N.S. farmer uses infrared sensors to harvest crop data
A Nova Scotia farmer is using a drone and infrared sensors to harvest vital data on his crops.
Blake Johnston has been in the cranberry business his whole life and, 20 years ago, he and his wife bought a farm in Aylesford, N.S.
Last summer, Bill Livingstone led a research team that flew adrone over the Johnston's cranberry fields. The drone took photos with special infrared sensors to determine the health of plants on the farm.
“We've captured three images here and the first one is what we call an RGB, which is the typical what you'd receive out of a digital camera,” says Livingstone. “The second one is a new infrared image that collects a light image that's outside the visible spectrum of light and the third one is derived from the neo-infrared and what we do is we do some processing with specialized software to generate the areas where there's healthy or not healthy plants.”
Thanks to the information provided by the drone, Johnston is better able to locate and assess problem spots, including drainage issues, in over 40 acres of crops.
“We found one particular field where we had a drainage problem we didn't know about, so it was really interesting to see it very dramatically,” says Johnston. “We then went out to the field and found the problem and it was great.”
This summer, Johnston hopes to get that eye in the sky once again, upping airtime to weekly flybys.
“It certainly will save us money in terms of time that we spend looking for problems,” says Johnston. “It will allow us to grow better crops because we will be growing a great crop on every square foot.”
This technology is cutting edge, but it may not be long before it becomes a more common industry practice.
“I think we're gonna see that momentum really developing over the next couple years and the technology is adapting as well over this time period and it's pretty exciting the new developments that are happening,” says Livingstone.
Livingstone says the potential for this type of infrared technology in Nova Scotia is limitless.
“We're very excited about the opportunities to use this technology in innovate ways and it's not just the agricultural sector that works, I think it's the natural resource sector in general that can really make use of this technology,” says Livingstone.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Caitlin Andrea