By João Antunes
Combining the Agricultural strengths of DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection, and Dow AgroSciences, the standalone US-based Corteva Agriscience provides growers across more than 140 countries with a complete agricultural portfolio while bringing new products to market through its pipeline of crop protection, seed, and digital technologies, including leveraging drones.
Last year, Corteva partnered with DroneDeploy to improve its fleet of more than 400 DJI drones across the company’s global Seed Production and Supply Chain, as well as its Pioneer Strategic Account Management and Agronomy teams in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Europe. Powered by DroneDeploy’s Live Map technology, Corteva’s agricultural drone fleet enabled the company’s Pioneer agronomy and strategic account management teams to transform the way farmers manage their crops by providing real-time aerial views of their operation.
For the current growing season, Corteva Agriscience currently has over 1,000+ pilots across the organization. They also deployed their own iOS mobile application called Corteva™ Flight to conduct field edge analytics. These analytics include stand counts, and uniformity analysis across multiple crops.
“We’ve been in the UAS world for almost a decade now. Early on, we were doing a lot of field analytics: counting plants, looking for health, phenotyping through our R&D platform,” Jeremy Groeteke, U.S. Digital Ag Lead at Corteva Agriscience, told Commercial UAV News. “Now we are focusing on moving technologies from R&D into the hands of our seed production farmers and customers. DroneDeploy’s Live Map was filling a gap that we hadn’t solved for, such as that 300–350 feet, off the ground, bird's eye view, and the fact that it could be done at the field edge and quickly provide value. They continue to enhance that platform, not only from speed and capabilities, but allowing us to provide real value to our customers.”
As the U.S. Digital Ag Lead at Corteva Agriscience, Groeteke leads all the digital strategy and is always looking out for new technologies, like drones, new machine learning algorithms, or vision technology software and applications to help develop new products and help customers use those products better. “We want to make sure our customers who are either planting our genetics or using our crop protection solutions are getting the best return on their investment —our digital tools can help them do just that.”
Corteva’s agronomists and Pioneer’s Seed Agencies work with growers, day in and day out, using drone technology to increase the productivity on their lands. For example, a grower managed to reach a 616-bushel corn yield, surpassing the national average of 170. However, generally, Corteva’s focus on the use of drones is to protect yield instead of increasing it. According to the company’s “Agriculture at the Crossroads” article, the world’s population will hit almost 10 billion people by 2050, and the amount of arable land will decline by almost 10% due to urbanization and soil degradation.
“What you do from once you plant the seed is protect yield and maintain its genetic potential,” Groeteke said. “Drones allow us to see and detect differences in crop health and understand where we may need to water more or uniform watering capabilities. So, what you're managing is a lot from the air, and you want to reduce stress to increase productivity. It is going to take all forms of agriculture to feed 10 billion people as we grow across the globe.”
While there has been a lot of hype about the expectations of drones in the precision agriculture industry, it hasn’t taken off the way anyone expected it to. Groeteke believes the hype of drones and agriculture is still there, but the misconception is that a lot of people thought growers themselves would be flying drones.
“Yes, there are growers that fly drones but not everyone,” he commented. “Where we see it within Corteva, growers are just too busy doing everything else. Growers have to be bankers, data scientists, HR managers, agronomists, mechanics, and more. They have so many jobs, and drone pilot wasn't one they wanted to add to their resume. That's where we stepped in, helped growers become an eye in the sky with our agronomists, and it is where we're seeing the immediate return for our growers.”
All Corteva agronomists and sales teams carry drones to help monitor and manage customers’ product requirements. Walking a field and scouting it, which would normally take a couple of hours using traditional methods, now takes less than 20 minutes with a drone. Simply pulling the truck up, unpacking, collecting data, and understanding what's going on, helps growers to make decisions and turn around whatever the problem of the day is.
“Time is the most precious factor for growers, as well as our agronomists,” Groeteke added. “The combination of mobile technology, whether it's an iPad, or an Android phone, combined with the drone itself, and the possibility to collect real-time insights at the field edge allows us to put more value in a grower’s pocket.”