New drone technology that will help growers to walk crops more efficiently will be available from March 2020.
Skippy Scout is a crop monitoring application (app) that uses drones to automatically capture images which are analysed by artificial intelligence (AI) to offer arable farmers vital broad acre crop insight.
The phone-based app uses GPS and mapping software to fly a drone to points in a field selected by the farmer.
The images taken by the drone are interpreted by the app to provide an accurate green area index (GAI) and count emerging plants.
The quality of image collected can also identify weeds and is accurate enough to capture insect damage on a single leaf.
Jack Wrangham, founder of Drone Ag, and his team have spent the last eighteen months developing the software and during 2019 worked with 200 triallists.
These ranged from farmers and agronomists to universities such as Harper Adams.
He sees drones as an essential tool for farmers today and also believes that in the next five years drones will help provide much of the information needed to aid precision farming decisions.
He explains: “Farmers have always walked their crops. However, the time available to do this in the traditional way is diminishing.
“As farm sizes increase and labour units per hectare decline, the risk of losing crops because a problem has not been identified quickly enough will increase.
“Skippy Scout offers every farmer the chance to see and evaluate crops easily and efficiently using just a phone and a drone.” The grower chooses points using maps of their farm that are stored in the phone app.
The drone then flies to the selection taking images at each point. The images are fed back to the phone for analysis and AI in the app interprets the images to offer the operator information and advice.
Each set of results is recorded to allow for future comparisons to be made year on year.
Mr Wrangham further explains that drones and technology are not future fantasy, but vital tools that are being used by farmers today.
“Technology is not a threat to farming, it is an aid that can save time and money. Adapting farming methods to make use of technology like Skippy is crucial if agriculture is going to provide for the world’s ever-growing population.
“We have involved hundreds of growers as trialists and many more are waiting to use Skippy in 2020.”
Drone Ag was able to crowdfund the investment needed to develop Skippy Scout and will launch the product in March 2020.
A partnership with drone specialists Heliguy will offer farmers the opportunity to lease a package of drone and software, allowing those interested to experiment and learn how drones can benefit their farm.
“We are arable farmers and we have developed Skippy at our own farm in Northumberland. This software is genuinely easy to use and is priced to be affordable to every arable farmer.
“We believe drones can help and we have developed this software to be accessible to everyone who wants to embrace change and adopt new farming practices,” Mr Wrangham said.
Source: Farming UK