Eye in sky boon for farmers

The Aerobotics Agronomy team of Jon Adams, left, Devin Osborne and Stefan Hattingh on a citrus farm in the Clanwilliam region
The Aerobotics Agronomy team of Jon Adams, left, Devin Osborne and Stefan Hattingh on a citrus farm in the Clanwilliam region

Quickly spotting pests and easily noting a crop’s yield has never been easier for SA farmers with snazzy little gadgets being made available to help them get with the times and take farming hi-tech.

Agri SA and data analytics company Aerobotics recently announced their partnership to provide SA’s farmers with access to free satellite farming data and the latest Aeroview InField Scouting Application.

Aeroview InField is Aerobotics’ newest all-in-one data capturing solution for improved, all-round pest and disease management for farmers.

The Aeroview app will enable a farmer to gain insights from high-resolution drone data, leading them directly to stressed trees on their farm.

The app’s aim is to help accelerate access to analytical information that will assist farmers in the early identification of pests and disease and improvement of yield.

InField can also facilitate upcoming software developments such as Drone Scouting. Drone scouting allows farmers who own and fly drones to collect data when needed. The tool is used to control the drone and position it within a five-meter range of stressed trees to capture a 360-degree visual of each tree. Thereafter, the data is interpreted to identify problems without farmers having to walk into the orchard.

Another development to soon follow is Yield Management. It helps farmers make informed decisions on how much fruit to thin during the early stages of the season and optimise their yield when it is time to harvest.  

Agri SA executive head Omri van Zyl said the partnership was a great example of the potential that could be unlocked when bringing key players in the agricultural value chain together.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” he said.

“We know that South African farmers are early-adopters when it comes to new technology.

“We’re confident that Aeroview can be used to their immediate benefit.”

Aerobotics, which is also a member of the Agri SA corporate chamber, is an SA company which focuses on advancing the future of the farming landscape.

The advanced satellite data coupled with the latest crop scouting software is already available to farmers at no cost or any future commitment.

Aerobotics CEO James Paterson said being part of a joint venture that served to strengthen the backbone of an increasing tech-enabled farming culture was an exciting step towards greater production levels.

“Working together, we can only look forward to seeing how farmers can actively experience the results of a more convenient, time-saving technology to manage harvest expectations.”

Margaret McGregor, from Bergsoom Farm in Citrusdal in the Western Cape, is involved in the small family-run farm which has been operating for more than 30 years.

McGregor said before using the Aeroview app, the farm relied mainly on old and traditional orchard monitoring solutions where her team had to do everything manually.

“Today, now that we’ve introduced the new early detection aerial satellite data and AI software via Aerobotics in our running order, things have become much easier. It is useful to farm workers, who find the software easy to use.

“[It’s] a great way to include people as on-the-ground scouts and involve them in the process, to go into the field with the app through a mobile device and capture trees via the markers provided by the drone system’s GPS.”

McGregor said her team was also able to save a lot of time by getting results and feedback fairly quickly.

“[This] is imperative for disease prediction, avoiding moths and other pests to breed.

“The software is like binoculars that help us detect what the bare eye can’t see, and the details are astonishing.

“Now, we also use less water as a result of weekly updates – especially during the drought period – to help us gauge which trees in the orchard need water (according to pest and disease indication).

“This is a great way to see the farm from close and dissect problems regularly and before serious damage becomes a reality.”