The future of spray applications

MORE than 150 farmers, researchers, innovators and industry professionals tuned in to hear about the future of spray applications, at a knowledge transfer webinar hosted by Agri-Tech Innovation Centre, CHAP.

With a continual drive to reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment, focus remains on how to optimise the use of plant protection products and improve their application to crops. At the same time, agri-tech innovation is developing at a fast pace in areas such as robotics, sensors, product formulations and data management.

The webinar aimed to give insight into what the future could look like, welcoming three industry experts to share their insight, overseen by webinar Chair, Dr Alex McCormack.

The first presenter was Dr Clare Butler Ellis of Silsoe Spray Applications Unit (SSAU), who provided an overview of challenges and opportunities within this realm.

As part of her concluding thoughts, Dr Butler Ellis said: “Advancing technologies are great, but sometimes seem to be a solution looking for a problem to solve. There are many opportunities to  make huge improvements in spraying in some niche sectors, but they are often ignored.

“Importantly, regulations around plant protection products need more flexibility, but of course not at the risk of either human or environmental health.”

Following Dr Butler Ellis, Andy Hall of Small Robot Company spoke about robotic spraying and its potential to address issues such as reducing chemical use and improving manpower efficiency.

However, he noted that challenges remain – the expense of training AI to successfully detect pests and diseases, safety issues around operating autonomously, chemical dose rates being designed at a field-scale level, and the role of nozzles and nozzle control.

The final speaker was Martin Shaw of Croda Crop Care, who discussed the importance of spray quality and the drive towards sustainable applications.

As part of his presentation, Mr Shaw spoke about the role of the professional consumer, or ‘prosumer’, in the overall perception of crop spraying. He also shared information about application via Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or drone.

Mr Shaw said: “Spraying via UAV is very different to ground application. In terms of formulation, products need to be high concentration and efficacious without tank agitation.

“For this to be successful, we also must consider environmental concerns around spray drift, product compatibility issues and the potential of inferior efficacy.”

To catch up on this webinar, visit CHAP’s YouTube channel.

Interested in being involved in CHAP events, webinars or knowledge transfer? E-mail enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

SSAU and Small Robot Company are both members of CHAP.