Interested in saving some money on the farm? A group of Purdue University students have created a drone startup company called Aerial Agriculture LLC they say can help farmers reduce excess fertilizer and input costs, and increase yields.
The students are building drones that deploy specialized cameras to convert images into a vegetative index that measures relative crop health. This data will help agronomists write variable-rate nitrogen prescriptions that can place fertilizer more efficiently and ratchet up yields.
“Our technology can pinpoint crop areas that need more attention, which allows farmers to then apply more inputs and address potential crop issues immediately, as opposed to after the fact,” according to co-founder Austin Dardorff, a student in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “We expect our clients to get a full return on their investment, if not make money from using our service.”
Deardorff and his colleagues have recently upgraded the drone’s camera, which is now capable of collecting four different spectral bands of imagery.
“We are able to stitch images together in maps to show the crops’ health in a precise and easy-to-read manner,” he says.
Aerial Agriculture is the latest agribusiness venture to come out of the Purdue Foundry, an Indiana-based startup accelerator. The company took first place, including a $5,000 prize, in the university’s Boiler Mini-Accelerator Competition earlier in 2016, and recently received an additional $20,000 in funding from Purdue Foundry.
“[Purdue Foundry] has provided us with serious resources, as well as massive networking opportunities that you just cannot obtain otherwise,” Deardorff says.
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