Cutting edge technology is enabling farmers and agronomists in South Africa to maximize production by improving plant health inspections. Drones can fly more frequently and more cheaply than traditional crop monitoring systems.

In agriculture, you can only manage what you know. Precision farming offers farmers, and agronomists, an opportunity to gather more detailed information about variability in their fields. Affordable access to drones (unmanned aircraft, UVAs), equipped with photographic equipment, opens a whole new realm of opportunity.

Building on existing precision farming services, drones provide access to real time information on crop health and conditions in the fields. This new development has the potential to transform farming. At the most basic level, it will influence sustainability in farming because real time information about crop health means farmers can react quickly to any problems. 

Fast Access to Data

Unlike its manned equivalent, data collected by drones is immediately available to the farmer. Without delays, the farmer can verify health and conditions, identify issues and set the ball rolling on any remedial work.

Identifying problem areas during the growing season, for example nutrient deficiencies, damage caused by weather, climate conditions, or diseases and pests, can be detected and acted on almost immediately. With two cameras on board (NDVI-Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and Optic) it is also possible to zoom into problem areas and look more closely at the affected crops.

The introduction of drones will most certainly increase yields and influence sustainability by increasing profit. In most instances, the imagery will identify issues that farmers could not possibly know about, or discover, by simply driving in or near the fields.

In a recent case, a farmer lost income equivalent to $800 per hectare (ha) in an area where a nutrient problem went unidentified and untreated. Had the farmer been able to identify the existence of an issue and been able to act on it during the growing season, then the application of nutrients costing just $50/ha would have saved the crop. Drone technology and real time crop surveying could have helped the farmer to generate an additional $750/ha.

SGS South Africa Leads

SGS Agricultural Services is using the newest drone technology to inspect plant health in South Africa. Information is power, and the combination of this new technology and our expertise means that information gathered by drone can be used to deliver a more sustainable farming operation. In the field, the farm manager is the final decision maker. We use drone technology and precision farming to identify issues and offer solutions which, when implemented will help to make a more sustainable decisions.

Precision farming improves soil productivity, effectiveness and sustainability. Precision farming services ensure that farmer have access to all the information about their farm that is necessary to make effective and successful decisions about crop production and sustainability. SGS prides itself on its experienced consultants with more than 20 years of experience in South Africa. The company claims to deliver a one-stop-shop service with the most relevant and up-to-date advice related to precision agriculture techniques and methods.