Precision Agriculture Taking Root With Drones, AgBio Technology

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barely been scratched. Denmark-based Novozymes, which has its North American headquarters in Franklinton, NC, has partnered with Monsanto (NYSE: MON) to research, develop, and commercialize new agricultural microbials.

The research in microbials from Novozymes and Syngenta is still years from reaching farmers; more study is needed and regulatory approvals will be required as well. The technology likely to reach farms in the near future is the aerial drone.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently limits drone use to research purposes. The UAV industry has been pushing for the FAA to integrate UAVs into the aviation system. In a report released last year, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says drones will have a $13.6 billion economic impact in the first three years; in North Carolina, that economic impact would be $153 million.

Some investors are betting on the growth potential of drones in agriculture, among other uses. Raleigh, NC startup PrecisionHawk in September closed a $10 million Series B round led by Millennium Technology Value Partners. That round followed a $25 million Series B round raised by San Francisco, CA startup Airware, which is developing a hardware and software system that will allow other companies to build custom drones.

Ron Heiniger

While drone companies await a loosening of restrictions on drone use, researchers are already demonstrating the technology’s potential in agriculture. Ron Heiniger, a professor and cropping systems specialist in North Carolina State University’s Department of Crop Science, said at the AgBio Summit that for the first time this year, researchers used tiny helicopters to apply chemicals to a crop in just the right location. Researchers determined the right place to apply chemicals by monitoring crops over time, then analyzing crop data using software tools developed by the university.

Precise application of chemicals and fertilizers means that only the needed amount is applied to a plant, which exposes the environment to less of a chemical. Precise application also leaves no wasted chemical, which saves money. The days of using a large, lumbering tractor to tend to crops could become a thing of the past, Heiniger says.

“We’ve got to be more precise, to find the right way to apply nutrients to the right place, the right time, even the right plant,” he says.

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2 responses to “Precision Agriculture Taking Root With Drones, AgBio Technology”

  1. With we strive to provide a complete overview of UAV Solutions. Here you can read up on reviews and compare product specifications.

  2. Zach Thalman says:

    I have heard that drones were starting to be used to help with the agriculture and farmers. I could see why they would be of such help because the drones could map out everything in the sky quickly and also be able to find the trouble areas in the crops so the farmers could go in and see what the issue is.