The wild blueberry industry is spending over $80 million CAD per year on agrochemicals for 93 000 ha under production in North America. A pressing need to reduce agro-chemical usage and production cost has resulted in the development of a smart sprayer for spot-application of agrochemicals in wild blueberry fields. This paper encompasses the economic analysis to determine the potential savings for spot-applications of agrochemicals using a smart sprayer. The economic analysis compared the smart sprayer with two other commercially available sprayers (basic and swath control). The swath control sprayer and smart sprayer both featured GPS auto-steer and boom section control to reduce over-spray in already applied areas based on GPS position. The basic sprayer used a foam marker for guidance with no swath control management. The smart sprayer featured a machine vision system that automatically detected target areas in the field further reducing agrochemical input by shutting individual nozzles off in non-target areas in the field. The cost analysis was performed to compare the different features of the sprayer technologies, i.e., base sprayer, additional technology, training, usage, repair and maintenance. The additional components installed on the smart sprayer were justified in terms of agrochemicals/water savings via spot-applications, tractor fuel and operator’s time. The application total cost was $2052 ha−1 using the basic sprayer, $1799 ha−1 using the swath control sprayer, and $1138 ha−1 using the smart sprayer over a 2 year production cycle of the selected fields that were used in this study. The payback period ranged from 2.0 years (60 ha field size) to 9.8 years (20 ha field size) using the swath control sprayer. The payback period ranged from 11 months (60 ha field size) to 3.5 years (20 ha field size) when using the smart sprayer. Results revealed that the smart sprayer had significant advantage from both an environmental and economic perspective over the other two sprayers.
Precision Agriculture – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 5, 2016
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