The world commodity supply is presently at an all-time high and on the other end; prices of farm produce are at an all-time low because of the increase in demand of food production and consumption. This situation has now made the modern farming to be at a crossroad hence, all farmers around the globe need to respond to make sure the graph is balance or directly proportional to each other. One of the means they can achieve that is through the use of Drone thanks to technology.
Agricultural Drone technology also known as Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) is use to optimize agricultural operations, it make use of both Geographical positioning system (GPS) and Geographical information system (GIS) tools for time-scale monitoring and mapping of yield and crop parameter data within the field.
Agricultural UAVs help provide more intense and efficient cultivation methods which normally help farmers adjust fertilizers precisions or identify crop diseases before they spread around and take over the plants and farm land, in a nut shell, the device provides farmers with access to wealth of data that can help them make better farm management decisions, crop yields which will in turn increase overall profitability.
The agricultural industry is one of the booming industries that is quick to embrace technological trends to get things done. The use of drone in agriculture is the next technological wave that will help the agricultural business huge demands of the future. Before the invention of Agricultural drones, crops are monitored on a farmland by walking through the farm and taking the average crop growth. Weeding is done rotationally and sprayers are used to apply pesticides and herbicides on the farm land. Irrigation is done using sprinklers or furrow irrigation. Watering of plants were also done manually using watering cans and buckets. Getting the aerial view of the whole farm land was difficult to achieve before drone technology, it was only done by building a tall structure close to the farmland and then pictures and videos can be taken from the top of the structure. Livestock had its share of pre drone era; their health was always treated on a routine especially if they are being reared on a large scale because it is tedious to check their health status one after the other.
The following are the common uses of agricultural drones and how they are being achieved;
- Soil and field analysis: drones can be used to get useful data on the quality of soil from the beginning to the middle and down to the end of the crop cycle. The drone is made to obtain the 3D maps of the soil and will help to see if there are issues to be worried about on the soil, from the quality, nutrient management to the dead zones on the soil. Once the data is processed, the information that is deduced from it and can help farmers determine the most effective patterns for planting and managing the crops among others.
- Crop spraying and spot spraying: as we all know, crops require regular spraying and fertilization so as to maintain high yield. The traditional way of spraying is burdensome, very inefficient especially if the farm land is in hectares and very expensive. Thanks to technology, we now have drones that can be equipped with large reservoir and can be filled with fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. It is cost effective and safer. It can also be handled autonomously which give room for it to be programmed so that they can run on specific routes and schedules.
3. Irrigation monitoring and management: with several miles of farm to be irrigated, it is normal for issues to arise and drones equipped with thermal camera will come handy in this case because they can easily help farmers locate areas receiving excessive or too little moisture. The information can further help to maximize drainage, stick to natural land run off and other water issues that can damage crops.
4. Livestock monitoring (Real-time): drones that are equipped with thermal imaging cameras can help farmers keep track of livestock. Missing or injured livestock can easily be detected with this kind of drone, fishing out which livestock has just given birth or is giving birth. Compared to the traditional way of doing it, it involves low staff investment and less time.
Despite the fact that drone technology has several pros, we can’t overlook some of the downside agricultural drones poses on farm owners, some of include;
- It is expensive: conveniences come at a cost and this implies that the cost of farm machinery procurement will increase when farm owners begin to consider getting an agricultural drone. The average price of an AG drone as at January 2020 is close to N11 million.
- Internet dependent: drones make use GIS and GPS, both can only thrive with internet connection and most farm lands especially in Africa are usually located at the outskirt of the city where there is limited internet connectivity, this tend to make the use of drones tedious in locations like this. Getting the right precision on the part of the farmland they want to work on will be difficult with poor internet connection.
- Require a technical handler: agricultural drones are not common device that can be handled by just anyone. Its either a technical handler is hired or on of the farm staff go for a training of how to handle it and how to get the job done which comes at an extra cost.
The future of agricultural drones in Nigeria especially is in the hand of the government and the farmers. Government need to look inward and find a way to help out the farmers get their hand on these drones at a lesser price and also give them access to low interest loans when the need arises. Policies that will make telecommunication companies take their services to the rural area should also be enacted, government can also get these drones and lease them out to farmers at a cheaper rate and they should also help find a lasting solution to the way the value of naira to dollar is depreciating. Farmers should also not be afraid to embrace drone technology because clearly the pros it poses are enormous and this will help in contributing to making zero hunger campaign an easy task.
For us, we are aware of all the constraints that come with owning a commercial farm and that’s why we are keen on bringing in our technical expertise and use of technological equipment like drones to help farm owners thrive in their farming business.