Wednesday, 05 October 2016 16:28

Eyes in the sky

Written by 
Ravensdown pilot Grant Lennox. Ravensdown pilot Grant Lennox.

A pilot's perspective on the latest aerial spreading research from Ravensdown.

In its third year, Ravensdown’s Primary Growth Partnership programme ‘Pioneering to Precision’ is starting to gather momentum. With Ravensdown pilot Grant Lennox’s unique perspective from above, he tells us just what he’s seen out and about as part of the research team, spreading fertiliser on the research farms.

“Timing is so important when it comes to aerial spreading. You’re travelling very quickly so you need lead in time to open and shut the hopper doors. Before this programme we (pilots) have been anticipating when to do this, which means you’re not always able to give your full attention to flying the plane safely,” Grant says.

“The programme has removed the guess-work for me with the GPS computer automating the hopper door, so now I can just focus on flying. It also is satisfying to see the consistency and how tidy every boundary can be because the doors are working with the scientists’ ballistic modelling and shutting the doors more accurately than I ever could.”

Because fertiliser travels so fast, and takes a while to slow down, the science behind the particle movement is being tested by placing bins across varying topography to catch what Ravensdown pilots like Grant are throwing down.

“It’s a little bit like throwing a ball I suppose. I think it’s great, the research is improving the accuracy substantially and is making my life a lot easier. The farmer is also getting a lot better result at the end of the day because we’re not wasting any fertiliser, it’s going exactly where it’s supposed to.”

Grant says it’s been great being a part of the research, “There’s a great team working together from Massey, AgResearch and Ravensdown. I’ve learnt a lot about the GPS technology and fertiliser properties and how it is all connected through the Smart Maps system. It has given me more of a general overview and made my job a lot more enjoyable.”

Grant believes there is definite improvement in the quality and accuracy of spreading due to the research.

“Without a doubt, in the field projects we are getting better results than before. There is a growing interest in the technology, I guess it’s just a time thing until the science can be proven.”

“On one of the trails there was a bit of time in-between flights, so I went to talk to the team who were unloading the catching trays and I could see the cover was quite even – it backs up what we’re trying to achieve and it’s great to see. Bearing in mind I’m not a scientist and I’m only looking at it from the naked eye, the scientists may be seeing something different when they measure the sample spread and rate.”

The computer programme in the plane interacts with Ravensdown Smart Maps using the soil test results to deliver what variable rate of spreading will be required, instructing the GPS in the plane to spread just that and then showing exactly where it landed with the Placement Verification Technology that is being developed. This is something that regional councils could be interested in as they become more and more interested in where the fertiliser is landing rather than where it is released.

“I’ve been aerial spreading for 11 years and this is the way things are going, if Ravensdown can make the whole PGP thing work then it really will be a game changer. From my perspective with the variable rate equipment it is going very well, knowing what I know now if I was a farmer I would insist on it.”

More like this

Eyes open to different ways of farm ownership

Farmer Jane Smith was “blown away” by the group dynamic and drive when she and husband Blair hosted the North Otago-based Growth and Development in Farming Action Group at Newhaven Farms in Oamaru.

A rock to both the NZ and Moroccan economies

New Zealand farmers probably do not realise the contribution they are making to the economic and community life of people in Southern Morocco, says Hajbouha Zoubeir, president, Phosboucraa Foundation.

Getting smarter at growing grass

In his third season, sharemilker and Ravensdown shareholder James Barbour takes us through the farm’s approach to nutrient management.

Featured

Awards help winners fine-tune

Newly-crowned Share Farmers of the Year Sarah and Aidan Stevenson are looking forward to their leadership roles over the next 12 months.

 

Living the dream on farm

DairyNZ board candidate Cole Groves says he is “living the dream” as a dairy farmer, milking just over 400 cows near Hinds in Mid-Canterbury.

National

Machinery & Products

New tractor fills the gap

Deutz Fahr has introduced the new 8280 TTV, which is aimed at filling the gap between its current 7 and…

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Bully boys?

OPINION: This old mutt hears that there is some discontent in the wool sector at the tactics being used by the…

Tacky!

OPINION: Your canine crusader, like many in the rural sector, was deeply distressed to hear the tragic news that a…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter