Agriculture is capable of impacting the world in a big way. However, agriculture is facing many challenges ranging from rapid population growth, diseases affecting crops, low yields only to name a few.Farmers need to make better decisions and invest in in new technology to tackle some of these challenges.
One example of new technology that has the capability of revolutionizing the agricultural sector is drone technology.Commercial use of drones dates back to the 1980s.Today,thanks to technological investments and emergence of regulations governing drone use,commercial use of drones have expanded rapidly and agriculture is a sector that has really embraced the use of drone technology.
With the global population growth, food consumption is expected to rise by almost 70% by 2050.Environmental factors for example warming poses many challenges to agricultural production.All stake holders in the agricultural sector-Government, farmers as well as researchers-should collaborate to come up with lasting solutions to these challenges.
Drone technology offers solutions to most of these challenges.This article explores how drones can address these challenges and proposes actions to be taken in future by farmers and all stake holders.
WAYS DRONES ARE REVOLUTIONIZING THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
i) Analyzing the field and soil
Drones are able to produce high quality 3-D maps.These maps contain data that can be used to analyze the soil before planting seeds.This data can also guide farmers on which crops can do better in a certain type of soil, which fertilizer to use and how to irrigate the crops.
ii) Planting the seeds
There are drone planting systems that shoot seed pods with nutrients necessary for plant growth.This reduces costs associated with planting seeds and its faster and more efficient as compared to human beings planting seeds.Drones can withstand conditions human beings can`t withstand like hot weather as well as access fields inaccessible by human beings. BioCarbon Engineering is a start-up implementing drone solutions for agriculture.Their drones can plant almost 100,000 trees a day.
For large scale farmers with huge fields of agricultural land,it`s not easy to monitor the progress of their yields.Diseases might affect crops without the knowledge of farmers.Drones help farmers acquire important information that might help improve yields.This is common in large corporations managing huge tracks of land and have the resources to invest in drones.
iv) Spraying pesticides
By using drones, farmers can easily spray crops with pesticides more effectively as compared to manual spraying.Drones can be used to target crops that are affected by pests and spray pesticides.Drones make it easy to spray huge tracks of land and they are timely and cost effective.
Drones have sensors that identify which parts need improvement in irrigation.Areas that need improvement can be attended to resulting in timely irrigation.
CHALLENGES OF USING DRONES FOR AGRICULTURE
- Average farmers may not be able to interpret the information acquired by the drone.They might need to hire skilled personnel or go through training which may be expensive.They might also need to hire someone to operate the drone.
- Drones may be affected by weather conditions like wind and heavy rains.It may not be possible to fly them with these weather conditions.
- Most of the drones have a maximum flight time of an hour, limiting the size of land it can cover in one charge.Drones with a longer flight time are expensive.
- Drones equipped with features necessary for agricultural use are costly, but worthwhile in the long run.
- There are legal and insurance implications of using drones commercially.A farmer has to register his/her drone with relevant national bodies and insurance firms incase drones cause accidents.The legal implications vary with country.In the USA,commercial drone use is registered with Federal Aviation Administration(FAA).
- Flying drones might interfere with flight of other aircrafts.Farmers are required to file their flight plans with the local airports to avoid interference.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE
Agriculture is the backbone of the global economy.However it is facing many challenges and these challenges will continue to affect the sector in future.Rapid population growth will lead to high demand of food and the current agricultural practices will not be able to meet this demand.Crops diseases are emerging lowering crop yields.Global warming is changing weather patterns which is affecting agricultural produce.Global warming will continue to rise future posing more challenge to agriculture sector.Farmers are unable to make sound decisions in terms of planting and irrigation.
How can we solve these future challenges.Drone technology has solutions to these challenges.Farmers should learn technology skills to be able to operate drones and interpret data acquired by drones.This data will enable them to make sound decisions which will improve their yields.Drones will be used to study weather patterns and this information will be used by farmers to make sound decisions.
Governments should help farmers invest in drone technology.The government should collaborate with academic institutions to provide practical education and research in drone technology.If done right,drone technology will impact the agricultural sector in a positive way.Yields will be high and the economy will boost,therefore improving people`s living standards.