Indigo Drones: Farming takes flight

We live in a world today where there is plenty of food to go around, enough to feed all 7.8 billion of us. Even so, 811 million of us go hungry, almost 10 per cent of the world population.

It’s an unthinkable statistic to imagine one in 10 people going hungry, in an age of GM crops, enhanced yields. It becomes an unpalatable reality, especially when considering such high levels of food waste in wealthier nations. Indigo Drones could do its part to help farmers at the production end of the chain, to help alleviate such hunger at the source.

Fighting hunger at the source

As our ancestors have done for thousands of years, the food we eat is usually produced through some form of agriculture, whether it’s the jacket potato we pop in the microwave on a cold day to the lettuce and other foodstuffs we munch on in our salads. Admittedly, the methods used to produce such foodstuffs is far more intensive and sophisticated than our ancestors could have dreamed of. Much of the world’s agricultural produce is sourced from farmers in the Tropics, but there are concerns that high demand isn’t being met by sufficient yields in specific parts of Central and South America. 

Indigo Drones offers a smart way of monitoring crops unmanned, to help spot potential issues during growing seasons. Formed in the 2010s, Indigo Drones is the creation of Sergio Ballester, an alumnus of the Costa Rica Founder Institute. It describes itself as an agricultural intelligence agency which employs the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as well as other internet of things (IoT) devices which help Indigo Drones paint a digital map of areas, allowing farmers to see the real lie of the land.

This form of aerial mapping all falls under the umbrella of so-called ‘precision agriculture’, whereby data can be collated about crops to determine where resources or inputs such as water and pesticides need to be administered, for example. The data is applied to help create something of an agricultural ‘weather’ forecast, allowing farmers to see how their crops might grow over time in the coming months, informing how they can look after them.

The benefits of agri-data

Methods of data collection through UAVs from the likes of Indigo Drones have profound positive impacts on agriculture. By knowing the performance of crops using an aerial view, farmers can allocate water usage more efficiently, rather than wasting it with indiscriminate irrigation. Equally, use of fertilisers and pesticides can be limited to those specific areas where it’s required, avoiding the risk of run-off entering groundwater supplies and impacting the local surrounding environment.

Better yields mean greater productivity for the individual farmers and drone technology, when used in this way, reduces their need for needlessly spending large amounts of their budget on fertilisers and pesticides. 

Water can also be conserved, meaning more of it is available when farmers really need it. Indigo Drones has made such an impact on the world of agriculture that the MIT Technology Review listed Sergio Ballester as one of its Innovators Under 35 list in 2015, specifically for the application of their drones in Costa Rica. Crops such as rice and pineapples were listed as the core crops Indigo Drones were monitoring at the time, but adoption of such technology in an international scale can help make farming more sustainable than ever.

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