January 11, 2017
Scientists at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research will continue assisting growers in the counties of Franklin, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenberg, Patrick, and Pittsylvania by introducing precision agriculture technologies to current growers of strawberries, vegetables, grapes, grains, tobacco, and legumes.
Scientists will use the Institute’s AgBOT to regularly collect data at 20 farms and vineyards. The AgBOT is a fully autonomous aerial robotic craft designed for precision agricultural applications and includes both multispectral and thermal cameras. The AgBOT can cover several acres of crops in minutes and provides data to growers regarding potential soil variations, irrigation problems, and disease infestations. This data helps growers reduce overwatering and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides by only applying what is needed, when it is needed.
The data collected from each mission will be used immediately to determine the most productive and healthiest areas of each field. These areas will be investigated and compared to nonproductive areas through a variety of tests. The data will be analyzed by Institute scientists and, together with each grower, a site specific action plan will be developed for each farm/vineyard for the next growing season. Data will continue to be collected during year two of the project to determine the effectiveness of the treatments and compare data from the first year of the project.
Project results will be presented at two workshops highlighting the benefits of precision agriculture for growers throughout the region and state. Outreach programs will be designed to engage regional FFA chapters and the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The project aims to increase growers’ profits and production through effective and efficient utilization of resources and educate current and potential growers about current technologies to increase sustainable agribusinesses.
“IALR is excited to partner with the Tobacco Commission. This grant will allow IALR to solidify its commitment to improve agricultural production in our area,” said Mark Gignac, Director of Research.
The total two-year project amount is $232,465 with $101,000 coming from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. The project will begin immediately.
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