Is anyone making money in the Ag space?

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I have an NIR setup and have done lots of free flights for ag producers in my area (Eastern Oregon and SW Idaho).  When I show them the crop health map they usually say "what am I supposed to do with that".  I have tried to find a way to apply a "prescription" based on the NDVI map but it seems there are no applicators in this area that can do that.

I have talked to other drone pilots in the area and they have not figured out how to make money in the ag space - anybody got some ideas?

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I can only speak about my experience on the Canadian prairies.  It is very difficult to compete against the commercial aerial applicators.  

They have their own agronomist on staff.  They have direct connection with the chemical companies.  If the farmer hires their services they do the prescription for free.  On a typical day they will cover 10,000 to 20.000 acres. An agronomist is expected to cover 5,000 to 6,000 acres per day.

Unless you specialize in a high value crop or find a niche I found it very difficult to be competitive when the work is being done for them for free.

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All that single shot orthomosaic tells the farmer is where the in-field variablility is on that day, but not what causes it. And unless you are calibrating for reflectance, you won’t be able to confidently compare orthos between two dates. Unless you are a trained agronomist, and/or have scientific training in crop sciences, geography, remote sensing or related - or can partner up as a data collector for an outfit that can do the required analysis - your service (and value to the grower) stops after data collection, since you’re not qualified to provide Rxs (what multitude of soil and other factors are creating that in-field variability? You certainly can’t tell from a single orthomosaic captured on one day and the farmers know that). There are many agronomic service companies that could benefit from quality reflectance maps, but your role would be a service provider to them, not directly to the grower.

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On 3/21/2019 at 2:42 PM, Tom Inloes said:

Doing the flights and making the maps is not the issue - it's convincing a farmer to pay for it that is the subject of the post.

We recently interviewed a drone pilot on this subject. You can learn about how Eric brings on new clients in the AG sector by checking out the interview here:

Some strategies he calls out include: 

  • highlighting cost avoidance and the potential for increases in yields
  • focused conversations on the imagery and the information it can provide as opposed to conversations about the drone hardware and equipment
  • pro bono work to get started 

This seems to be a challenge for many in the AG sector, but I think Eric brings out some helpful points in the interview. 

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