Drone technology pays off for farmers
Drone technology has long been touted as the future of agriculture. For Neil Gardyne, it's becoming apparent that drones are a beneficial tool to have on his hill country sheep, beef, and cropping farm.
Neil and his son Mark bought their first drone, a Chinese-made Hexocopter from the US after researching online about the technology a few years ago.
They used the model to fly over their sheep flocks at their farm in Otama Valley, and monitor stock in difficult or hard-to-access terrain, checking for cast sheep during lambing.
Since then, Neil began working with AbacusBio consultants to explore potential applications that could offer productivity and profitability gains, ranging from counting stock and mapping drains, to monitoring weeds and trough levels.
"Having eyes in the sky has been a real advantage, in terms of giving a bit of peace of mind knowing that everything is fine, and reducing the need to go out on-farm unnecessarily," Neil says.
For example, checking the paddocks less in person could easily save on up to 11,000 km worth of fuel for a four-wheel motorbike, in addition to maintenance costs.
Neil and AbacusBio consultant Nadia McLean were recently at the Deer Industry Focused Farming Project Deer Technology Expo in Gore, to present some drone applications that Neil and his family have been using at their farm, and hope to use in the future.
"Over the past few years, we've seen increased interest in drone technology among farmers," says Nadia, who is also working with Mandeville farmers Russell and Pam Welsh on developing drone applications.
"However, on a national scale, the uptake of drones has been relatively slow in New Zealand, compared to the US."
Nadia says, AbacusBio will be working with Callaghan Innovation to find out the reason behind such a low uptake level, and how we can best utilise this technology.
It is hugely anticipated that the drone industry is set to transform the agricultural sector – both in New Zealand and abroad.
With a productive land base of 14.4 million hectares, there are numerous potential economic benefits of drone technology across New Zealand’s agricultural sector.
In working with Callaghan Innovation, AbacusBio hopes that New Zealand can be positioned as a leading light in empowering drone technology within the agricultural sector.