Vendors at the 2022 AG-Expo and North American Seed Fair showed off some new technology hitting the southern Alberta market.
A Chinese tech company called DJI introduced the first agriculture drone seven years ago. With newer technological advancements, it was brought into Canada in the last year.
The company’s sprayer drone model is an agriculture aerial spraying and seed spreading system that uses cloud-based route mapping.
AerialTech is a local supplier for DJI services in the southern Alberta area.
Ryan Pack, a drone technician with AerialTech, said one pilot could fly up to five drones at a time, and each drone covers up to 40 acres per hour.
“They’re a more efficient system,” he said. “Rather than blanket-spraying your field with a constant spray volume the entire time, if you analyze your field health beforehand, then you make a plan to target specific areas. You’re saving a lot of runoff and chemicals in the long run.
“This industry is really growing… The sky’s the limit as of right now.”
AerialTech manager Merv Sauerberg said he tested and used the new drone technology at Lethbridge Research Centre.
“Five years ago, battery technology never allowed us to fly more than 15 minutes,” he said. “Now we’re seeing drones that are capable of 45 to 55 minutes of flight time, and that’s incredible.”
DJI also has a crop inspection system that can inspect plant health in real time and detect insects and weeds.
“The more that plant tells me in the field what it needs, the easier my job gets. That drone interprets the plant to the farmer’s data,” Sauerberg said.
Irrigation farmer Casey Koomen usually does most of his farming with his wife. He said new technology like this has always been at the top of his mind.
“I used to stand on the pivot point and just try to see if there were problem spots here and there, but these drones have come a long way,” Koomen said. “I don’t see the downside of having a tool to do a better job scouting.
“I’ll still scout by walking through it, but these fields get pretty big nowadays, and I’m getting a little older.”
Larger DJI spray drones are expected to hit the market and will be able to spray or seed up to 300 acres per hour.