Agriculture Ministry Introduces Drones to Farmers

Photo: Glenis Rose Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson (left) looks on as Senior Director for D&C Drones, Nigel Davy (2nd left), prepares to launch a drone. Occasion was a demonstration of the use and benefits of the technology to farmers in Lowe River, Trelawny, on August 16.

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, is collaborating with local company D&C Drones to revolutionise the agriculture sector through the introduction of drone technology.
  • Senior Director of D&C Drones Nigel Davy, whose company is in negotiations with the Government for the use of the devices, said that drones can revolutionise agriculture in Jamaica.
  • Drone trials will be carried out in other parts of the island, where farmers will see first-hand how the devices work and how they can help to boost productivity.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, is collaborating with local company D&C Drones to revolutionise the agriculture sector through the introduction of drone technology.

On Tuesday (Aug. 16) the Ministry took the technology to farmers in Lowe River, Trelawny, to demonstrate its use and applicability.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, who observed the tests, said that the unmanned aerial vehicles are effective in addressing praedial larceny, assessing damage following natural disasters such as a flood or hurricane, and will better assist farmers to put measures in place to boost crop yield.

He said it is extremely difficult to get an accurate picture of damage to crops and livestock following a natural disaster, especially in remote areas.

“Once we have crop damage after a hurricane or flood we find that the estimates are usually never correct. Many of the extension officers can’t reach the areas where the damage is. With the drone we are able to go over and identify all the crops and all the animals that have been lost and bring back the picture within a day,” he pointed out.

He added that the drones can also give a better picture as to crop production, identify areas that might need irrigation, and also plants that may be lacking in nutrients.

“With this kind of technology we will be able to accurately tell the farmer what needs to be done with his various crops. We will now be looking at not only how we can increase production but also productivity. With this technology we are looking to see how we can bolster agriculture. The drone is going to make a big difference as far as us moving forward in agriculture,” he informed.

Senior Director of D&C Drones Nigel Davy, whose company is in negotiations with the Government for the use of the devices, said that drones can revolutionise agriculture in Jamaica.

“D&C Drones will allow our farmers to grow healthier livestock, produce more food on less land, with less water and use fewer chemicals,” he explained. “Also, they will allow for less labour with less waste while simultaneously protecting the environment,” he added.

He explained that “if a man steals a cow and is hiding it somewhere, the drone will be able to pick up that location. If diseases are affecting crops, the drone will be able to pick that up and farmers can be notified. To say the use of drones will change the face of agriculture in Jamaica would be putting it mildly”.

Mr. Davy added that the drones’ thermal imaging and multispectral cameras enable them to validate and count animals in a herd and identify those that have a higher than normal temperature; identify disease stress of plants not readily seen with the naked eyes; and facilitate the application of pesticides, herbicides, and fertiliser where and when needed.

“The drones are also programmed to do crop counting such as with your tomatoes, corn, melons, yam hills, among others. They will also be able to give you a topographic survey of land, identify drainage issues on land, do senescence analysis and identify moisture content in field,” he pointed out.

“Our goal in precision agriculture is to more efficiently apply a farmer’s limited resource to gain maximum crop yield,” Mr. Davy said.

“Our aerial reconnaissance will also enable us to monitor and do population counts of birds or endangered species in areas that are inaccessible without disturbance. The drones will also be able to monitor Jamaica’s forests and their condition and also fisheries reserves and their condition,” he indicated.

Meanwhile, prominent St. Ann farmer Alfred Geddes-Morrison, said he is encouraged with the Government’s “new, proactive approach towards agriculture”.

“As a farmer for over 40 years, I have seen first-hand all the problems we have faced and I really feel encouraged by the road (the Government) is taking us on. The use of drones will be a major boost for our farmers,” said Mr. Geddes-Morrison, who is also the head of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in the parish.

Drone trials will be carried out in other parts of the island, where farmers will see first-hand how the devices work and how they can help to boost productivity.

“We will be going on to St. Elizabeth next,” said Mr. Hutchinson. “I am convinced that farmers right across Jamaica will be excited about this technology and the prospects of a brighter future,” he added.

JIS Social