Did the title catch your attention because of the gratuitous use of buzzwords? (The title was originally “Drones, Big Data and Statistical Models Could Revolutionize Wheat Breeding Research,” but that was way too long when you are trying to be SEO conscious.) If you are a geek like me, I’m glad it caught your attention, because PhD student James Walter deserves some attention for his research. The South Australian Grain Industry Trust recently awarded him a $30,000 scholarship to analyze “plant performance using drone technology” according to Cassandra Steeth from Australia’s ABC Rural staff. So what’s that mean in English, he is working on a statistical model that “better describes the performance of wheat varieties for breeders.” James is researching using drones and various imaging technologies to improve crop outputs. Cool, very cool James. The research that James is working on allows farmers to be more efficient by easily identifying the best-performing wheat varieties. Agriculture is often referred to as the industry that will be most affected by drones.
“Within the breeding program a lot of time is spent out in the field looking at all these little field trial plots to make sure the varieties are growing well and see how they are performing and rate and compare them to the current varieties, so with this project, we’re then looking at gathering a wider range of data or even more accurate data,” he said.
Mr Walter said as the technology progressed, it would become more available and affordable for farmers.
“The real challenge with it is not so much gathering all the images, but then what do you do with all that data, how do you process it all from the equipment and then what is it really telling you and what messages can you gain from it.”