Crop Health Pilot Project Gets Ready for Takeoff in Kelowna

Drones and industrial robots monitor and assess crop health.

KELOWNA –  Drones and robots will join the birds and bees in Kelowna’s orchards this spring, as a new era of high-tech agriculture takes flight.

Crop health drones and robots

Photo credits: City of Kelowna News and Events

A partnership of the City of Kelowna and InDro Robotics, the pilot project will see drones and industrial robots patrol 200 acres (80 hectares) of apple, pear and cherry trees to monitor and assess crop health and anticipate fruit yields. Farm locations selected for this pilot project are being coordinated with the Regional District Central Okanagan.

“The agricultural industry as an integral part of our healthy food system and local economy,” said Mayor Tom Dyas. “Council is committed to supporting innovative ideas to help farmers better navigate changing conditions to be more resilient and sustainable. It is an economic sector that occupies more than 40 per cent of our city’s lands and is also an essential part of our cultural identity. This initiative is an example of how Council’s priority to support agriculture is being advanced.”

The InDro Robotics airborne drones and ground roving robots will help farmers reach new levels of crop management. The City of Kelowna will capture and store the data collected in the orchards.

Crop health drones and robots

Photo credits: City of Kelowna News and Events

“As we embrace the future of agriculture, we’re not just introducing robots and drones – we’re ushering in a new era of precision farming,” said Philip Reece, CEO and founder of InDro Robotics. “Our cutting-edge system empowers farmers to harness the power of technology to revolutionize crop management. Our autonomous robots and drones will inspect crops, providing near real-time data on plant health, infestations, soil moisture, and more. Thanks to the visionary support of the City of Kelowna and funding from Agri-food Canada, we’re set to pilot this initiative over two years, starting with local farmers,” said Reece.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agricultural Clean Technology Program is contributing up to $330,000 to this pilot project.

The data collected by the orchard roving technologies is also expected to help local farmers increase yields, reduce overhead, improve resiliency to climate change, improve water use efficiencies, and assure competitiveness in the global market.  

“We are thrilled about the opportunity this project presents to empower our local farmers,” said Jazz Pabla, City of Kelowna Information Services Director. “Through innovative drone and robot technology, we aim to equip farmers with valuable insights to enhance crop yields, reduce costs, and bolster their resilience in the face of challenges.”

More information about City Council priorities is available online at Council priorities | City of Kelowna.

This article originally appeared on the City of Kelowna News & Events on March 6th, 2024.