Drone Ag’s software ‘Skippy Scout’ serves to “make sense of agriculture” by providing a more complete view of what’s going on in the field – quickly providing actionable crop insights that are repeatable, detailed, at leaf-level and from a broader, bird’s-eye-view, explains Alex Macdonald-Smith, Chief Operations Officer at Drone Ag. The company has exhibited several times at REAP and has benefited from crowdsourced funding for its product.
Ahead of REAP 2022 we asked Alex about the challenges and opportunity gaps.
“In order to know what’s actually happening in the crop, the farmer/grower/agronomist needs to actually see it.
“With the time constraints and demands of modern agriculture, the likelihood of missing a yield limiting factor that may arise throughout the growing season, or catching important timing triggers in the crop too late to prevent yield loss – is unfortunately high.
“With Skippy Scout, using standard, off-the-shelf technology, the whole field can be viewed quickly, and data collection can be repeated throughout the season to view comparisons and trends in near real-time.
“Moreover the collected data can be viewed or sent anywhere, so anyone who needs to see it, can see it instantly.
Where are the gaps at the moment?
“Within farming as a whole, there is a definite need for technologies to earn the trust of their target market. There are obvious gaps, especially surrounding powerful, potential integrations, and things have been promised of certain technologies that have as of yet, not delivered any meaningful results.
“So, in short, yes there are plenty of tools, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a very powerful thing, but as of yet we’ve only scratched the surface and the possibilities are endless.
“One of the reasons we built Skippy Scout was that other drone software, that wasn’t designed for agriculture, had been adapted to provide agricultural insights but didn’t deliver on its promise. These technologies were complex and slow, and therefore not an easy fit for fast-paced farming workflows, so adoption was slow and the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. Skippy was designed purely with broad-acre cropping and these demands in mind.
“At Drone Ag we are constantly working on building trust with farmers by providing a useful, affordable service for them, with the ever-clear goal of making their jobs easier.
Is the future high tech, frugal or diversified?
“I don’t think I could choose one single scenario from these three – I can’t predict the future, but the way things are going all three are definitely set to play their role in the bigger picture.
“Farming needs to become more sustainable and more productive; the only way this can happen is with frugality, diversification and high tech.
“At Drone Ag we definitely play into the high-tech category, but also into the environmental space. We have our sights set on soil as well as variable rate inputs, not only that but our system allows for less soil compaction, fuel usage etc.
“If farmers are to meet the growing needs of an ever expanding population, all avenues of future-proofing and sustainability must be approached with an open mind.”
From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.