Drone Technology Takes Off for US Farmers

By Adriaan Brits Sunday, July 19, 2020

The use of technology has become an increasingly important way of saving both time and money. Farmers, in particular, are turning to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, which offer affordable “eye in the sky” technology to assist them in many fields.

A Bright Future for the Drone Market

According to Jewish Market Reports, the US agriculture drone market was valued at $72.1 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $144.8 million by 2025.

The multimillion-dollar US drone business opens up a host of opportunities. Drones can give farmers a richer picture of their crops, help monitor crop growth, improve yields and efficiency, and even assist in tracking down animals that stray into remote areas.

Additionally, drones can survey crops for the farmer on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis. Pictures can show the changes in the crops, thus showing possible “trouble spots.” Having identified the trouble spots, the farmer can attempt to improve crop management and production.

Being one of the newest and most efficient tools in agriculture, drones assist farmers in a wide range of tasks from analyzing and planning to the actual planting of crops and the subsequent monitoring of fields to ascertain the health and growth of crops.

Furthermore, investments by established players, along with favorable government policies, are expected to allow large and small operations to aid in effective farming practices. In 2016, US investments in agricultural drones and robotic technology amounted to $389 million from about 40 companies. Investors such as Monsanto, Syngenta, and Mitsui have backed emerging startups for improving, harvesting, crop spraying, and irrigation.

A desire for enhanced productivity is expected to drive the adoption of drones in the agriculture sector in the US, which has the highest adoption rate of aerial agriculture drones. Labor shortages, reduced input, and high yield efficiency, coupled with other incentives, are all factors influencing this high adoption rate.

Using Drones for Hemp Farming

One growing agricultural sector that has benefitted from the use of drones is hemp farming. After hemp production was legalized in the US in 2018, farmers needed to figure out the best conditions to grow hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD). The goal was to find a balance between navigating federal regulations and maximizing profits.

PrecisionHawk provides ways that hemp farmers can use drone technology to bring precision agriculture to their hemp fields. Some of these uses include the ability to better count and size plants, monitor plant stress and disease, and tailor treatment based on plant type and health.

Potential for Commercialization

The hemp market is expected to hit $11 billion in annual revenues by 2024, making it a potentially lucrative commercial market. The commercial potential for hemp as a medicinal remedy is also massive, with hemp-derived CBD retail sales expected to exceed $11 billion by 2024.

Hemp is known to have over 25,000 uses from making rope, paper, fabric fibers, foods, cosmetics, oil, paint, and even house-building materials. It has been around for thousands of years with documented agricultural use dating back to 10,000 BC. Over time, hemp and its applications have been incorporated into a wide range of products.

One state that was quick to jump on the bandwagon is New Jersey, where the Department of Agriculture enacted its Hemp Farming Act last year. Owners of farmland and greenhouse growers in the state may now add hemp to their crops as long as the seeds work for the New Jersey climate and are compliant under the hemp program.

No matter the crop or commercial plans, it’s hard to deny the effect that drone technology will have on US farmers in the near and distant future.

About the Author

Headshot for author Adriaan Brits
As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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