Senwes Scenario Junie / Julie 2015 - Page 51

F UT URER UB F OR CUS IE K ••• DRONES ARE NOT ‘PIE IN THE SKY’ SCIENCE FICTION TECHNOLOGY ANYMORE! JENNY MATHEWS EVEN WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH AND IMMEDIATE CIRCUMSTANCES LOOK BLEAK, THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF AGRICULTURE IS CONTINUOUSLY OFFERING US SOMETHING NEW AND EXCITING TO INSPIRE US. IT IS DAYS LIKE THESE THAT IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO INVESTIGATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND ALLOW ONESELF TO BE INSPIRED BY THE BIGGER PICTURE IN FARMING SO THAT OUR VISION DOES NOT STAY FOCUSED ON WHAT HAS BEEN QUITE A NEGATIVE YEAR FOR MANY FARMERS FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE. I had heard of drones before - and I have heard of their use in the world of espionage and warfare; I have also recently seen how effective they have been in bringing filmed footage of images from areas which have been difficult to access following disaster such as the earthquake in Nepal - but honestly I never imagined drones holding any value to me as a farmer and it goes beyond my wildest imagines to think that I may need to budget to own one in the future. Over the past few weeks I have once again been awed by the incredible strides we can make in agriculture through adapting our farm management to embrace and utilize new technologies in the market such as drones or UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The first I heard of using drones in agriculture was from Indiana farmer, Kip Tom, who addressed the Grain SA Congress in March and shared his vision of the role data science will play to ensure sustainable production, protection of the environment and increased productivity. He is driven by the belief we need a revolution in the way we do things in agriculture and argues this will be achieved through utilising informatics (the science of information) and technology. His message is that most farmers have at most, 40 opportunities in 40 seasons to improve their methods and their productivity - and most don’t make the necessary changes at a fast enough pace. He challenges farmers to become innovative, to dig deeper and reach further to bring innovation to the farm gate. This is the key to survival and to feeding the world’s growing population. He also maintains that these technologies will increasingly become more affordable and easier to access. Kip says that he has already significantly increased his operational management through the use of data information. Tom Farms facebook page says they ‘utilize superior technology, round-the-clock vigilance and flawless execution - to lower costs and increase efficiency, combat weather and disease, and nourish the land - all while maximizing the productive capability of every single acre’. Wow, I want some of that too! You can go to their facebook page and watch footage of their operations from their drone and their website: www.tomfarms. com is interesting too. Kip Tom believes we need to adapt to an increasingly faster pace of change and we must ‘learn fast’! Two weeks later, I attended an excellent Pannar Information day in the North West. I was listening to a talk about new cultivars when I noticed a little white, insect-like ‘thingamajig’ zooming in on our lecture site in the middle of the mealies. It flew closer and I grew increasingly more excited as I realised this was the new tool for us farmers that Kip Tom had been talking SENWES Scenario • June/July 2015 49