A crowdfunding campaign launched by a start-up seeking to develop software that automates crop scouting using phones and drones has to date raised more than £110,000, with strong support for the project coming from farmers.
Drone Ag, which is based on a farm in Northumberland, is looking to raise £250,000 by the last week of May and is seeking support from farmers and tech investors.
Funds will be used to develop its Skippy Scout software, designed to allow checks on pest, weed and disease levels across a field without agronomists or farmers having to walk them.
Instead, farmers can use an app on their mobile phone to fly a drone over a field taking images at various points, with the pictures downloaded straight to the phone for analysis using AI technology.
The company says faster crop scouting can lead to better control of pests and improved nutrition, reducing costs and chemical use and ultimately increasing yields.
Jack Wrangham, company founder, said about half of the 100+ investors who have signed up so far are farmers, who typically invested £1,000-£2,000 each, although the minimum investment required was £10.
He believes the industry is at the start of a major agricultural revolution, with drones set to play a key role.
“I think for a lot of farmers, their ears are pricking up now, and they are starting to think about ways they can be as efficient as possible.
“Brexit has been a key driver, so farmers are starting to look at technology and how it can help.
“This is a really good way for farmers who perhaps don’t want to invest large sums of money to get involved and show support.”
More than 200 farmers have already registered to trial the first version of the mobile phone app, with the goal being to roll out a second enhanced version by next spring.
Crowdfunding is becoming increasingly common in the agricultural world and there seems to be an appetite among farmers to invest in technologies that will help them as agricultural subsidies are phased out.
Earlier this year, the Small Robot Company attracted hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment from UK farmers keen to buy into its vision of replacing big tractors with small farmbots.