Technology

Virginia Tech farmers event was precision perfect

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The day’s first speaker made an important distinction between gadgets and tools: A tool can save you time and money, something that should have a quantifiable return on investment; a gadget, however, has more of an entertainment component and doesn’t share the same practicality as a tool does.

Precision agriculture is all about it’s tools.

That was the running theme throughout the Virginia Tech Precision Agriculture Day, held at the land-grant university’s research facility, Kentland Farm, in Blacksburg. All farmers there were being encouraged to take the information gathered through modern machinery and reapply it to the operation to be more profitable. The hope, of course, is fewer inputs, improved efficiency, increased yields, and reduced labor.

Ryan Tipps
Ryan Tipps

The event featured well-respected industry speakers and Virginia Tech research faculty, and also showcased the latest UAVs and imaging and planting technologies. Three types of UAVs (or drones) were seen:

  • The small variety that has become common on farm operations across the nation and can carry a payload of just one item, such as a camera.
  • A larger size that is being developed with input from DuPont’s agriculture division and can do targeted spraying of weeds rather than address large-scale damage to crop. These models can carry two payloads at once, meaning a camera and sprayer can be mounted simultaneously.
  • A substantially larger model that is intended to ultimately be used for broad-scale chemical application in a field. Though not tested at Wednesday’s event, this one was on display and has the shape of a traditional helicopter, albeit much smaller.

Precision agriculture isn’t solely intended for massive operations, and it was noted that the technology can immediately begin to help increase revenue and will pay for itself quickly — even if a farm consists of only a couple of hundred acres. As UAV and other precision components continue to advance, the costs decline. What was several thousand dollars a decade ago may cost only a few hundred today.

People in many parts of the country understand precision ag very well, and are taking full advantage of it. In fact, it’s oftentimes almost silly to keep using the phrase “precision agriculture” in some regions; to them, it’s simply “agriculture.”

Ryan Tipps
Ryan Tipps

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