Article by: Hari Yellina
Aerobotics, an international agritech firm, claims to have demonstrated that, as grower input costs rise, precision agriculture is becoming increasingly crucial to get the most out of each plant. Aerobotics was established in 2014 with the goal of improving yields for perennial crop growers. Dr. Yoav Yichie, the company’s Australian General Manager, says the company’s strategy is to collect drone data, construct a digital model of every plant on the farm, and analyse how the tree is performing in comparison to its potential.
“Growers are finding it difficult to maintain their orchards efficiently because of the constraints and scale of their fields,” he said. “The primary drivers that we assist with are labour problems and water availability. So, looking at 400ha of citrus land to see which blocks or orchards require the most care in terms of nutritional deficiencies or irrigation concerns, for example, really helps growers focus their efforts while using labour and resources efficiently. We also point out potential risks and areas where the grower should concentrate his or her efforts in order to increase productivity and reduce farm liabilities. In terms of inputs, fertiliser prices have skyrocketed, so we can specify which orchards require additional fertiliser.”
Growers can use this to help with their replanting operations by downloading a file and sending it to the nursery to order new trees. The organisation also gives a tree health map, which assesses the canopy’s greenness as well as the trees’ ability to photosynthesise. This allows the producers to see which blocks are less uniform and which have less-than-ideal circumstances for producing high-quality fruit. This is critical information because it allows producers to concentrate their efforts and take action at the optimal time and location. “This is a fundamental part of our service: providing growers with maps and agronomic analyses to help them address risks on the farm and, as a result, minimise unpredictability and improve crop quantity and quality.”
Furthermore, he claims that drones provide more flexibility in terms of when they fly, allowing Aerobotics to coordinate with growers’ farming techniques and plant phenology. Growers who have used Aerobotics’ drone-powered technology have reported improved orchard uniformity and yields. “We fly for a reason. Growers with whom we have been working for two to three seasons have improved their farming efficiency while also increasing yields – not just in terms of volume, but also in terms of quality “Dr. Yichie explained. When it comes to citrus, you want to obtain a lot of fruit for your hectares, but you also want fruit that is the proper size and quality year after year. On the ground, they have gotten a lot of favourable feedback on this.