The agricultural industry is at the start of its next major revolution and agritech is at the forefront, predicted to grow to $4 billion worldwide by 2024*. This prompted Drone Ag to develop Skippy Scout, a crop scouting mobile phone application, as a means to help farmers make better decisions, by having immediate information about their crops on their smartphone.
Jack Wrangham, co-founder and director of Drone Ag says: “The implications of a growing population and pressures on global food supply means that agritech is developing rapidly. It’s this technology which will drive improvements in agricultural efficiency while providing methods to protect the environment more effectively.
“Our ambition is to bring easy to use, economical technology to farmers, to help them make better decisions. We believe that Skippy Scout will bring huge improvements to efficiency and accuracy in agriculture and food production and we’re excited about bringing it to market.”
Skippy Scout autonomously flies a drone around a field, taking high resolution photos of the crop, which are sent directly to the user’s smartphone, where it can be analysed and immediately provide crop information to assist in decision making. The drones can cover up to two hectares per minute of flight, making the crop scouting exercise up to 10 times faster than a person on foot.
Over 200 users have already signed up to test Skippy Scout, including individual farmers, consultants, and large manufacturing, supply and consultancy businesses. The commercial version, once launched, will run as SaaS (Subscription as a Service) with two subscription tiers for farmers and consultants. Future development of the software will allow it to detect more crop parameters, and integrate with autonomous machinery to allow accurate chemical applications only where they are needed.
Syngenta’s Global Digital Agronomy Development Lead, James Marshall-Roberts, says: “Skippy Scout is a real step forward in drone solutions for agriculture, reducing the need for storing, processing and uploading large amounts of data from whole field scans. Instead, the images are collected where needed in high resolution, meaning more meaningful insights for growers and advisors alike.”
Jonathan Gill, Harper Adams University Mechatronics Researcher, Hands Free Hectare Lead and Nuffield Scholar says: “Skippy Scout is an additional tool to allow further steps of autonomy within the farm environment. Having a machine going to a place at a faster speed, and taking better imagery than possible ourselves is just the next step in agriculture.”