The ROI of Drones: Why Drones are Becoming Essential Tools for Farming Efficiency
23 Aug 239 min 54 sec

Drones burst onto the scene a few years ago, and their impact on various industries has been nothing short of extraordinary. In recent times, these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have made their mark in agriculture, where they are poised to revolutionize the way we cultivate crops. With the ability to spray fields, scout for problems, identify pests and diseases, and more, drones offer a multitude of benefits for farmers. Johnny Verell is a believer in the technology and he talks with Damian Mason about how and why he uses a drone on his west Tennessee farm.

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00:00 Drone technology, is it a weapon you're using in your arsenal? It Should 00:04 Be and it probably will be in the future. Talking about drones and their usage in production agriculture in Johnny Verell here of re Farms, Jackson, Tennessee. You know what, 00:12 drones came on the scene here a few years ago as a cool thing. Kind of a novelty kind of a tool, but more toy frankly. 00:19 Auction companies would use them, put cameras on to like show you a property that's for sale. Um, you wanted to maybe get some imagery for your farm for a promo thing. 00:28 That's helpful. Then they start talking about crop scouting. I'm like, yeah, that's neat, 00:33 but that's just a little better than driving by the field and looking up the window because you're still not really on the ground. 00:38 Drones have come a long way, at least in the technology, but more importantly how they are becoming a tool that you can use. 00:44 So for us, we use it for many things. We can use smaller drones than this one to do stand counts in the season. In season when you first plant to see where you are, your emergents. 00:52 And we got a drone like this that we're using for a lot of our research. So this, we use this drone on our farm to spray commercial acres on our farm. 01:00 But also sometimes we'll use this drone just to do research plots. So we got data cuz it does GPS tracking so we know exactly what product we put 01:08 where. Yep. We can overlay that with the yield data and take that to harvest and see what it is. So it, 01:12 it really just allows us to do a lot more smaller plots a lot faster versus doing 120 foot boon on a sprayer and trying to clean the tank in and out. 01:19 When we were looking at the drilling yesterday, and we're talking about setting this up, this video, you said, all right, if I wanna go out and do a five acres within a hundred acre field that we're 01:29 doing this trial and this part of the field, I'd have to go out there with flags and then I've got 120 foot boom. You know, it's not as precise. This helps the precision. 01:39 So when a person watches our trial results, we can be even more dialed in on what we're actually seeing. That's Right. It just lets us get more and more data faster because like I said, 01:48 the sprayers just such a big sprayer. We got a, a mud master out here in the field now where we've been doing plots. It only does 20 foot. That's good, but it doesn't document anything. 01:56 Everything's done by flags. Everything's done by markers. Whereas this thing right here, it is all digital. It goes straight on 02:02 This machine. Mi behind us is just for spraying. When you wanna do like recon, you wanna do scouting, you use a smaller drone. Yeah, smaller 02:09 Drone for that. And that's just got a camera on it. Nothing else. That's it. Okay. So will we get to where this one has a camera on it and it knows, 02:16 is it gonna be in a few years this is gonna be smart enough that it just goes out, flies around and sprays the pigweed infestations where you have, 02:23 I'm gonna say anything's possible in the next few years, especially as fast as things it's doing. 02:25 But you know what of the big things about drones for what they can do and the cost on they're, they're actually priced very good. You know, you need three, 02:33 probably two or three drones on a farm to keep keeping up acres going in a day. But you can still get that many drones for a good price compared to a $500,000 02:41 square today too. All right, real quickly, you got your smart smartphone on you. Yeah. All right. Pull out your smartphone. When was your first smartphone? Johnny? 15 years ago. 02:49 Yeah, absolutely. All right. 15 years ago. So this is like your fourth one in 15 years. Yeah. How much better is this one than the first one? 02:55 No Comparison. Can we compare that to where drones might Be going but the cell signal's gone down. Hell, right, 02:59 Right. The signals go better, but seriously, you can do, can you do three times as much stuff on your phone as you did the first one you 03:04 had? Absolutely. Is that what we're talking About? Yeah, I believe So. I think so too. All right. How much does this weigh? 03:10 So this one here, you know when it's fully f full of water and a battery and everything, it's probably north of 80 pounds. Okay. 03:16 It's got an eight gallon tank that's 64 pounds right there and it's got a few batteries. So how long can it go out and fly around? So you did on a, 03:24 you used it for a five acre plot. Is that about maximum? How we do it is, is if we go out, 03:29 we're doing two gallon work every time it comes in we swap batteries, it's got a suitcase battery. Literally you just pick it up, 03:35 you don't have to unplug it, it unplugs itself, swap batteries, go on, put it right back on the charge. 03:40 So you got three batteries you never had to stop. And also we just got like a quick fill fuel nozzle like you do at a gas station. We stick it in there while it's filling up. You're doing these other things too. 03:49 So it's, it's very fast. You could come in and within a minute be right back out going. Got It. So as a tool, how many of your acres, not very many, right? Not yet. 03:59 You're doing it on trials, you're doing it on, you know, plot work and all that. Is it gonna grow? Is, is this tool gonna 04:06 Grow? I, I think for it to grow on our farm, we're gonna to have probably two or three of them. And that way I think you can take two guys, 04:11 run three machines and get over that. It's still not gonna be as fast as an airplane or as fast as a sprayer on the ground. 04:18 But there's times and places where an airplane doesn't need to be seen or heard around houses. Yeah. 04:22 People can't see these drones cuz they're always this 10 foot or 15 foot off the canopy. So people don't see 'em. They don't, it's just a lot better as far 04:29 As less intrusive. It's less inviting of scrutiny from the neighbors. But fungicide is that where you see it's happen? I mean where, 04:37 where it is right now is for plots trial work. Where is it gonna be a year or two from now? Fungicide I think fungicides for sure because you can do a lot of things. 04:44 You can get lower to the canopy, get the wind effect, pushing the Fungicide down, down 04:48 In the canopy. All this, Um, we talked about spot treating for weeds. Is that something that I will say that's coming and and it even can be down to one day doing some 04:57 target specific, uh, insecticides to where, you know, you got certain insects out in the field. Yep. And you wanna just drop certain, uh, bait stations all throughout the field or something like this. 05:08 I went to a field day three or four years ago, Long just dropped little bombs. Yeah. But it is doing it strategically so you know where 05:13 Doing based on gp, It attracts the bugs to that bomb, so to say or to that bomb. I hadn't even thought of that. Well that I saw that three or four years ago. 05:20 I thought that would've caught on by now, but it, it hadn't got there yet. But that's the type things I think could really happen. We was 05:24 Talking about wild catches on and I just used your smartphone as a reference. Yeah, your smartphone, I mean might cost like $800, you're like, 05:30 that's a lot of money, but it does five times more stuff than my smartphone did just 10 years ago. So on the money exchange, how much that cost you? 05:39 Uh, that one right there was probably around $30,000. All right. Five years from now I think you're gonna get, 05:45 it might still be 30 grand or it might be a little bit more, but it might do twice as much or it might just be price cheaper. 05:51 Which one's gonna happen. It's gonna be, you're gonna be able to get twice as much out on 'em for the same money probably or less. Yeah. It's, it's technology's coming down on those type things. 05:59 Uh, the limiting factor right now. Battery. Yeah. So how come home can it run on a battery? Uh, we usually just do it every filling. 06:05 So I mean probably about 15 minutes if it's flying hard, if it's windy, it's a lot of variance going on that's really affected. Yeah. 06:11 Alright, I'll go ahead and take a look at this now and you can point out a couple of features. All right. Yeah. Let's it Ira standing next to this drone, 06:17 it's about eight feet diameter. It's got six propellers. I'm looking at the tank. 06:20 This is where we put whatever we're spraying on the field. It runs on batteries, which are right there. What else do I need to know? 06:26 You know, you got several different configurations of nozzles depending on what rates you're putting out, how fast you're flying. 06:31 So if you're going slow and low wa water volume, it can actually cut off some of the nozzles. It's got a rate controller built in on it. 06:37 It holds eight gallons of liquid in here. It's got a, uh, field indicator. So you always know exactly how much fluid you got on the remote so you know 06:45 what's going on. Course you got a suitcase battery that drops in and out really easy. So it has radar on it. Uh, it can see everything in front, behind, 06:53 and over it. Um, which is a big one. Well if it's Gonna run into a tree, does it just stop? It stops? 06:57 Does it stop and fall down to the ground or does it stop and hover? It stops and hovers and you can actually do some settings where it actually try 07:02 to avoid it or you take control and go around the tree or something like that. You're talking about the nozzles? I'm looking at 'em right here. This, 07:07 this under this propeller. There's two under that propeller. There are four. Yeah. Uh, is that something you customize or the way it came? 07:13 That's, that's the way it comes. And then depending on the, this of the water we're spraying the product, 07:19 we can go anywhere from say 20 foot to 30 foot patterns depending on what you're doing. 07:23 It's it all depending on the ha how heavy the water is that you're putting out. So 07:26 A lighter product you can disperse 30 Feet. That's right. You know, that's really not bad. You figure it was only 40 or so years ago. 07:33 50 we, we sprayed with 40 foot booms with sprayers, so That's right. Um, the battery, 07:38 you said that's kinda a limiting factor because it's only good for about 15 minutes. How many batteries do you have to have? We 07:42 Have three batteries and they'll last longer, 15 minutes. But if it's a real windy day and you're flying heavy loads all the time or 07:48 you're having to go a long ways across the field to start back over, it's all depending on how you're set up. 07:52 But we always change every time we come in. That's fine. How long does it take to charge back up? It'll Charge back up before you need it. Oh, okay. So you to rotate through. 07:58 Okay. You bought this for what purpose specifically? Mainly do research and get good documentation on the products for footing out. So you've got a lot of acres you can do, you do a lot of trials. 08:07 The smaller operator that's like, hey, this is out there. How long until you think this fits a 2000 acre operator and actually 08:15 has a return on the investment? Well if you look at what a sprayer costs, if you're gonna buy like a 30 foot boom to put on the back of a tractor, 08:20 you're gonna have several thousand dollars in that and put a rate controller and all that. 08:24 You're not gonna be a lot cheaper than you are here when it's all said and done. Especially as versatile as this is cuz you actually could take the tank out and 08:30 put a dry additive hopper in there so you can put out fertilize cover crops, stuff like that too. 08:34 You can spread, you can do dry with this thing. And then the last one is, okay, for, for an operator that's maybe a specialty crop or a smaller acre operator, 08:43 is there even a justification that you're not, you don't need a tractor to run it, you don't need a designated tractor to run it? Yeah. 08:49 You're not knocking over the crop. Does that matter? I I think it does. I mean, it just lets you put the product where you need it and do the limited amount of 08:56 damage. You Spoke before we hit record on this, where you see this having an application is if you are in a suburban area. That's right. Tell us about that. 09:03 Well, you know, if you got residential neighborhoods and you got an airplane flying, people are always worried about what you're putting out if you're, 09:09 they think you're spraying. It could be cover crop, it could be a dry fertilize, but they're gonna call and worry about it. 09:14 Well this thing here allows you to stay 10 15 foot off the canopy below the tree lines. You don't have to raise up. I mean, 09:20 it just keeps everything unless you do the application you need when you need to do it. Got it. 09:26 Uh, well you and I both wrote the same opinion. There's gonna be more of these in the future. How many more are you gonna have a Royal Farms three years from now? 09:31 When I come back and visit, we Allowed to have two or three by then. All right. He's Johnny Rell. My name is Damien Mason. 09:35 We're talking about drone technology and making it work for your farming operation. He's doing it mostly for trials and research. But you know what, 09:41 this is coming. Stay tuned for more great information about how you can use the latest technology for a return on investment on your farming operation. 09:47 Extreme

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