Growers learn what they can do with precision ag technology

Jim Bell of Willows, Calif.-based AgVision cues up a display of an aerial photograph of a rice field during a trade show Nov. 15 at the inaugural North State Precision Ag Expo and Farm Business Forum in Orland, Calif. AgVision provides aerial photography of farm fields.

TIM HEARDEN/CAPITAL PRESS

Jim Bell of Willows, Calif.-based AgVision cues up a display of an aerial photograph of a rice field during a trade show Nov. 15 at the inaugural North State Precision Ag Expo and Farm Business Forum in Orland, Calif. AgVision provides aerial photography of farm fields.

ORLAND, Calif. — Rice growers Joe Richter and Jim Bell wanted to get a bird’s eye view of their own fields to gain a better understanding of how well their crops grow.

So they took aerial photographs of their fields using a program from AgPixel, an Iowa-based firm that uses sensing technology to detect plant stresses before they are visible to the naked eye.

Now the two have their own company, Willows, Calif.-based AgVision, and provide aerial surveying of rice fields, nut orchards and row crops for growers throughout the Sacramento Valley.

“The most critical thing is, data has to be usable” to help growers cut costs or increase revenue, Richter told a gathering Nov. 15 at the Glenn County fairgrounds in Orland. “We wanted something that would be high-quality and flexible when people needed it.”

Richter and Bell use a fixed-wing, manned aircraft to capture their images, while some other growers and businesses use drones. Aerial imagery can help a rice grower spot inconsistencies in aerial applications of fertilizer or seed and help a nut grower see troubled areas in orchards that would otherwise take days or weeks to survey from the ground, Richter said.

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