With the launch of the Natutec Drone, leading biological solutions innovator – Koppert Biological Systems – has entered the airspace and now can release its biological solutions over large agricultural expanses to control a range of harmful pests.
Although drones have been used in various agricultural applications for some time, Koppert’s latest innovation – a multi-carrier release system attached to the underside of the drone - now makes it possible to disperse beneficial organisms with greater accuracy and efficacy. Previously, these living organisms were dispersed manually or from moving vehicles – a method that is labor-intensive and prone to human error. The vulnerable biological solutions are sensitive to handling and need to be dispersed in the correct locations in the right numbers to carry out their valuable work in the crop.
Product Manager of Koppert’s Natutec Products, Tom Vroegop: “It has been an exciting journey from the seed of an idea to the testing grounds in California and we can now say that extensive trials of the Natutec multi-carrier release system have been a success.” The drone has a wingspan of 5 feet, can lift 33 pounds, and accurately disperses beneficial insects over 20 acres in the space of an hour.
The high-tech release system was designed and developed in-house by Koppert’s Technical Department and the patent is now pending. “Koppert has used its specific know-how about the mechanics needed to disperse different carrier materials, in combination with its knowledge of predatory mites and other insects, to make this advanced release system a success,” Vroegop explains.
Additionally, Koppert has partnered with UAV-IQ, which stands for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Intelligence”, to be our chosen company to supply the most capable and highly skilled drone pilots. UAV-IQ is an agricultural technology (“AgTech”) company that leverages deep experience in large-scale drone operations and precision agriculture to develop and scale solutions for growers. For more information about UAV-IQ and how to set up an appointment visit, https://www.uaviq.com/en/biocontrol/.
Successful trials in the US
Trials have been conducted with the release system using drones for biocontrol in outdoor strawberries. “Using the Natutec Drone for biocontrol applications ensures a more uniform dispersal due to the programmed flight patterns”, says Koppert’s IPM Consultant and Account Manager in the US, Chrissie Davis. “Plus, growers using Natutec Drone are able to cut labor costs and time associated with manual biocontrol dispersal. An added advantage of the drone is also that the drone can disperse beneficial insects even after heavy rains or irrigation.”
Currently, after extensive trials and research, Koppert can confidently use the Natutec Drone to distribute the biological solution, Spidex, used in the control of the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae in strawberry fields. In addition, laboratory and field trials have been carried out with the multi-carrier release system for the dispersal of Koppert’s other biocontrol products such as, Spical, Swirski, Thripex, Limonica, Cryptobug-L, and Chrysopa to combat a range of pests such as spider mites and thrips, in a variety of crops.
The Natutec Drone will initially be available in the U.S. where it has been tested. More countries are likely to follow once the necessary adaptations for local conditions have been carried out and tested.
Demo flight at NASGA
Koppert is also excited to announce its first demo flight to the public, on Wednesday, January 22nd during the Farm Tour at the 2020 North American Strawberry Growers Association (NASGA) Annual Meeting and Conference, in San Antonio, Texas. For more information on this show, visit, https://nasga.org/n-american-strawberry-growers-conference.htm .
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