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Close up of an agricultural drone shown in flight
EYE IN THE SKY: An agricultural drone in flight at Growtopia and Sorbello Farms in Gloucester County. The farm began using the drone earlier this year.

Drones help N.J. farm keep better track of tomato crop

August is peak harvest in the Garden State.

Drones are helping Growtopia/Sorbello Farms in Gloucester County, N.J., to keep better track of its tomatoes.
"The drones are a tremendous asset and help us see the development of the plants," says Kris Wilson, farm manager of Growtopia and Sorbello Farms. "It saves us time in surveying the plants ourselves and can pinpoint exactly what areas may need extra attention."
Douglas Fisher, state agriculture secretary, recently visited the farm to see how the technology is helping the operation and to highlight the state's tomato crop.

Fisher, along with county and local officials, also saw a drone demonstration.

"The delicious Jersey Fresh tomato is widely known, and we want to highlight Sorbello Farms and others who produce outstanding tomatoes year after year," Fisher says. "The Sorbellos also are at the forefront of technology with the use of drones. It allows for a more efficient growing process and is a prime example of how farmers in the 21st century are always discovering better ways to deliver high-quality products to the marketplace."

Tomatoes were the No. 3 crop in New Jersey for 2017, with a production value of more than $39 million on 4,000 acres totaling 112 million pounds. New Jersey ranks in the top 10 in the U.S. for production of tomatoes.

RIGHT OFF THE VINE: Douglas Fisher, New Jersey ag secretary, left, and Kris Wilson and Steve Vazquez, Growtopia Farms, hold freshly picked tomatoes in the farm's packing house.

"The tomatoes in the field are ripe for picking," Wilson says. "We had the early rain to get us started, and now the warm weather has made for great growing conditions."

Growtopia and Sorbello Farms is a third-generation family farm that has 900 acres with nearly 200 acres of vegetables. The farm has its own packing facility.

Along with tomatoes, the farm operation also grows asparagus, zucchini squash, cucumbers and bell peppers throughout the year, and has a community-supported agriculture venture during the harvest season.

The tomato season for New Jersey lasts through October, with peak harvest during the first two weeks of August. There are many different types of tomatoes grown in New Jersey, such as Ramapo, Quick Pick, Jet Star, Pik-Red, Floramerica, Celebrity, Supersteak, Supersonic, Mountain Pride as well as cherry-shaped, pear-shaped and novelty varieties.

Source: New Jersey Department of Agriculture

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