Florida Specialty Crops: Realizing the Benefits of Precision Agriculture

UAV drone
This unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is equipped with a LiDAR camera. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

Dr. Yiannis Ampatzidis recently joined the faculty at UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee, writes Frank Giles on GrowingProduce.com. He is an Assistant Professor of agricultural and biological engineering. He brings expertise in precision agriculture technology, dedicating part of his time to Extension and the rest on research at SWFREC. I asked a few questions to learn more about Ampatzidis and his work.

What will your UF/IFAS programs focus on?
Ampatzidis: My Extension program in precision agriculture includes development of an educational program to promote adoption and evaluation of state-of-the-art equipment and techniques with a goal of improving the profitability and environmental sustainability of Florida’s fruit and vegetable industry. It integrates knowledge from multiple academic domains, particularly in aerial systems and advanced sensor technologies for citrus and vegetable production.

My research program involves unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for agriculture and natural systems, smart sensors and machinery, mechatronics, artificial intelligence and robotics, machine vision and learning, automation, remote sensing, wireless sensor networks, and big data applications. Emphasis is being given to developing smart machines and equipment for site-specific applications (e.g., precision sprayer for pests and weeds) in order to reduce agricultural inputs such as water, fertilizer, and pesticides. This research area includes the mechanization and automation of specialty crop production (e.g., harvest), focusing on the design, development, and testing of sensors and control systems for optimal management of inputs, resources, and products.

In general, how has the adoption precision agriculture technology been among citrus growers?
Ampatzidis: We have developed a survey to evaluate the adoption of Precision Agriculture Technologies (PAT) in Florida. This study investigates the factors that affect growers’ adoption of PAT in our state. This analysis could provide a richer understanding of the factors affecting PAT adoption and help determine the importance of weather, risk, and field-specific variables. These factors could then contribute to conservation policy design related to PAT.

Read more at GrowingProduce.com.

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