Top marks for lesson on how drones can assist the farming community

A workshop that explored how drone technology has the potential to transform modern farming has been deemed a great success by Worcestershire businesses.

The two-day event, attended by the county’s leading commercial drone operators, was the second in a programme of free specialist business support initiatives being offered at Pershore College. Delivered by the GrowAgri Worcestershire project, the aim is to encourage county-based enterprises to diversify into new agri-tech markets.

The masterclass, which was delivered by Northumberland agricultural drone experts Drone AG, gave participants an introduction to drones in agriculture, drone safety & law, current regulations, software for mapping, and processing.

Helping to achieve what is known as precision agriculture, attendees also got to look in more detail at how the data collected by drones via GPS can be manipulated and interpreted for use by farmers and growers, and how this can be turned into a commercial service that drone operators could provide.

One of those participating was Nigel Pugh, managing director of Impact Aerial, a commercial drone business based in Wythall, that provides visual aerial services to a variety of industry sectors. He said: “I really enjoyed the drone technology workshop at Pershore College. It was a fantastic event, covering a wide range of topics on the opportunities for drone-based businesses looking to add value-based services into the agricultural sector.

“In particular, the insight given by Jack Wrangham from Drone AG about how he uses drone technology on his family farm in Northumberland was of great value. I really appreciated the time and effort he took in making sure we got a better understanding of how the farming community looks for support.

“I really wanted to thank the team from Pershore College and the guys from Drone AG, for their valuable input over the two days. It was a highly worthwhile use of our time and I have come away with a whole new set of potential business ideas.”

High-tech drone technology allows farmers, and the drone pilots that operate them, to increase efficiency in certain aspects of the farming process through effective analysis of the data they provide. This includes a range of activities such as crop planting and monitoring, livestock management and irrigation mapping, as the increased monitoring capabilities allows users to intervene earlier and respond faster to changing variables.

Dr Anjana Patel, agri-tech research assistant at Pershore College said: “Drone AG is at the forefront of precision agriculture with its innovative app, Skippy Scout. Skippy identifies locations where plant health may be deficient in nutrients and also aids weed recognition.

“The application of fertilisers or pesticides to these specific problem areas may therefore lower costs and improve efficiency. This data-driven approach represents the future of farming in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner, although pesticide application using drones is currently restrained by regulations. In time these will be relaxed and the area will offer new employment opportunities.”

Jack Wrangham, founder of Drone AG said: “We had a great time, engaging with drone pilots and businesses at Pershore College. The GrowAgri project presents many opportunities for business growth in the agricultural sector, and that includes opportunities for drone businesses, whose value in farming is quickly becoming apparent. We look forward to continuing working with the project and the drone operators we met in the near future.”

The GrowAgri project is seeking to engage with any Worcestershire-based engineers, food technologists, agronomists, systems analysts or other businesses that develop technologies that could be transferable across different industrial sectors.

For more information email growagri@wcg.ac.uk go to wcg.ac.uk/growagri or call Project Manager Mark Harwood-Browne on 0300 135 7179.


Pictured
: From left to right – Jack Wrangham, founder Drone AG; Managing Director of Impact Aerial, Nigel Pugh; GrowAgri Business Relationship Manager, Denis Harrison; Agri-Tech Research Assistant, Dr Anjana Patel