“We are talking to large growers and agricultural businesses to find out how we can work together,” says George Hooper, Business Development Manager at Lockheed Martin in the UK. He is scheduled to speak at the ‘Perspectives on Disruptive Technology’ session during Agri-Tech East’s REAP Conference on 9 November 2016.
With the overarching theme of ‘Innovation for an Agricultural Revolution’, the conference will explore the current relationship between agriculture and technology, highlighting the potential for external innovation to be incorporated into the agri-food industry.
Most recognised for its background in global security and aerospace, Lockheed Martin is now establishing a presence in agriculture – part of its wider work in the manufacture and integration of advanced technology systems. George Hooper is responsible for this expansion; we spoke with him to find out more…
Expanding into Agri-Tech
Lockheed Martin is using data analytics expertise, Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) product range and their experience in systems integration to build an offering in agriculture. Hooper explains: “We are talking with agricultural businesses to find out what could be of interest and to set up a commercial model, and we are also looking for partners. At this present time, we are in a development phase and looking to launch something in 2017. At REAP, I will be discussing how we came into agribusiness, where I think our capabilities can help, and where future development is going to be of interest.”
Research and Development
The company is considering several applications for agriculture. This includes ‘LiDAR’, a surveying technology that measures distance with a laser light, and is commonly used by the Environment Agency and others to make high-resolution maps, with applications in water catchment. Hooper says: “One of the strands of our work is to look at what sensors we currently have, and how they can be applied to agriculture. Some of the areas we have looked also include ground penetrating radar, which could be used for root surveys and multi-spectral cameras, which could be used to monitor parasite infestations and moisture content.
Lockheed Martin is selling the ‘Indago’ UAV in the UK, which is used for both defence and commercial applications. Indago can be used to scout crops and conduct 3D terrain mapping. Alongside use of the high definition camera, one distributor is also utilising infrared, which creates interesting possibilities: “We are undertaking further sensor development, so that other types of sensors can be carried on UAVs of that size. Weight is a primary problem, but I don’t think that is going to be a long-term issue. The issue is always going to be about gathering huge amounts of data and making it useful to a farmer on the ground. We also need to think about the commercial models behind that.”
Hooper sees a role for Lockheed Martin as a systems integrator. He explains: “Farmers often have multiple streams of data being gathered by machinery and the challenges of being able to integrate the data from these different systems is significant. “In addition to building Lockheed Martin’s presence in agriculture, I have 20 years of experience with an international post and parcels portfolio.
“Why this is relevant is that it is our software that is behind all of Royal Mail’s letter sorting machines around the country and we are able to integrate with all the makes of sorting machines. We believe our expertise in systems integration will be very useful as we look at the agricultural market.”