• Drones soaring to help local farms stay afloat

    By: Sarah Wroblewski

    Updated:

    NATICK, Mass. - Belkin Family Lookout Farm in Natick has 350 years of history, but modern technology is keeping it relevant.

    "We are looking to innovate and utilize drone technology and other technologies to farm more efficiently and smarter," says farmer Jay Mofenson.

    Lookout Farm is teaming up with the Boston-based GreenSight Agronomics on a project that would test the use of drones for agriculture. The goal is to save farmers time and money. 

    “That's what a farmer’s bloodline is: his crop yield. If we can help increase the crop yield, then we're doing something,” said GreenSight vice president Jason VanBuskirk.

    HOW DRONES HELP FARMERS

    With a remote pilot on the ground, a drone would fly a pre-programmed mission, overseen from an operator stationed in Boston. Along the path, the drone would take pictures with three different cameras: a 400x high-definition, infrared and a thermal camera that can measure the temperature of the canopy.

    The 30-minute flight replaces the task of the farmer walking through the orchard, looking for insects or pests on trees and checking the soil moisture by hand. 

    “We're able to pick up on the heat signatures to identify areas for water may have a drought situation or may have an infestation somewhere,” said Mofenson

    GreenSight software pieces together the imagery like a mosaic, creating a complete picture of the property.  Once the image is ready to view, the farmer would get an email alert.

    SAVING TIME AND MONEY

    The drone data can be reviewed by a farmer in a matter of hours, instead of taking an entire day to survey the land.

    By targeting exact crops that need water, the farm can reduce waste and increase yield.

    The drone is also helping Lookout Farm with its newer concept to remain sustainable: hard cider production.  The technology will hopefully ensure they have good tree health to produce the apples they need for the hard cider.

    With 56,000 trees to maintain, farmer Jay Mofenson says he’s excited about the future.

    “It’s building an efficiency through innovation to our farming operation daily so that we can be better farmers.” 

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