Flying a drone

Drones to be part of NZ farming

AbacusBio is set to make unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) a reality for New Zealand farmers, as a new project kicks off to develop practical UAV agricultural applications.

Drones are fast becoming a defining feature of this century. Thousands are already in operation worldwide across a range of industries, including media and entertainment, security, transport, and infrastructure.

In New Zealand agriculture, drones have been a hot topic for a few years but it is only now that we are seeing a steady increase in the interest and uptake of drones among farmers.

AbacusBio consultants Nadia McLean and Anna Campbell are collaborating with a US-based satellite company to develop various UAV applications that will add value to sheep, beef, dairy, and deer sectors.

“We’re seeing a lot of satellite and UAV-based work being done with an emphasis on pasture and crop yield, health, and disease,” Nadia says, “but very little being focused on livestock”.

Over the course of this project, the team will develop some base applications, and work with farmers and stakeholders in New Zealand, the United States, and Australia to better understand the opportunities and limitations for drones within pastoral farming systems.

“These findings will provide us with insights to further refine the applications,” Anna says. “Ultimately, it’s about understanding the farmer’s needs and developing applications that are of benefit, rather than the drone being a cool toy and not much more!”

In recent years, AbacusBio has also worked on several projects that involve the use of drones and their applications to increase productivity on-farm.

Nadia says, “farmers have primarily been utilising them as an eye-in-the-sky tool”.

“Our plan now is to build on that, further exploit the huge potential of on-farm applications, and encourage a greater uptake of these drones on New Zealand farms.”

The project is being supported by AGMARDT.