South Carolina small and minority farmers will soon have a bird’s eye view of their farmland and woodlots with the help of a new precision technology grant awarded to SC State 1890 Research & Extension.
Awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the $500,000, three-year grant will feature training small and minority farmers on how to incorporate digital technology, such as using drones to collect data to implement data usage into their farming practices and operations, which can result in better efficiency, higher yields, increased profits and gain knowledge on the value of their woodlots, according to a news release.
Led by Joshua Idassi, state program leader for the sustainable agriculture and natural resources (SANR) program at SC State 1890 Extension, Idassi believes implementing drone technology for small farmers and woodland owners will prove beneficial and sustainable for their future generations, the release stated.
“Drones are able to map a farmer's entire farmland and woodlots, especially the areas that are not easily accessible,” said Idassi in the release. “Having aerial imagery (3-D models) captured from drones can be used to diagnose crop health, detect crop diseases, identify irrigation challenges and inclement weather damages Farmers can save money by being able to identify potential crop damage in its early ages.”
SC State 1890 Extension SANR Program will offer drone piloting lessons to small and minority farmers as part of the precision technology grant.
Idassi stated the use of drones in farming, particularly large-scale commercial farms, have increased significantly in the past years, and that small-scale farmers face many barriers, including cost and using traditional farming practices as a challenge for implementing the technology to farmers.
“Farmers are sometimes hesitant when it comes to trying new farming methods, especially ones that have high costs associated,” said Idassi. “With drone technology still being new in the farming industry, we must build a farmer’s trust that while, yes, buying a drone will cost money, it is an investment that will allow them to improve decision making, and can also increase the value of their products.”
Idassi stated that the precision technology grant will focus on small-scale, area-mapping drone technology, with hopes to integrate and introduce large-scale drones (pesticide and crop spraying and seeding fields) and also use them as a tool to evaluate the value of timber small woodlots in the future.
“Drones and precision technology are the driving force in agriculture today”, said Dr. Edoe Agbodjan, associate administrator for 1890 Extension. “Drones and digital technology are powerful tools that farmers can use to improve their efficiency, productivity and profitability. The grant award will provide the 1890 SANR agents and students with the proper drone pilot training and knowledge on how to use digital technology to collect data on a farm properly.”
SC State 1890 SANR Program held a Drones for Agriculture Masterclass on May 9, which included training from Rose Funja, owner of MD Agrinfo Company Limited, a drone company in Tanizia, Africa. The masterclass also featured hands-on training with SANR agents and students operating small commercial drones.
For more information on the precision technology grant award, contact Idassi at email@example.com