SciFi in Ag: Precision Aerial Planting Next Up for Ag?

What do trees, drones, and minefields all have in common? Precision aerial planting.

A concept first introduced in the 1930’s (possibly as early as 1926) to originally reseed a mountain in Honolulu, planting via an airplane has captured our imagination since then. After all, the first recorded thoughts of this were not long after our mastery of flight.

Once again, around 1999, Lockheed Martin reintroduced the aerial concept using the same technology that was developed for precision placing mines with C-130’s. There were thousands of C-130s sitting idle around the world, and certain individuals at the company dreamed up a way to use the planes and technology for planting trees.

A treepod made of a decomposing arrow-pointed pod filled with fertilizer would be dropped from C-130’s at a rate of 3,000 pods per minute. These pods are designed based on pod weight and functional aerodynamics to bury themselves in the ground at approximately the correct depth.

Unfortunately, there is little follow up on this project that I could find.

In 2013, Thailand started a project to actually plant trees this way. This was a 5 year pilot project. That means that now in 2018, the results should be in. Once again, however, limited information could be found on the outcome of the project.

Is aerial tree planting going to land in the annals of history?

Not quite.

Since the advent of drones, a few more companies have popped up with the wish of replanting trees. Some of these companies boast goals of planting trees in the billions––and soon. These drones have the capability of even more precision planting than that of a C-130, while perhaps not at the same scale.

Walmart was just awarded a patent for a mechanical flying bee to probably do “bee things.” However, it is entirely conceivable that these bees could carry seeds, one by one, by the thousands, by the millions. These bees could act like aerial planters and do all the work in laying seed: flying, burrowing, and planting.

Just as our ancestors 200 years ago could never imagine the planters we have today, we might also miss the possibility for a swarm of mechanical bees to plant a 150 acre field in 15 minutes…

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