Farmers use drones to detect diseases, pests


  •   Nov 19


Durban - Five innovations to help farmers manage their crops, identify stressed trees and spot individual pests and diseases without setting foot on a farm were introduced during a recent Aerobotics’ Future of Farming 2018 event in KwaZulu-Natal.

Shows were held in 11 locations in mostly farming communities around South Africa, with more than 700 people attending.

The Aerobotics technology company announced the innovations, designed with the farmer in mind, to build on its world-leading solutions that have been helping farmers with early pest and disease detection for years.

James Paterson, the co-founder and chief executive of Aerobotics, said: “We have been working extremely hard over the past few years with growers and industry partners to create technology that will completely change how farmers manage their crops, identify stressed trees and spot individual pests and diseases without setting foot on the farm.

“This kind of technology has been the stuff of agri-tech legend, but today we are making the future of farming a reality.”

Aerobotics uses drones to capture high-resolution images of stressed trees and these will be run through its databas


Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, pests and disease are identified and the results then communicated via push notifications to the farmer.

Additionally, the Aeroview system will now automatically generate scout routes for farmers using Aerobotics AI.

“Until now, the farmer has had to take time to visit each individual tree and rely on experience and knowledge in the field to identify pests and disease.

“Aeroview has the technology to do all of this for the farmer. The amount of time, energy and money that farmers can save with Aerobotics’ new technology is impressive,” said Aerobotics data science manager Michael Malahe.

He said that once the system had automatically detected problem trees that needed further investigation and a scout route had been planned using AI, Aerobotics’ Drone Scouting application would send the route to a drone.

“Aerobotics has been looking at how we can combine our technology and farming knowledge to help farmers streamline their operations and save time and money,” said Aerobotics co-founder and CTO Benji Meltzer.

“This has massive implications for the farming sector as early detection of these risks will enable early intervention, saving farmers costs, protecting crops and saving yields exposed to harmful pests and disease.”

Agri SA president Dan Kriek said technological innovations in agriculture accessible to the ordinary producer were crucial for ensuring South Africa’s food security on a sustainable basis.

Nedbank, a partner of and Series A investor in Aerobotics, said it was excited and proud to have taken a minority equity stake in enterprising South African aerial data-analytics specialist Aerobotics, with a view to enhancing our endeavours to do good as experts in the agri-sector.

“In July this year, our venture capital team invested in a minority equity interest in this disruptive technology company building advanced analytics on top of aerial drone and satellite imagery to deliver precision farming tools for the agri-sector,” said John Hudson, Nedbank’s head of agriculture for business banking