FROM taking “pretty pictures” in sport to helping create “massive efficiency” in agriculture – there’s a new company helping the region’s farmers manage crops, soils and even pests.
Drone company Agronomeye has been flying over the Liverpool Plains in recent months and has also exhibited at AgQuip for the first time.
And while the directors don’t have a cropping background, they say this has meant a genuine “boots on the ground” approach to learning and offering exactly what’s needed.
Agronomeye captures “accurate and actionable data” to farmers using fixed-wing drones, co-dreictor Stu Adam said.
They fly over large swathes of crop and use cameras and sensors to find variability in the planting area.
This allows the farm manager or agronomist to pinpoint possible problem sites and do highly targeted soil sampling, leaf-tissue testing and fertiliser application, for example.
Agronomeye is a subsidiary company of Alicanto Media, whose projects include live sporting event broadcasts.
About 18 months ago, Mr Adam and business partners Tim Howell and Rouley Ragg “saw that our skillsets individually could be better utilised to create tools through the use of drones, rather than just taking pretty pictures”.
The idea for Agronomeye was sparked by a conversation at a wedding, followed by a tour of cotton-growing regions in the summer of 2015.
“My education in farming has been walking fields with agronomists, sitting in headers and sprayers with farm managers, and drinking beer with farmers,” Mr Adam said.
“It has been a really boots-on-the-ground 18 months of understanding ... their day-to-day.
“We’re really dialled in to making sure that we fit with the farmers’ needs.”
Mr Adam said he’d learnt they wanted significant area coverage; quick turnaround of flyovers and data availability; and integration between Agronomeye and precision ag systems.
“Our system needs to be able to ‘talk’ to all their farm equipment, basically,” he said.
“While the high-res, high-detail maps are great, they don’t integrate with the agricultural sector in terms of variable-rate seeding and fertilising.
“That jump from the high-res data to the usable files – the integrated usable files – closing that loop has been the major factor that’s set us apart.”
X marks the spot
Mr Adam said being able to do highly targeted testing rather than random sampling throughout a crop was “a massive efficiency in time”.
“And then you roll that into input efficiencies through fertiliser management, then ideally you have a greater return on yield; decreased costs and increased yields,” he said.
Mr Adam said Agronomeye had flown over chickpea, wheat and sorghum crops in the Liverpool Plains area.
He said one timely use of the data had been done recently on a crop at Braefield.
“The scan [showed] small holes throughout one half of the paddock,” Mr Adam said.
“Ground-truthing these anomalies showed mice in the field affecting an early-stage chickpea crop … The client was unaware of the issue and will now target-bait as a result.”
Mr Adam said the company’s first time at AgQuip, as part of the Vantage site, had been “absolutely fantastic … an incredible experience.
“We’ve seen great value in coming to AgQuip and we’ll be back next year without a shadow of a doubt,” he said.