Sunday, June 26, 2022

ZenaDrone – Flying high to check hemp plants

ZenaDrone provides drone technology for agribusiness, using high-definition cameras and sensors to monitor and treat crops across large areas.

The state-of-the-art farming technology solution helps mitigate issues with crops as they arise, preventing wastage and ensuring they go directly from seed to sale.

Made hardy enough to withstand the terrain found in Ireland, the ZenaDone 1000 boasts a long-lasting battery and wireless charging via a charging pad.

The drones are so smart they can fly on a pre-scheduled flight plan, so it’s like an extra pair of hands around the farm, only it can fly.

Interestingly, the initial purpose of creating a drone to check crops was to focus on the traceability of cannabis growing from seed to sale. Black market sellers were using legalised cannabis to get into the market. What better reason to start a drone company?

drone

“We decided a way to do good tracing was to use drone technology,” says founder Shaun Passley.

The company provides solutions for farmers across Ireland and Northern Ireland, so we caught up with Passley to ask him about his Ireland operations.

Incidentally, cannabis has not been legalised on the island of Ireland.

Your company is Canadian-born. What attracted you to Ireland?

“Ireland has probably one of the largest concentrations of agriculture in the world. And also, the size of the country – being smaller meant that we could have the base of operations in Dublin and cover all over Ireland. Hemp Technologies were our beta customers in Ireland.

“We started looking for some cannabis companies and got some interest from hemp customers in Ireland to use our done technology.

“In 2018, the Federal Government in The United States legalised industrial hemp, so we thought that would be a good initial market for users to get into, the hemp market instead of the cannabis market.”

According to a survey by the USDA, the value of U.S. hemp production in the open totaled $824 million in 2021.

Was it always the plan to manufacture the drones or just the software?

“We did some initial tests of the software using a third-party drone. The issue with the third-party drone was it wasn’t convenient. It did provide us with a way to gather the data, but it meant we needed so much manpower to do the initial data collection.”

What data are you capturing over a hemp field?

“We are able to use the information collected to study the health of the plant and also distinguish between a male hemp plant and a female hemp plant with our software technology.

(You can read why sexing the plants is essential here)

“Before using the drone for data collection, the farmers could only get on a report from a fixed-wing plane that flies all over Ireland. With our information, they can make better decisions, increase their yield, and assess damages that occur after a significant storm.

With that kind of information, farmers can increase their revenue.”

The UN Food & Agriculture Organisation estimates that pests and diseases cost up to 40% of crops yearly

ZenaDrone is working on expanding the range of land covered to 1,000 acres and is planning to reach a customer base of 50-60 customers in Ireland by next year.

Fiona Alston
Fiona Alstonhttp://fionaalston.com
Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag. 

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