modern Farmer


UK Dating Site ‘Muddy Matches’ is for Farmers Who Don’t Mind Getting Dirty


Looks like lonely British farmers won’t have to rely on their livestock for companionship anymore — not with the growing success of dating site “Muddy Matches,” which caters exclusively to farmers who don’t mind getting a little dirty. The rustic dating service is the brainchild of Lucy and Emma Reeves, two English sisters who were less than satisfied with the dating pool in their local farming communities. They hatched the idea of a dating website focused solely on agriculturally-minded UK citizens in 2007, and now Muddy Matches is “the UK’s premier farmer dating site.”

In an interview with Modern Farmer, the sisters revealed that the site’s typical user:

1. Is up front about their hobbies and interests, “Loads of blokes will put up pictures of themselves with tractors and diggers [and] dogs first, then horses and cats, then livestock.”

2. Knows how to rock a fashionable farming look, “I wouldn’t be comfortable putting up a picture of myself in a tweed jacket on a normal dating site. It’s easier when you’re showing yourself to like-minded people.”

3. Is very technologically savvy, “I don’t know any farmer who isn’t online these days […] we have a lot of problems getting broadband in the countryside — but everyone’s connected.”

Sounds like a pool full of winning candidates to us. The only snag we see is the fact that the sisters who founded the site (aka the posterchildren for lovelorn rustics) don’t use their own dating service, “We both met our other halves on dating site . . . just not our own.” We really can’t imagine why.

H/T + PicThx to Modern Farmer 


479° Popcorn: Pimentòn de La Vera

‘Pimentòn de La Vera is grown near a monastery garden by the Tietar River in a region called “La Vera.” Here, farmers smoke tiny paprika pods over oak wood, and mill the dried peppers with heavy stone wheels. We accent this gorgeous spice with a hand-ground mixture of organic sun-ripened tomatoes and onion to create a luxurious snack that is at once smoky, sweet and salty. If you feel a sudden urge to take up flamenco dancing halfway through the box, we suggest that you act on it.’ (Thx 479° Popcorn)