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Drones deliver improved outcomes for South African macadamia

Farming for tomorrow is becoming increasingly sophisticated, especially in the ever growing macadamia nut industry.

For a business like, Green Farms Nut Company (GFNC), a processor and exporter of macadamia,  the pressure is on for not only increased volume, but also quality, making farmers aware of the necessity for the latest technology.

“An integral part of our role in delivering value to our growers is ensuring farmers remain sustainable into the future. One way of doing this is to be at the forefront of developments in agricultural technology,” said Alex Whyte, general manager, GFNC.


Local company Carbomax was founded by Martin Taljaard, former macadamia farmer and aviation enthusiast, two years ago. Carbomax married drone technology with their own software (developed by affiliated Cape Town based company, Aerobotics) to deliver key insights and bespoke fertiliser programmes for farmers.

“I wanted to explore how using drones together with tailored software systems can deliver invaluable insights for farmers to better nurture their trees and orchards. Through building individualised fertiliser programmes and detailed irrigation planning our customers have radically improved their yields” said Taljaard, managing director, Carbomax.

“Our approach enables farmers to react in real-time as the season unfolds through early problem detection. You don’t need to be a big farmer to use our programme and see results: our customers understand their farms, soils, irrigation and trees much better than before”, continued Taljaard.

Using Google maps, the fully autonomous drone is programmed with a specified flight path. It will fly its mission taking thousands of pictures which are weaved together to form a highly sophisticated macro image of the farmer’s farm.

The Aerohawk covers 180 hectares in an hour and takes a picture every 2.5 seconds from each of its two cameras (near infrared and high resolution), totalling around 1500 images per farm per mission.

With the newly acquired pictures, the software identifies, on an individual basis, whether trees are photosynthesising optimally. And offers insight into why they may not be should problem areas be identified, like over-irrigation for example. Other observations include land contours, gradients and dam volumes. Each tree is geo-mapped and tree spacing, heights and canopies are identified.

Using data gathered from the flight, soil and leaf samples, agronomists analyse and identify problem areas to create bespoke block fertiliser programmes. These bio-carbon based products can be formulated to include specific micro and macro elements.

“At GFNC we have a team dedicated to horticultural and technical advice who are constantly on the look-out on behalf of our farmers to make sure they’re up to date with farming practices to achieve the best profits possible ” concluded Whyte.

For more information:
Annelle Botha
Mob: +27 07 1163 8719

Publication date: 9/19/2017


 


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