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Drones could be used as a tool to enhance precision ag

Lindsey Ross works on putting together a small drone before the 4Rivers Equipment/Agribotix presentation on Thursday at the Colorado Farm Show at the Island Grove Events Center in Greeley.

The tech industry is always about the latests trends and the coolest gadgets.

And for farmers, it's even better when that technology can be used to make them better at their jobs.

At the Colorado Farm show on Thursday at Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, producers had a chance to learn more about the way drones can help them with precision agriculture. Precision ag is the ability to make the most of everything utilized in growing crops. It offers answers to questions such as: Where is the best place to put more seeds? Where is fertilizer most needed? Where can farmers water less. And drone technology is helping with just that.

Jason Barton, vice president of sales of Agribotix, a data processing company for agriculture, talked to a crowd of about 30, about how drone technology can be used in precision agriculture.

The basics come down to drones flying over the land and taking infrared photos, which then can be accessed using an application from a smart phone or tablet to show how crops are doing.

The infrared shows which crops are healthy and which aren't. The photos also allow farmers to determine where fertilizer is useful and what type will help the crops more, Barton said.

There's also a multi-year dimension to the technology, which allows farmers to see where trouble area of their land are. This is important in precision ag as it can tell a farmer to avoid putting seed in places where a crop won't grow. This means less costs will be put in where there likely won't be profit.

Using GPS, the app FarmLens lets farmers take notes and pictures in their field, which will then be pinpointed to the infrared photos. This can be useful to better understand what makes certain areas better for the crop.

The use of a drone also can help show how weather affects the crop. For example, in large fields of wheat, it can be hard on foot to access all the damage after a hail storm. Some of the land can be missed. But with a drone, that can go out and take photographs the field, farmers will get a much better understanding of what parts of their field took the most damage.

Arnie Fiscus is an alfalfa farmer and owns a cow/calf operation in the Fort Morgan and New Raymer area. He attended the talk hoping to learn more.

He said a drone could be applicable for the cow/calf operation as it would give a better picture of how the fencing, water and the overall look of what's happening.

"I will probably, get one to tink around with at the very least," he said.