Farmers can call on help from above for crops

FARMERS unfamiliar with the use of drone technology will soon be educated on its advantages for crop management thanks to new easy-to-use software.

The cloud-based program offers aerial capabilities which allows farmers to instantly upload new images and create precise maps of crops to make for a more effective harvest.

Dr Zahra Gharineiat of University of Southern Queensland’s Springfield campus created the groundbreaking program alongside Dr Jun Wang.

She said both the program and drones would help countless farmers across the state to make better informed decisions.

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“It helps remove the guesswork when it comes to assessing crop health, monitoring crop growth rates and even spotting disease or other crop issues,” Dr Gharineiat said.

She said the use of drones in agriculture services ensured a timely and accurate collection of data.

“This can help farmers better address and respond to crop stress, manage labour costs, significantly increase yield and document crop losses for insurance purposes,” Dr Gharineiat said.

While many farmers have welcomed the technology, others have reportedly proven more hesitant.

University of Southern Queensland senior lecturer Dr Zahra Gharineiat.
University of Southern Queensland senior lecturer Dr Zahra Gharineiat.

Dr Gharineiat said the biggest hurdle for farmers was not knowing how to process and analyse the data.

She said many farmers instead chose to outsource the task which could typically cost thousands of dollars.

“Imagine the amount of money they would save if they purchased their own drone and were able to do the same job as often as they liked,” Dr Gharineiat said.

A free workshop will be hosted at Stanthorpe on April 22 to help educate those who are unfamiliar on how to safely operate a drone and use the new program.

“Most of the farmers I have spoken to say they are keen to use the technology but lack the knowledge and technical skills to process the images taken by the drone and convert them into maps,” Dr Gharineiat said.

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“We will be teaching them how high they need to fly to get accurate results, what sort of accuracy they can expect, how much overlap is needed between the images, what types of sensors they can use and how they can use the data in different applications for different purposes.

“Our key focus is to fill the knowledge gap so farmers can begin to tap into the full potential of drones and harness the opportunities they offer.”

She hoped the project would encourage further funding to allow for a nationwide tour of the workshops.

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Read more stories by Kaitlyn Smith here.



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