Aerial spreaders' big move forward

Pinpoint map plotting, precision piloting, and more production.

Aerial spreaders are praising the benefits of HawkEye - farm planning, and mapping software developed and supplied by Ravensdown.

Hawke’s Bay is an area of hilly and rolling downs farmland, and now a HawkEye hotbed.

Josh Calder is the owner and chief pilot of Otane-based Rural Air Work, which flies distinctive pink Cresco top-dressing aircraft.

“HawkEye’s made top-dressing a lot more efficient through the aerial mapping system. There’s no need to meet farmers on the airstrip any more, we can efficiently put the fertiliser on the right place at the right time,” he says.

Suzy Calder, married to Josh and Rural Air Work’s dispatcher, says the system makes it easier for her. Farmers send her on-line instructions for their property via HawkEye, which she forwards to Josh.

In his plane, Josh has a laptop which uses TracMap, a GPS guidance system which is integrated with HawkEye. He also has variable-rate spreading technology linked to his aircraft’s hopper. This technology helps to cut waste, optimise production, and reduce the farmer’s environmental impact.

Suzy Calder says: “Basically with HawkEye all our maps come through in the system already mapped out with what the fert rep’s already recommended, or where the client wants it to go.

“I just check it the map, where they want it to go and check all our hazards are marked out and our Health & Safety information.

“Then I basically assign, and it goes wirelessly directly to the plane, which is an amazing system.”

“HawkEye encapsulates all of their fertiliser history, where it’s gone, and what they’ve put on in what paddock."

Aerial dispatchers and spreaders, like Suzy and Josh, play a crucial role in the delivery of fertiliser.

Rural Air’s Cresco aircraft can carry a two-tonne payload and are a familiar sight in the skies above Central Hawke’s Bay farmland. It is one of hundreds of companies around New Zealand, on the ground and in the air, which bring Ravensdown products direct to clients’ farms.

For husband Josh, fertiliser delivery nowadays is faster and far more accurate than in the past.

“You used to look out the plane window and you calculated - the longer you did it, the better you got at it. But now HawkEye takes all the guesswork out of the equation,” he says.

It is a big leap forward from the old system. In the past, Suzy would get a paper map from the farmer and work from that.

“I’d have to map it out myself which on a large farm would take a long, long time,” she says.

For farmers, HawkEye software is also proving a key weapon with their environmental protection planning.

The Ravensdown on-line planner helps farmers monitor their fertiliser spread, and alerts them when they over-order. This means savings and environmental protection from potential issues like excess nitrogen.

George Williams, a Hawke’s Bay farmer, is a HawkEye convert. He’s used it for about four years.

“It works bloody well,” he says.

Gone are the days of laborious mapping and time-consuming paper trails.

Suzy says: “I would recommend that all of our clients, our farmers jump in on HawkEye ‘cos it makes it so much easier for them.

“Their whole mapping shows them how many hectares, how much fertilising they need and now it’s coming direct to me, rather than them having to do another map for me.”

Josh says: “The more accurate and the better the quality map, the farmer benefits from. If they can cut out hectares where they do not need to fertilise - it’s all cost-saving to them. Using HawkEye does save you money.”

Gone are the days of paper maps, pencils, and guesswork. It’s fast-forward to the future with HawkEye.