American and Australian farms are no strangers to agricultural drone use, but Italian countryside is still warming up to the idea. Infrared drones are in experimentation along the rolling hills of Chianti with the sole intent of monitoring Italy’s prized vines and grapes. Agricultural drones are typically used in farming to create and efficient process to spray and fertilize weaker crops for a healthy overall outcome. These “future mechanical farm machines” are equipped with GPS and are vital in collecting information about the crops with precision accuracy.
Engineer and member of Modena’s SAL Engineering Start Up, Marco Bosi has been using drones throughout industrial structures, archeological sites and as of recent in farming. He started with a small vineyard in Cesenate, Italy.
“We are looking for more farmers who would like to experiment with new technology”. He cites a recent study conducted in Australia, where a small vineyard growing Syrah grapes increased productivity by 10% using drones. Italian farmers are still a bit skeptical of using drone technology in their vineyards, and still prefer traditional methods. Only a small percentage of Italian farmers are using precision agriculture.
“Producers find it hard to welcome the potential that this equipment could bring,” explains Daniele Eberle, a Piedmont agricultural expert who is taking part in the Sigevi Project, which is financed by the Piedmont Region and the University of Turin. The project monitors cultivation through sensors and its scope is to prevent any critical obstacles to healthy harvesting. After 2 years, the Sigevi Project has worked on only 1 vineyard and is looking for further funding. Eberle talks about the obstacles he encountered during the project stating that “the lack of network, too weak in certain areas to be able to transmit data. And the habits of farmers, who often don’t even have a smartphone.”
Precision Agriculture is a one of the most revolutionary technologies of our time. A market with revenue of only 3 million dollars a year can eventually double that by 2020 using drones.