Developments in Drone Technology are Revolutionising Bulgarian Agriculture
Daniel Butler - Thu, 22 Mar 2018
A farmer in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley has enlisted the help of unconventional guardian to protect his land from trespassers, wild animals and crop failure. These protectors can fly at speeds of 60kmph and are battery charged.
The farmer’s name is Stefan Dimitrov and his drones are transforming the approach he and other local farmers are taking to managing their farms. The developers behind the drones are hoping they will become a mainstay of modern agriculture.
“The drones are making the agriculture sector an exciting place to be,” explains Dimitrov. He adds that by utilising the data collected by the drones “we have been able to improve our day-to-day activities through the amount of information we have to hand.
“One of the main benefits I have seen is the saving of money, time and resources, meaning that I can focus on scaling up the business.”
The drones take off, fly and land independently, and can fly for roughly 90 minutes. They are also charged via the mains electricity supply. An area of 10,000 hectares can be monitored by three drones, making two flights a day, using digital imagery and real-time data.
“It can spot people stealing crops, animals that have entered the land, or it can monitor areas where crops are not growing properly or there are other problems,” explains Tihomir Nedev, co-founder of Flyver, the developers behind the drone technology.
Flyver, based in Sofia, is one of many Eastern European start-ups trying to tap-in to the growing demand for tech-based agricultural solutions. Bulgaria, like various other countries in the region, is increasingly looking towards innovators to stimulate future economic growth as it attempts to move away from its current low-quality manufacturing model.
“One of the reasons the central eastern European market is so exciting is that it does not have the existing IT legacy that can sometimes restrict growth,” explains Don Grantham, president of central and Eastern Europe for Microsoft, which helps Flyver with structural and technological support through its start-up supporting BizSpark program.
Grantham says that integrating technology into “a traditional sector” is no easy task.
However, the growing applications of the “industrial internet of things” (IIoT) is revolutionising agriculture as it is in most other industries, Grantham explains.
“Many Eastern European countries are reliant on agriculture to provide a large proportion of their GDP and, therefore, employ a disproportionately greater share of total workforce when compared to the service and manufacturing industries,” says David West, senior partner at Challenge Advisory.
“Nations like Bulgaria and Poland, where roughly a fifth of the labour market works in agriculture, are eager to benefit from technological advances to improve efficiency, which is often inhibited by lack of infrastructure and outdated business models.”
Grantham champions drone technology as an excellent example of how IIoT innovation is positively transforming the industry. He adds that the drone innovations represent “huge opportunities for the way we will grow and cultivate our food”.
There is, however, a certain amount of trust that needs to be gained on the part of farmers for drone technology and cloud networks to be successfully implemented. One of the biggest obstacles in marketing drone technology, which costs $10,000 a year on average, is convincing farmers who are used to traditional farming methods to take a chance on a fledgling technology.
“One of the problems is that they fear we come from a software and a technology background and have no idea about farming,” says Nedev.
In response to these fears, Nedev has exhibited the product at agricultural shows and partnered with recognised agricultural brands. “It takes some time for people to get familiar with new ideas, new systems.”
Falling Prices For Widespread Use
Now that the demand for smarter farming methods is growing, Nedev now anticipates the costs of the drones to fall as the technology becomes more prevalent.
Flyver now plans to refine the technology in Bulgaria before eventually expanding across Europe and into the US market.
“The innovations are important to the industry as a whole,” explains Dimitrov. “Aside from the immediate working benefits, becoming a technology-driven sector will help attract more young people into the field and promote further innovations.”
7-8 December 2016