It seems like the future of just about every industry out there is AI — and it turns out farming is next. Farmers are turning away from tractors and instead using AI-guided drones to spread fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides. The switch isn’t just good for farmers’ wallets, it’s good for the planet.
Turns out tractors, which have been the poster vehicle of farmers for decades, have quite a few problems. From the cost of the tractor and the fuel to the clunky design making it hard to spray fields — drones seem to be the answer to it all.
But drones in farming aren’t anything new. They’ve been used for about the past 20 years, but not quite like this. Before, drones were mainly used for aerial imaging — taking pictures or videos of farmland to see how different areas perform. But using drones for crop management is the newest application gaining traction.
According to Arthur Erickson, chief executive officer of Hylio, Inc., an agricultural drone startup, demand for drones has skyrocketed over the past three years. Hylio reports roughly 700 drones currently treating 700,000 acres of farmland.
While the drones to do it aren’t cheap — they’re roughly a $40,000 investment — the cost pales in comparison to the $700,000 it would cost for a new tractor. Drones also drastically cut fuel costs and can reduce chemical usage by 15%, as well as treat fields after heavy rains, which tractors can’t do.
And the farmers aren’t the only ones benefiting from drone farming. When traditional tractors spread chemicals onto crops, they often use a drip method that can drop excess chemicals onto the plants and ground. Those chemicals are both leached into the soil and washed into nearby water sources, which can be harmful to those eating the crops.
You probably won’t see tractors completely replaced anytime soon, but there is definitely a place for drones in the future of farming. From saving costs to saving the planet, drones are here to stay.
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