When you think of farming, drones may not be the first thing to come to mind.
Yiannis Ampatzidis, a professor in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is changing that with his new artificial intelligence-based software, Agroview.
Ampatzidis, UF assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at IFAS, and his team at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center developed Agroview to use photos taken on drones to help farmers protect their harvests.
IFAS faculty will host a seminar for farmers interested in Agroview Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Immokalee.
Agroview uses data collected from unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones, and analyzes it to determine the size and number of trees. Growers use this data to study the conditions of successful and unsuccessful parts of the field.
Ampatzidis created the software in response to a prevalent problem in Florida: citrus greening. Citrus greening is a disease that occurs on citrus trees spread by an invasive insect. The disease stunts trees’ nutrient absorption, causing smaller, more sour fruit. Farmers have to cut down their trees in response to this disease.
“Because of that, we lost a lot of trees so now the growers don’t really know how many trees they share in different fields,” Ampatzidis said.
Hurricane Irma caused tree damage, Ampatzidis said. For hurricane-related insurance claims, companies ask for information about the age, heightand other characteristics about the trees.
Todd Motis is a production manager at Chemical Container, Inc., an agricultural spray equipment manufacturer based in Lake Wales, and is looking to license Ampatzidis’s software.
The software contributes to a farming concept called precision agriculture, where growers use technology to monitor variables in their crop growth and prescribe a solution accordingly, Motis said. This can save fertilizer and other supplies in the long run by helping farmers decide where to put fertilizer based on the results.
While the new technology may seem to be costly for farmers, it will actually save them money in the long run, Motis said.
Growers could be paying up to $9 per acre for conventional tree counting for 100 acres. Using a combination of drones and Agroview, however, farmers would pay $7.50 per acre.
"You're going to end up with a lot more information including tree count, where your tree gaps are in the grove, tree diameters and heights," Motis said.
Dr. Ampatzidis (third from left) in a drone field at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.