Start up develops product like MRI for farm fields

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CHAMPAIGN — A start up business at the University of Illinois Research Park could help farmers across the state and beyond. We’ve seen companies take pictures of fields from the sky. Workers at IntelInAir plan to do that and more. They’ll be able to pinpoint problem spots for farmers to check out.

Company leaders say they know farmers are busy, so they want to make this as easy as possible. They’re basically making an MRI image of fields. They plan to send airplanes to take pictures once a week, probably between 10 am and 2 pm, since that’s when the lighting is best. Those pictures will be analyzed with a specific algorithm to show which areas need more attention, because they’re damaged, have weeds or need more nutrients. The results will come right to the farmer.

“Within 24 hours of the time we take the imagery, they’re going to have something in their inbox that says, ‘go take a look at this,’ or ‘things look good. Have a cup of coffee and talk to us next week,'” said Bob Coverdill, who is the director of operations.

This will help farmers treat just the crops that need extra help. Their planes could cover 50,000-100,000 acres in a day. They’re starting with a pilot, but say someday it may be unmanned. Those will fly higher than a drone and will be able to get better quality of pictures than a satellite could.

They’re already getting people on board to test it out, in Illinois and Iowa. To find out more about it, click here.

Technology is becoming even more important for farmers. The earth’s population is growing and expected to be close to 9 billion people by 2050. But there’s only about 970 million acres of farm land in the U.S. and that likely won’t change much. To feed the world, farmers try to be as efficient as possible.

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