Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge

Land O’Lakes

Land O’Lakes, Inc. is seeking proposed solutions that enable scalable, autonomous drone usage in precision agriculture (the “Solution(s)”). While drone technology is one of the hottest topics in the agriculture industry today, current solutions have not yet evolved to make drones a valuable or cost effective tool for farmers.

Land O’Lakes, Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative, is investing in the Land O’Lakes Prize (a total potential prize purse of $150,000), to be awarded to an individual or team that evolves drone technology into a valuable, user-friendly tool for farmers.

The new drone hardware and software Solutions we seek will solve critical issues for farmers. They will limit the need for human involvement in the collection of high-resolution field data, decrease the time needed to access crop imagery, and improve the ability for a farmer to make decisions based on field health data. The decision-making this technology will enable has the potential to help farmers better tailor care to the specific needs of crops and that leads to potential gains in water efficiency and crop yield while reducing fertiliser waste.

Background

The agricultural industry has a long history of adapting to changing conditions and using the latest innovations to support feeding a growing global population. Farmers deal with countless pressures and challenges such as increasing sustainability, maximizing yields to meet demand, maintaining margins, and managing water usage. Like other industries, agriculture is turning to data in order to make the best decisions possible. Farmers make thousands of decisions in a growing season and the more of those decisions supported by data the better.

Farmers have always collected field data. This process can be as simple as walking through a field and making observations, but farmers are limited by time, data recording and the capabilities of analysis tools when making visual observations. A farmer simply can’t walk every row of crops to collect data.

More recently, precision agriculture has been enabled by the combination of satellites and precision machinery. Satellites recording multispectral images allow high throughput data collection showing plant health and field productivity in small field zones. This data, in conjunction with variable rate machinery connected to GPS, allows farmers to tailor field care to the specific needs of crops while increasing water efficiency, decreasing fertilization waste, and ultimately increasing crop yields.

The next frontier of precision agriculture will be enabled with new, higher resolution data that can be captured on demand and independent of cloud cover, with very little human input. Many current precision agriculture drone and UAV solutions require a great deal of time and effort in the data collection and processing workflow. This greatly decreases the ability of farmers to tap into the benefits of this new technology space. That’s why there’s a huge opportunity for Land O’Lakes Prize innovators to bring world-class imagery, smart tech and true scalability together in a groundbreaking Solution for farms everywhere.

As a member-owned cooperative (many of which are farmers), Land O’Lakes is always looking for new ways to bring value to our members. We have provided thought leadership in the precision agriculture and satellite imaging space and have a number of tools available that provide value to farmers, like the R7® Tool by WinField.

Drones represent a prime example of a new technology that has the potential to provide even more valuable decision making data to farmers. Prospective changes to FAA regulations may offer a legal pathway for a truly autonomous and scalable drone Solution to transform a number of industries. We believe that combining world class imagery, automation, and scalability to achieve an all-encompassing precision agriculture Solution will create the value that will make a real difference in the field.