Students at the University of Minnesota have utilised drone technology in their agricultural activities. It is called ‘Precision Agriculture’ and simply put, it merges technology with traditional farming.

Precision agriculture, uses drones fitted with GPS and cameras to estimate yields, monitor crops and other range of activities. In this testing period, a student remotely controlled a battery-powered drone from a laptop, moving it slowly along the rows of trees. This technique allowed the drone to capture images of apple trees at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Although the drone lasted just under 10 minutes, it was able to capture a range of data that the students can now use.

The University has even started a ‘Precision Agriculture Centre’ which is the first of its kind in the world. “The use of robots offers greater flexibility for farmers, allowing them to monitor small areas in fields. Precision agriculture is in the top 10 revolutions for agriculture”, says David Mulla, Director of the Centre.

Drones allow farmers to tailor/limit the amount of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides they use, which can have a negative impact on the environment. Using the technology allows farmers to monitor the use of fertilizer. Also selecting which crop needs care cuts costs on the effects of over-fertilising.

Precision Agriculture can gather and analyse more data than individual people could in the past. The technology has many potential applications which include analysing weather damage to crops and finding stressed crop populations.

Two other American sources have also stressed the significance drones could play in the agricultural industry which brings upon the question of whether South African Universities will follow the trend and research more into precision agriculture.

South Africa remains a net a food exporter, selling 30% more agricultural goods abroad than it imported. Agriculture contributes between 2 and 5% of South Africa’s GDP.  RocketMine has the capabilities to provide services to the agricultural industry and ensure that farms are able to cut cost and farmers are able to attain accurate, frequent data that will enable them to make smarter decisions at a fraction of the time.

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