Farming used to be among the lowest-tech industries on the planet. Not anymore.
Seed and soil, moisture and muscle are still important components. But now there’s a new one – technology.
Technology is everywhere in agriculture from the largest to the smallest operation. GPS helps position equipment so not a row is wasted. Water and fertilizer are applied only when and where needed. Careful analysis pinpoints healthy and struggling crops.
“Welcome to the future of farming” says Young Kim, CEO of Digital Harvest. Kim started Digital Harvest in 2012 after applying unmanned systems to agriculture as early as 2008.
“Technology in agriculture was limited to a few tools and a few countries” he says “and fortunately we were in some of those countries with the best of those technology tools.”
Kim sites examples of remotely piloted Yamaha helicopters use to spray crops in Japan and to survey the health of orchards and vineyards in South America. “Now we are not only using drones at lower cost to do what piloted aircraft had been doing, but we’re also very good at integrating drones with arrays of ground sensors and with satellite imaging to produce a complete picture of crop health.”
The Oregon UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) Future Farm project based in Pendleton has been established as a laboratory for advancing technology in ag. That laboratory covers 14,000 square miles of FAA Certified UAS Test Range, high value agricultural zones, new multi-layered remote sensor tools, and a community of collaborative growers, researchers, and digital agriculture experts.
“We have all the right stuff,” said Steve Chrisman of the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport and Pendleton UAS Range Manager. “Smart, experienced people from all over the world, crops ranging from premium vineyards and orchards to hundreds of pivot irrigation plots, and infrastructure that includes everything ag producers and suppliers
need to prove new ag technologies.”
Chrisman credits area farmers and ranchers, companies like Digital Harvest, state and Federal researchers, and funding from local, state and national sources for making the project possible.
Mike Short of the Bank of Eastern Oregon adds that SOAR Oregon and the City of Pendleton played key funding roles as well. “The Future Farm infrastructure, from the fiber-connected test pads to our relationship with our partners in the Pan Pacific UAS test ranges, required years of investment. Now we’re seeing just the beginning of the payoff.”
In addition to Daryl Abling, the new Pendleton UAS Range Manager, Digital Harvest test pilot Stave Lawn has re-located from Virginia to Pendleton to conduct Future Farm operations. Jeff Lorton, Director of the Duke Joseph Agency he founded in 2010 and his wife Val have also taken up residence in Pendleton to continue his work as Future Farm’s Project Manager.
Asked what we can expect to see as a result of the Future Farm project, Young Kim paints a picture that few in the industry would dispute. “You’ll see sensors and vehicles working together to assess crop health. You’ll see farmers able to respond to crop conditions immediately at the lowest cost. You’ll see new companies grow around vehicle and sensor technology. And you’ll see massive amounts of data presented in ways that ag producers can use to make better decisions with greater certainty than ever before.”
For additional information on Future Farm and how you can benefit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-278-7933.