Scouting Tools in Agriculture: Doing More with Less

tech-hub-scouting

Michael Gomes (far left), VP Strategic Business Development, Topcon – Agriculture, moderated the panel discussion “Scouting Tools: How to Do More with Less” at Tech Hub LIVE 2022 in Indianapolis. Panelists included (from left): Kenny Everitt, Owner, Kenneth Everitt Farms; Kyle Long, Regional Sales Manager, Taranis; and Jeff Wessels, Acre+ Precision Ag Manager, Frenchman Valley Coop.

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Normalized Difference Vegetation Index for Agriculture (NDVI) has been around since the 1970s, but with the increased availability of remotely sensed imagery from satellites and UAVs, NDVI combined with artificial intelligence can tell a grower a lot more than just a map with colors on it.

Moderating the Tech Hub LIVE panel on Scouting Tools, Topcon’s VP Strategic Business Development Michael Gomes asked the audience “What percentage of your acreage are you utilizing NDVI imagery to help direct your scouting?” The majority of the results were almost evenly distributed between 0% and 10% of their acreage, at 46% and 47% of votes respectively, which was about what Gomes expected. The remaining 7% answered, “What is NDVI?”

Jeff Wessels, Acre+ Precision Ag Manager with Frenchman Valley Co-op in Grant, NE, said he always recognized the value of using NVDI remote sensing to look at specific areas of the field, but now there is much more information companies can provide. “When the UAV flies over and scouts a field, the grower gets an email report,” said Wessels. “The farmer wants to know what weeds are there, where they are, what percentage of the field, insects, diseases, nutrient deficiency.”

For a farmer and rancher like Kenny Everett near Pine Bluffs, WY, it’s important for him to see the big picture of his fields on a regular basis. “I have one field that’s 90 miles away, so I don’t get to see it very often,” said Everett. “It’s amazing what you can see from those aerial pictures. You can just see the whole field and it makes making decisions easier.”

Taranis is one company that helps Everett keep an eye on his fields with broad acre monitoring getting down to the leaf level. “Speed and efficiency are the big advantages we provide for the grower and the retailer,” said Kyle Long, Regional Sales Manager for Taranis. “It’s being able to get to specific threats before they cause a problem.”

Long compared what they do monitoring fields to what a Ring doorbell does for a homeowner, but he stressed that it is only effective if the user takes action when a threat is detected. “We uncover information with drone technology and by the next day the farmer has it in his hands to take action,” he said. “We’re providing you a paint brush but you still have to use it.”

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