Monday, 10 October 2016

Eye in the sky


Now in its third year, our Primary Growth Partnership programme ‘Pioneering to Precision’ is starting to gather momentum. Pilot Grant Lennox shares his unique perspective from above, telling us just what he’s seen out and about as part of the research team spreading fertiliser on the research farms.

A pilot's perspective on our latest aerial spreading research.

Timing is so important when it comes to aerial spreading. You’re travelling very quickly and need lead-in time to open and shut the hopper doors.

This programme has removed the guess-work - the hopper door is automated by the GPS so now I can 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 pilots are throwing down.

The research is improving accuracy substantially, and is making my life a lot easier. The farmer is also getting a better result at the end of the day because we’re not wasting any fertiliser - it’s going exactly where it’s supposed to.

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.

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.

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.