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Drones at work on farms

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Wairarapa’s Wyeth family are well known for their success in sheep and beef farming, and the sky is the limit for them now with the addition of drone technology into their farming practices.

Matt and Lynley Wyeth own a 1000ha sheep and beef farm west of Masterton.

They are working with new business Wairarapa Aerial Imaging Ltd to implement drone technology into their day to day farming practices.

It has already proven useful in checking fence lines, water troughs, and scanning paddocks for cast or sick sheep.

Spring Valley Enterprises sheep set their gaze upon an in-flight drone from Wairarapa Aerial Imaging Ltd.
Spring Valley Enterprises sheep set their gaze upon an in-flight drone from Wairarapa Aerial Imaging Ltd.

“The other day we had the drone fly over this mob of sheep and straight away we could see there was this one sheep that hadn’t moved with the mob,” Mrs Wyeth said.

“So the drone buzzed down a bit closer and we found it was cast which means it was pregnant and stuck on its back.

“You don’t want a sheep left like that for long, they die pretty quickly.

“So straight away our little son was on his bike, straight over there, and he flipped up the ewe.

“That’s $400 saved in less than four minutes.”

Mrs Wyeth said she could “definitely” see this technology playing a vital role in making life on the farm more efficient and more enjoyable.

“I guess we’re trying to get in early with this technology because we think it will really take off soon,” she said.

“There are so many applications of the technology in farming that will make life on the farm easier.

“We’re getting in now and making a start so that we can hit the ground running when it does take off.”

Rene Clough director of Wairarapa Aerial Imaging Ltd has been instrumental in teaching the Wyeth family the ins and outs of drone technology applications.

“We’re trying to come up with trials and ideas for them because the technology is still quite new in the world and especially new in farming,” he said.

“Some of the ideas we have are pre-planned automated flight paths, so we can fly the drone, mapping its flight along a fence line to check for broken fences, or map to where the water troughs are.

“We can then save that flight path and then the farmers can do that flight daily with just the click of a button. “They can look at the video, see if there’s any holes in the fences, or if there are any leaking or empty water troughs.”

Mr Clough said drone technology would never replace farm dogs or manual labour, “not for now anyway”, but would rather be another tool to add to farmers’ belts.

“For farmers who work with crops as opposed to just livestock, we’ll be able to get sensors on the drones that will be able to identify where there is too much water, too much fertiliser, not enough fertiliser, or whether there’s too many chemicals,” he said.

“Any farmer could use that technology to their advantage- they would just need to push a button and the drone would fly the field and do a report which would tell them exactly where they need to put more fertiliser or know where there are weeds.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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