By: Michael Flood

The oldest industry in the world has seen many transformations since the Agricultural revolution some 12,000 years ago. The days of oxen and cart have long passed – today, some farms use data to predict their yields, detect disease and blight, and much more.

Drone technology is being coopted to meet the needs of farmers for large agricultural companies who want to understand just how much their yield will render them. Buzzing over kilometres of farmland and snapping high-precision shots of the farms, drones can hone in on anomalies in crop production.

It’s not only about yields. Ben Flood, an employee of Resson Aerospace, a Canadian ‘smart farming’ company working with companies like potato-producer McCain Foods, describes how their technology takes pictures “at such a granular level” it can detect pests on crops and help farmers eliminate potentially disastrous outbreaks.

“Tech innovation in farming is helping us to move from managing a crop at the field level for likely and general conditions, to the plant level based on actual conditions”, say Flood, in describing what can he sums up as “precision farming”.

Precision farming is not just about identifying crop anomalies. Flood, speaking on behalf of Resson, says that they use “agriculture analytics to not only identify poor crop health but to classify it and recommend or task remedial action.” If we can call crops ‘patients’, this technological revolution in farming is the doctor they have been all been waiting for.

In the Okanagan, drone technology has come to the aide of vineyards in a similar light. Companies like Hummingbird Aerial Surveys help wine growers keep on top of their yields and the health of their orchards with the use of “near-infrared (NIR) photographs.” The extensive usage of infrared imaging and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) has served a number of industries (film and the arts, delivery services, and more) with farming being the latest of practices to adopt the technology.

Beyond precision analytics, Flood sees the future of farming rapidly transforming. “Farming will continue to be an area with a high concentration of innovation to conserve the resources used in production like land and water, mitigate the impacts of disease through genetic engineering and early detection systems, automate the production process through means like driverless tractors and to bring advanced technologies infrastructure to rural communities.”

It will be interesting to observe whether local industry adopts some of these revolutionary agricultural technologies, in way they haven’t already.