If necessity is the mother of invention, then farming is certainly one of her oldest children. Farming practices in the US have soared beyond previous limits with cutting-edge precision software and machinery, and an unprecedented level of automation in the field. But don’t be fooled — there’s still plenty of room for an even more revolutionary breakthrough. And something “revolutionary” is exactly what the Drone Challenge is seeking.
Where do we go from here? Drones have tremendous potential to be an eye in the sky for farmers; a tool like none other before that could revolutionize precision agriculture. Yet, a truly exceptional integration of aerial drone imagery and automation still doesn’t exist. As a result, there’s a huge opportunity for innovators to bring world-class imagery, smart tech, and scalable technology together in a groundbreaking solution for farms everywhere.
The agricultural industry has a long history of adapting to changing conditions and using the latest innovations to support feeding a growing global population. Farmers deal with countless pressures and challenges such as increasing sustainability, maximizing yields to meet demand, maintaining margins, and managing water usage. Like other industries, agriculture is turning to data in order to make the best decisions possible. Farmers make thousands of decisions in a growing season and the more of those decisions supported by data the better.
Farmers have always collected field data. This process can be as simple as walking through a field and making observations, but farmers are limited by time, data recording and the capabilities of analysis tools when making visual observations. A farmer simply can’t walk every row of crops to collect data.
More recently, precision agriculture has been enabled by the combination of satellites and precision machinery. Satellites recording multispectral images allow high throughput data collection showing plant health and field productivity in small field zones. This data, in conjunction with variable rate machinery connected to GPS, allows farmers to tailor field care to the specific needs of crops while increasing water efficiency, decreasing fertilization waste, and ultimately increasing crop yields.
The next frontier of precision agriculture will be enabled with new, higher resolution data that can be captured on demand and independent of cloud cover, with very little human input. Many current precision agriculture drone and UAV solutions require a great deal of time and effort in the data collection and processing workflow. This greatly decreases the ability of farmers to tap into the benefits of this new technology space. That’s why there’s a huge opportunity for Land O’Lakes Prize innovators to bring world-class imagery, smart tech and true scalability together in a groundbreaking Solution for farms everywhere.
As a member-owned cooperative (many of which are farmers), Land O’Lakes is always looking for new ways to bring value to our members. We have provided thought leadership in the precision agriculture and satellite imaging space and have a number of tools available that provide value to farmers, like the R7® Tool by WinField.
Drones represent a prime example of a new technology that has the potential to provide even more valuable decision making data to farmers. Prospective changes to FAA regulations may offer a legal pathway for a truly autonomous and scalable drone Solution to transform a number of industries. We believe that combining world class imagery, automation, and scalability to achieve an all-encompassing precision agriculture Solution will create the value that will make a real difference in the field.