IALR launched a precision agriculture program in 2017 to assist local farmers with field inspections. Scientists use the AgBOT, a fully autonomous drone designed for precision agricultural applications with thermal and multispectral cameras, to analyze data from crops. The AgBOT can cover several acres of crops in minutes and provides data to growers regarding potential soil variations, irrigation problems and disease infestations. This data helps growers reduce overwatering and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides by only applying what is needed, when it is needed.

The data collected from each mission will be used immediately to determine the most productive and healthiest areas of each field. These areas will be investigated and compared to nonproductive areas through a variety of tests. The data will be analyzed by IALR scientists and, together with each grower, a site specific action plan will be developed for each farm or vineyard for the next growing season. Data will continue to be collected during year two of the project to determine the effectiveness of the treatments and compare data from the first year of the project.

The service is available to farmers of strawberries, vegetables, grapes, grains, tobacco and legumes throughout IALR’s footprint. The project aims to increase growers’ profits and production through effective and efficient utilization of resources and to educate current and potential growers about current technologies to increase sustainable agribusinesses. The AgBOT project is funded by the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

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