WITH the use of drones in agriculture now evolving to mustering cattle and monitoring feed and water systems, one Goondiwindi agri-business consultant is utilising the commercial aircrafts to combat the biggest problem facing grain growers – weeds.
Jerome Leray was recognised for his work in establishing a drone to tractor herbicide technology when he was awarded the $3000 Innovation in Ag award at the Queensland Grains Gala Dinner in Goondiwindi last Friday.
Mr Leray and his business partner have spent the last 18 months developing an algorithm and processing system that sees a drone identify weed areas and provide data that can be converted onto a USB and plugged into integrated tractor systems.
Most importantly, it can save producers up to 80 per cent on fallow weed herbicides.
The technology, under the company InFarm, is only just the start of drone use in crops.
Mr Leray said they hoped to be able to use them for in-crop weed detection, weed species identification and even the potential to use drones to spray resistant weeds in the near future.
“We have actually tested the system on a $2000 drone so something that every farmer, every agronomist, every consultant can have access to and we have been able to prove that we can identify the weeds and put them into the tractor to actually go and spray them,” he said.
“That’s not scalable for some of these guys that have 500 to 1000 hectare paddocks because we can only do close to 100 hectares in a day with that drone but it just shows what we can do.
“It’s just the best way of collecting the data without putting a tractor over the top. We reduce compaction by doing that and it’s just the most efficient way to get the data.”
The idea first came about when Mr Leray wanted to follow his childhood dream to own a property.
With a post graduate degree in Mineral Expression Geo Science he wanted to use his skills to make on farm practices easier.
“As a kid I went and visited a big station and I said I was going to own a farm and this is my ticket to own a farm and this is what I can do to try and help farming now,” he said.
“I asked a lot of questions of what are the things that would move the dial to save you (as growers) or make you guys money and they said if you could solve weeds, fallow would be a good start.”
Mr Leray hopes to use the award winnings to establish a data processing facility in Goondiwindi.
AgForce Grains President Wayne Newton said thanks to Mr Leray’s technology producers were saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on herbicide costs.
“This is a great innovation because the producer does not need to do anything different apart from plugging in a USB, abolishing the need to buy expensive spot spraying equipment,” he said.
The Service to the Grains Industry award was won by Michael Castor from MCA Consultants.
His business was a perfect fit for the event theme of innovation having helped producers adapt to new and emerging trends and technologies, which have been pivotal to the industry's ongoing success.