Creado en 03 Noviembre 2015

The use of drones (UAVs) in agriculture is a growing common practice, and it’s good results in terms of efficiency are confirmed both by farmers and researchers. “The agriculture of drones is budding”.

However, there are other striking uses because international corporations are betting or because their applications appear to have a 'more direct' application in today’s world necessities... like when Amazon revealed its program for sending packets across by using these devices or the UK police department planned to use them as a surveillance system. However, the benefits of its application in the agricultural sector could be enormous, and that the use and improvement of this technology has an assured future. More even it has a present, because in some countries drones are being operating in agriculture fields long time ago…

The drones support for maximizing yields its already recognized, since unlike the farmer, who must move over the field for searching crop deficiencies that may exist in culture, the drone, just flying over the field is able to gather huge information on crops status; and more accurately, thanks to the ‘hot air’ and multispectral photographs, plus time-lapse cameras to monitor fruit and it’s phenology or for determining chemical parameters with its spectral detectors.

With the advent of technologies such as satellites to the world in the 70s, there was a revolution on how to take pictures over territories. The gathered data, once processed and brought to digital maps permitted to obtain information like vegetation indexes, allowing an easy method to see and analyze crops and culture problems. This type of remote sensors is used by many countries to measure the agriculture productivity, drought susceptibility, the land characterization or the biomass available.

Currently, other remote sensors used in agricultural practices are drones (UAVs), which capture very high resolution images and provide real-time and accurately information from crop fields. These data is necessary for today’s farmer’s management, to learn about evolution, increase or decrease of plant pests, weeds, diseases, irrigation, nutrition and vigor related to crops. Early identification of these conditions allows to take critical management decisions quickly and proactively in order to prevent crops losses and or damages.

All the problems firstly explained said the agronomist and Director of the National Program for Precision Farming of INIA, Stanley Best, can effectively addressed in the exact areas where required at lower cost. "When I move into the culture and see that I have dried plants, it is a symptom of lack of irrigation, but can be detected much earlier through the multispectral photography, as well as nutrition and other problems. That allows us to respond before the issue forward and becomes uncontrollable, and in areas that really need it, which also means that we do remediation at lower cost and with fewer agricultural inputs, which implies a more sustainable agriculture" he said.

According to Best, "the producer need to have accurate information to take action, and today, technology allows us to tell the producers what to do in a more efficiently way ".

Best also explains the importance of understanding the potential of these new technologies as they have useful results in varied agronomic practices, "we keep improving the efficiency of the field at different stages of management, such as fertilizer and pesticide application, including , harvesting, for example, being able to decide where to harvest manually, or where mechanized”.

The application possibilities seems to be endless, and that’s why in IDEAGRO we are widely interested in knowing its uses, capabilities and evolution, because we think will be key in agriculture not to late...

In addition to the US, the drones are already used among others in countries like Japan, Spain and Brazil. For example, according to recent studies by the International Association for Unmanned System Devices, "the economic impact of drones’ application in US agriculture by 2015 would be of about 2.000 million, creating 20,000 jobs".

How drones ‘work’? What else can bring?

A single drone can accurately monitor hundreds of hectares in order to gather information on hydration, temperature or the crops growth rate. One of the most important functions attributed to these devices is premature location of diseases and pests. This way farmers will be able to avoid the complete loss of crops caused every year by these problems.

All this information provides significant cost savings for farmers. Prevent pests also reduces the amount of chemicals used in crops. Not only the crops are grown more naturally but also are not necessary to buy so many herbicides and pesticides as before and when necessary, drones could be used to spread fertilizers much more efficiently and accurately.

The drones could also help controlling how the irrigation works and also serve as makeshift scarecrow, to keep the birds away from crops when almost ready to be harvested. They can even send video and pictures in real time to the farmer smartphone so can know how the crop is at every time from elsewhere. Such operations have already been implemented, and nowadays one of the most advanced countries is Japan.

In the Land of the Rising, a drone model, the Yamaha RMAX has been working in the fields from two decades ago, dealing with pesticides and fertilizers spread over the culture. Its history is ancient. In 1983, the Ministry of Agriculture of Japan was concerned about the aging of the rural population. To alleviate this problem was proposed to modernize the country as a way to attract young people and increase productivity.

Yamaha was charged to develop an aerial unmanned vehicle to help in farm work, and in the 90s the first units were introduced… By now 40% of Japanese rice cultures have a drone. The technology has been exported to South Korea and most recently to Australia, a land where large plantations abound. The Japanese company Yamaha hopes to enter the US market drones in 2015, orienting its product to crops such as maize, grapes, pistachios or almonds, apart from rice.

What are the latest developments in drones use?

Universities have also noticed the potential of these devices and are conducting research in to the practical usage of these devices. The University of California is testing the ability of small unmanned helicopters capable of treating vineyards located over inaccessible terrains, and at the University of Kansas they are creating maps detailing the nitrogen deficiencies in the soil to help farmers to apply fertilizers where needed.

In the academic circles is belief that "drones can revolutionize agriculture, reducing pesticides needs and increasing crops production."

Universities and companies worldwide have their eyes on September 2015, date on which it is expected that the Federal Aviation Administration established to regulate the use of these devices. A hearty economic market that according to AUVSI, "could generate huge profits in the US economy."
For now, and despite its potential benefits, the FAA has decided not to take the step of authorizing the drones for commercial use, mainly because it fears that, while flying below 400 feet -122 meters- could interfere with national airspace and cause complications. Many States are trying to pass laws to achieve a moratorium limiting the use of drones beyond 2015, fearing that these devices can be used for less innocent uses than their commercial proposals...

In Spain the situation is not very different, and the drones can’t fly freely wherever they want... The EASA (State Agency for Aviation Safety) don’t permit flying over urban areas, more than 300 feet and less than 8km an airport. For any other drone flight, it is necessary to ask for permission before and that is usually enough (as we were pointed out by several LinkedIN readers). Fur using drones it’s currently necessary to have VLOS & BVLOS licenses and approve a practical test with the drones it’s to be used. Also it’s mandatory to register the company as operator in the EFSA.

Con información de:
Todrone -
El País -
Creado en 07 Octubre 2015
The latest FAO data estimates that in 2050 there will be 9,000 million people worldwide, who should  at least eat 3 times a day. For this, agriculture will have to increase yields up to and over  70% in some regions of the world, and this increase in production has to be done sustainably, using less water, fertilizers and having  the same agricultural soil available to preserve the environment.

Thus, it poses a difficult challenge that will require resources and all available tools at our disposal. One of these tools and technologies that is  beginning to be used by the agrifood sector companies is BIG DATA.

"Despite the technological development, the only sure thing is that we will continue eating 3 times a day, so agriculture will remain a profession with future". 

This new technology allows farmers to be able to make more accurate weather forecasts and to predict where and when to attack a pest or a particular disease. Before scrutinizing the potential of Big Data for the agricultural sector, we will throw some light on this new tool available to our industry...

What is Big Data?

Briefly, Big Data allows the management and analysis of huge volumes of data that cannot be treated conventionally while exceeding the limits and capabilities of commonly used software tools for capturing, managing and processing data. Therefore, the goal of Big Data is analyzing a large amount of data in real time to help decision making for better management of our agriculte.

How Big Data works?

For example, to collect all the data from a farm, a network of sensors and probes that record information of soil, chemicals and fertilizers applied, climate and tasks performed etc , even price & market data for crops harvested in order to adjust the harvesting timing, must first be installed.
All this data is stored on a computer server that correlates and interprets , finally giving the farmer a detailed report, which can be received multiple ways (tablet or smartphone, allowing the farmer to have control over the property variables at all times).

Although the initial investment may be high (7,000-10,000 € for 50 hectares) in the long run the farmer end up saving on agricultural inputs, and increasing yields, making the initial investment worthwhile; being able to obtain significant benefits.

What can bring Big Data to agriculture? 
In general, and as discussed in the previous section, Big Data allows the farmer to display all the production parameters of its operation in real time, and improve the decision-making process, since it can incorporate data on markets and prices of grown crops, allowing not only to increase productivity, but also the best time to harvest  and optimizing the set of farm operations.

What can farmers get through the data obtained from Big Data technology?

  • The application of this technology allows the fragmentation of the whole extent on farms. This has a great advantage as it allows decisions on each plot, adjusting every agricultural task to one portion of the estate, allowing the savings below.
  • Reduce water usage up to 40%. Thanks to the probes installed in the soil of the farm it is possible to measure soil moisture at all times, making it easy to adjust the parameters of irrigation not to waste any drop of extra water. In addition, updated weather forecasts, can help a farmer in predicting rain, and thus delay irrigation or adjust to such weather conditions, so that water savings could be even higher.
  • Boosts performance up to 20%. Another key aspect of Big Data is that it permits  adjustment of the different agricultural labors on farm land, from pruning to harvesting, which translates in to making more optimized working schedules allowing for example to perform pruning at the right time or collect the product at its optimal ripeness while adjusting the crop harvest at the best market prices. All this results not only into an increased crop yield, but also into an increased profitability.
  • Improves the traceability of food from farm to table. Additionally, Big Data records all stages through our agricultural products and crops, from  planting until it reaches the consumer, adding more value to crops and allowing farms to increase profitability. In IDEAGRO we consider traceability a key aspect, and that is why we clearly focus on understanding and applying any new technology that can increase sustainability of agriculture while improving food safety and security whilst ensuring enough food for the worlds ever increasing population.

IDEAGRO as a company always interested in new technologies and tools has already used the wide possibilities of Big Data. 

The most recent experience was as part of the project "Zero Residue", co-funded by the LIFE + program of the European Union (ref. LIFE 12 ENV / ES / 902). The project aims to improve the sustainability and the quality of the production of Stone fruit to create a more competitive and healthy sector.

In the course of the project a Zero Residues (ZR) methodology will be developed. This will demonstrate that this new approach to produce, store, process and market stone fruit without residues, creates a new trend in fruit production, with higher quality, more attractive and healthier at more a competitive price. On the other hand,  ZR methodology helps to improve various environmental problems generated, for example, integrated pest management will dramatically reduce pesticide doses, and instead, will prevent degradation of soil and groundwater contamination.

Furthermore, the implementation of new technologies will increase the shelf life of the fruit after harvest by use of innovative micro perforated packaging and the use of atmospheric controls. As for fruit waste generated due to the imperfections of quality this will be transformed into an interesting product for baby food factories, thus leading to new sales channels. Finally, a certificate will be developed, which can only be obtained if the production meets the requirements of zero residues. All knowledge is made ​​available to other producers in order to spread the information as much as possible.

Under the project, IDEAGRO implemented in collaboration with project developers a Zerya® Predictive Models, an app that will help to manage crops protection against pests and diseases from any computer or mobile device. To develop the 'predictive models' of the app, IDEAGRO resorted to intelligence data or better known big data technology, offering stone fruit producers a chance to prevent fungal diseases and pests proving consumers with heathier products and ensuring a more sustainable agriculture.