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Drone agronomists seek to expand – AgriTrade News - Lewis McKerrow

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Lewis McKerrow“Targeted agronomy is fast becoming a reality.” - Lewis McKerrow

A UK agritech business is seeking further investment for its smartphone and drone linked crop inspection system, Skippy Scout.

DroneAg, established by Northumberland farmers Jack and Hugh Wrangham, has raised nearly 30% of its £250,000 target through private investment. It is seeking to secure the remainder online through a crowdfunding exercise to launch the system on the market over the next 18 months.

 

HIGH RESOLUTION

The Skippy Scout mobile phone application autonomously flies a drone around a given field to collect very high-resolution crop-level images. These leaf-level pictures are sent directly to the user’s smartphone, where they can be analysed for immediate crop management decisions.

The company claims that its drones can cover up to two hectares per minute of flight, making them up to 10 times faster than a traditional crop walking agronomist. It has over 200 users trialling the system, from individual farmers and agronomists to large agronomy businesses. Following the commercial launch, DroneAg intends to use a Subscription as a Service (SaaS) model, with different tiers for farmers and consultants.

Future developments aim to integrate artificial intelligence for the automatic detection of green area indexes, weed populations, disease levels and growth stages, plus the addition of variable rate mapping to integrate with application equipment for more targeted inputs.

“Targeted agronomy is fast becoming a reality and Skippy Scout has the potential to complement this by helping our agronomists to capture images from particular points of interest in the field,” notes Lewis McKerrow, digital farming manager at Hutchinson’s which is testing the Skippy Scout app. “Agronomy decisions will undoubtedly become more data driven – Skippy Scout offers a unique approach to drone use in agriculture to enhance decision making. It has the potential to send the drone to specific areas identified by other datasets such as satellite imagery or soil type variations.”

Andy Hindhaugh, commercial director at Berwick-based McCreath Simpson & Prentice which has invested in and is a distributor for Drone Ag, adds: “We see great potential in Skippy Scout. Our agronomists have been involved in the trials from the start and have seen increased productivity from using the solution and have been able to more accurately target where any agrochemical intervention is needed on a field. It is the first solution we have come across which is simple to use and delivers real benefits for farmers, agronomists and potentially the whole supply chain.”