By Rachel Flanders
Imagine going up in a plane for the first time as a small child to look at your fields with your father and his friend. You don’t know what they’re looking at, but you know you’re having a fun time!
From the time he was a little boy, George Kakasuleff would ride in a personal aircraft with a family friend to get a bird’s-eye view of their crops. Kakasuleff is now a third-generation grower in Cicero, Ind., raising corn and soybeans. He farms along his dad, Gerald; brother Jared; and two full-time employees who are also brothers.
On the Kakasuleff Farm, they’re technologically advanced, but George Kakasuleff wants to make sure it pays. They’ve been using variable-rate technology for the past 10 years, using seeding maps and creating their own management zones from the views they’ve seen from the air through manned aircraft.
Aerial views help
“If you’ve never had the ability to fly over your fields and look at your fields, start out with that,” says Kakasuleff. “Get a bird’s-eye view of your own crops.”
Kakasuleff is lucky enough to have a family friend with a personal aircraft, so his most cost-effective and helpful aerial imagery technology has been manned aircraft. He has not used professional companies that take images while flying.
The Kakasuleffs have seen patterns in their fields from the air that help them manage their crops better from the ground. According to Kakasuleff, “you can pick up with your naked eye what you can pick up with the technology sometimes.”
But the issue is that everyone can’t fly in a personal aircraft to look at their fields.
Kakasuleff purchased a Phantom 4 Pro unmanned aerial vehicle to try drone imagery. But they haven’t used it for the farm yet, just to play around with so far. In the future, Kakasuleff will likely get certified to pilot their drone.
“As technology advances and our internet advances, if we could upload these images and have them back in a few hours, that would be a huge advantage,” Kakasuleff says.
On their farm, the Kakasuleffs subscribe to Encirca through DuPont Pioneer, which provides them with satellite images. Those are a good starting point to see issues in their fields without manned aircraft.
Kakasuleff believes aerial imagery can be a useful tool on the farm, but it’s not always necessary. He says for their farm, the best way to improve is to see the issues with their eyes, and then develop a plan once they find the problem. When Kakasuleff sees images in the aircraft, he sees patterns, and then ground-truthes issues.
“There are so many secrets to be seen from the air,” says Kakasuleff. “The air tells the truth on the crops. You can tell if it was too wet, and you can tell where you ran short on nitrogen. You can tell a lot that you can’t see from the road.”
Flanders is a senior in ag communication at Purdue University.