Drones for ag featured at National Farmers Ag Business Conference

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Farm Forum

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — What’s a smart farmer to do when someone comes to him and tells him he needs a drone if he wants to step up his grain game the way he wants? Aaron Sheller buys one; then he teams up with other smart aggies and starts building them.

That’s the agriculture drone, or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) story of Aaron Sheller, co-owner of Precision Drone, a seventh generation farmer. Sheller pointed out to National Farmers Ag Business Conference attendees that with a drone, producers enjoy geographically-located yield estimates pre-harvest. That means producers can increase or decrease bushels hedged before the market recognizes limitations or surplus, he explained. That was important information for National Farmers members, because many of the conventional grain growers use the organization’s options, contracts and hedge tools to manage risk.

“With a drone, you can walk straight to the problem area in a field with geo-referenced scouting,” Sheller said.

Sheller answered a future-focused question asked on behalf of organic growers. What about mechanical drones? National Farmers Grain Director Tim Ennis could see applications for organic producers for weed management in on-the-ground drones.

There is tech now being developed for that, Sheller said. Drone seeders have already been developed especially for use in planting cover crops. “If there is a need for it in our society it seems like they’ll come up with it,” Sheller said.

The technology to go down the rows and to put a seeder on it is already there, he said. The challenge is cost effectiveness. “Can it get to the grower at a price they can afford? Is the question,” he said. Right now, drone weed control would be expensive, but technology tends to grow more affordable, he said.

Sheller also noted differences between multi-rotor and fixed-wing drones, and explained with a UAV, the producer owns the images. With the Precision Drone product, the use is real-time, for same-day crop management decisions.