An award-winning Southland farming family are looking to the sky for inspiration to reduce costs on their hill country sheep, beef and cropping farm.
And Neil and Philippa Gardyne, with the technical expertise of their 13-year-old son Mark, have good cause for optimism.
With funding support from Beef+Lamb NZ, the Gardynes are adapting a drone to fly sorties over their sheep flocks on 466ha of flat, rolling to steep hill country in the Otama Valley north-west of Gore.
“We’re looking at using them as a farm tool,” Mr Gardyne explains.
“We’re still opening 120 gates a day at lambing time, so we decided to think a little bit outside the square on how we could simplify that.”
The Gardynes have rolled four-wheelers on their hill country in recent years so safety is a big factor in their search for a safer alternative.
Mark was just 11 when he started researching the Internet for information on drones.
“We spent 14 months researching them, which was difficult because there wasn’t a lot of information out there about their use in agriculture,” his father said.
With nothing available in New Zealand at the time, the Gardynes invested $4000 in a Chinese-made Hexocopter with six rotary blades, sourced from the United States.
For their money they got a high-spec machine powered by rechargeable lithium batteries and carrying two cameras. It weighs 1.8kg, carries a payload of 2kg and has all the technology for fully autonomous flight.
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