Agriculture and Drones: The Future of Family Farming

BEAVER CREEK, M.N. – The sky is no longer the limit for family farmers. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the market for drone-powered solutions in agriculture at more than $32 billion, but how helpful are these drones?

Peter Bakken of Beaver Creek, Minnesota fondly remembers when he got a not-so-typical phone call from the farmer next door.

“[I] had a neighbor that was working some cattle,” said Bakken. “The gate got left open. The cattle got out. Well, when this time of year when the corn is five, six feet tall, it’s awfully hard to go walking through the corn field looking for your cattle.”

So, Bakken used his drone to locate those runaway cattle.

“If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video is worth a library, and the drone helps me have the library,” said Bakken.

Bakken is a fourth-generation family farmer, farming a little bit of everything. Three years ago, he invested in a drone to teach fourth graders about agriculture.

He’s since learned that drones open up even more possibilities.

When severe weather strikes, Bakken can quickly survey the area with a bird’s eye view.

“In a wet year like this, you can fly those spots and maybe find out where you should install a little bit more tile,” said Bakken.

Farmers now have a sky-high view like they’ve never had before. Now they can get a special look at their corn crops like right over here – and that’s just the beginning.”>

“When the aphids get really bad, you can take your drone and fly it within like four inches of the bean plant and as the drone’s hovering there, the pellars open up the beans, and you can see the aphids if it’s bad,” said joey Brown.

Over in Brandon, Joey Brown flies his drone over five to six fields per day. In fact, he says he can fly a 180 acre field in just five minutes, then send the video to his customers.

“It’s amazing what these drones are adding to our dealership just because it saves so much time,” said Brown, aseed replacement and chemical salesperson.

Now, farmers can fly a drone over a field, snap a photo, and quickly count crops.

“Before, they used to have to hire techs to go out -high school kids or college kids – to go out and count all these,” said Brown.

However, drones aren’t perfect. Drone pilots should educate themselves about privacy concerns. Additionally, some farmers say it’s only a matter of time before air traffic becomes the norm.

Despite concerns, drones are the new favorite tool for farmers. Adam Tebben of Donovan’s Hobby and Scuba Center says he sells drones every single day.

“It’s been crazy so far,” said Tebben.

A few years ago, helicopters and airplanes flew off the shelves. Now, drones are the new trend. This is because smaller drones have gyros, which make them easier to fly – so stable you can even land it in the palms of your hands.

“[It’s] kind of an ultimate selfie stick,” said Tebben.

When it comes to technology, ag doesn’t lag. Maybe drones are on their way to being as commonplace on farmers as four wheelers or tractors.

In an email to KDLT News, the Federal Aviation Administration weighed in on drones and safety.

“Drone pilots are pilots, and they need to be aware of the rules of flight for safe operation,” said an FAA spokesperson.

 

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