Drones 'revolutionizing' Manitoba farming with help from Winnipeg company

A Winnipeg company says the future of farming is here and it combines NASA technology and drones.

M3 Aerial Productions says new technology will save farmers time, money

M3 Aerial Productions owner Matthew Johnson said drones can save farmers time and money. (M3 Aerial Productions)

A Winnipeg company says the future of farming is here and it combines NASA technology and drones.

Matthew Johnson, the owner of M3 Aerial Productions, said this is the first year of project Green Gold. The aim of the project is to find out the right time and place for fertilizers, pesticides, and even harvesting.

"Drones are revolutionizing the industry. It's an interesting thing," Johnson said.

The company launches fixed-wing drones equipped with tools for scientific-level imagery and sensors to capture changes in the field. The normalized difference vegetation index, or NDVI, is a breakdown of photosynthetic light that plants reflect. NASA developed the technology decades ago but until recently it had only been used for satellites and planes.

"Specialized sensors in the drones are able to pick up this light and transform it into an output that we can understand," Johnson said. "That output helps farmers decide what they want to put on their fields in terms of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, that kind of thing."

For example, the output can highlight an area with suboptimal growth and the farmer can apply fertilizer to the specific spot rather than to the whole field. Johnson said it saves farmers money on chemicals as well as the overhead of planes or satellites.

Farmers themselves aren't quite sold on the idea yet, Johnson said, and his company has received a mixed reaction. He hopes that as the technology becomes more widely used, the demand will also grow.

"Agriculture is one of the most prevalent [industries] in Manitoba that I felt would be the best use of resources," Johnson said. "The technology is on the cusp of just exploding, and to be right there with the development... I'm really excited."