Fort Wayne Farm Show highlights drone uses


By Doug LeDuc, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly (IN)

Jan 9, 2019


Last year was the first year for a Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service program designed to familiarize farmers with agricultural drone technology, and a luncheon program on the subject will be among the highlights of the 2019 Fort Wayne Farm Show.


The free event is among the biggest shows at the Memorial Coliseum each year. “It’s the 30th anniversary of the show, and one of the things we’ve found kind of unique is we have 50 companies that started with us on Day One and have never missed a year with us,” said Fred Cline, show director for the event’s producer, Tradexpos.


About 1,100 booths there will provide information on the goods and services of more than 410 companies, he said. Between 30,000 and 35,000 individuals are expected to come through the show during the three days it is in the city, Jan. 15-17.


Educational programs will be presented at the event each day by representatives of northeast Indiana Soil and Water Conservation districts and by Purdue’s Cooperative Extension Service.


The Farm Bill was still working its way through Congress as exhibitors were reserving space at the show, so this year’s vendor mix includes more aftermarket businesses than usual, because farmers tend to be more conservative in their spending under such circumstances, Cline said.


Some of the region’s farm implement dealers sell drones and related systems, and with what they have at the show and Purdue’s drone workshop, visitors will be able to catch up on the latest agricultural technology while checking in with aftermarket businesses to “make sure we’re taking care of what we already have,” he said.


It looks like drones are going to become an important agricultural tool and northeast Indiana farmers will be among the first in the industry to learn about them.


“We’re on the cutting edge of extension systems across the country in doing programming on drones,” said Steve Engleking, an agriculture and natural resources educator with Purdue Extension’s LaGrange County office, who will serve as a moderator at the show. “We have 17 counties in the state that have drones, and two of them are in northeast Indiana.”


Farmers are starting to use to drones for activities such as scouting the condition of crops, checking on animals and monitoring woodlands for damage from pests such as the emerald ash borer, he said.


When it comes to analyzing fields for flood damage or drainage problems, drones can provide more detailed information than satellite imagery, and it is important to understand the problem as thoroughly as possible before investing in corrective measures, said Crystal Van Pelt, an agriculture and natural resources educator with Purdue Extension’s Steuben County office who also will serve as a show moderator.


Van Pelt and Bill Horan, an agriculture and natural resources educator with Purdue Extension’s Wells County office, are certified drone pilots and will present the show’s 11:30 a.m. luncheon program on “INField Advantage Program and What Drones Can Do for Ag.”


“The INField Advantage program is an on-farm network across Indiana that does stalk nitrate testing; I liken it to an autopsy on the corn plant,” Van Pelt said. “You can tell from year to year if not enough nitrogen or too much is being applied.”


Funded with corn and soybean checkoff program dollars, INField Advantage traditionally has provided color aerial imagery for this scouting toward the end of the year, but drones could be used to provide more timely information, she said...