New local company uses drones to help farmers crop dust - East Idaho News
'Autonomy is the future'

New local company uses drones to help farmers crop dust

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Airfield Ag based in Weston provides crop dusting services with drones. Watch our interview with company owner Brandon Hadley in the video above. | Courtesy photo

IDAHO FALLS – Autonomy and the use of technology is the future of agriculture in Idaho.

That’s how Brandon Hadley, a 44-year-old Weston man who’s been farming most of his life, feels about the industry and that’s why he launched Airfield Ag earlier this year.

Airfield Ag is a business that uses drones to provide crop dusting for farmers throughout northern Utah and eastern Idaho. It also services and sells drones for agricultural use.

The company officially launched in January, but started spraying on a small scale last summer. To date, Hadley tells they’ve covered about 20,000 acres.

“We hit about 10,000 acres by the first of June this year, and we’re just hitting the heat of the season now,” Hadley says.

Drones can fly in areas airplanes can’t, Hadley says, and that means they can spray with greater precision.

Wahlen Farms, which farms 12,000 acres in Aberdeen, is one of Airfield Ag’s clients.

Garrett Wahlen works the farm with his dad, Kim, and he says they started utilizing drones on their potato crop last year.

wahlen farms drone
An employee at Wahlen Farms piloting a drone. | Courtesy Garrett Wahlen

Kim happened to be in Cache Valley when Hadley was flying a drone over a field last summer. He drove over to learn what Hadley was doing and was impressed.

They previously used a ground rig for spraying the potato crop. Some areas with lots of slope or power lines are difficult to spray with a ground rig and Garrett has seen a huge benefit to using drones in these areas.

“With the ground rig, you have to put wheels into the ground and it creates ruts (which sometimes damage the crops),” says Garrett. “Drones eliminate that, and that’s one of the appeals of having a drone spray your field.”

The drones are also higher above the ground, which allows it to cover a larger area in a shorter amount of time.

One of the challenges with spraying crops are the pockets of water left behind that causes potatoes to rot. Since utilizing Airfield Ag’s services, Garrett says harvest is a little more efficient because there’s less wasted product.

They also utilize drones

“We’ve been happy with Airfield Ag and we feel like it does a good job with the coverage,” he says.

Hadley grew up farming and has firsthand experience with many of these issues. That prompted him to pursue a career in agronomy about 14 years ago.

“I went to work for the local co-op and started spraying, working as a field man and giving crop recommendations,” Hadley says.

Eventually, he learned how drones were being used to help farmers and that led him to get licensed as a pilot and launch Airfield Ag.

For Hadley, the most rewarding aspect of the business is the ability to continue making a living doing what he loves.

“There was a time when I thought it was going to be hard to create a living in agriculture,” says Hadley. “This gave me a niche in the market that allowed me to … go out on my own.”

He’s hoping the business will continue to grow and help keep the industry alive for future generations.

“Autonomy in general is going to become more and more of the norm. As the next generation comes home to farm, this is how they’ll do it — by embracing technology,” he says.