February 2, 2021
In 2018, DowDuPont announced the establishment of Corteva Agriculture, a pure-play agricultural company headquartered out of Wilmington, Delaware. In just a few short years, Corteva went on to become an independent company and the largest standalone agricultural operation in the world. As Corteva proudly states, their mission is to “enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come.” Corteva does this by providing farmers around the world with technology backed resources like enhanced seeds, weed control, and drones to see highest yields possible.
We are still in the beginning stages of how drones will contribute to society. They are having a tremendous impact on countless enterprises, perhaps none more than the agricultural industry. As the world’s largest solely agricultural based company, Corteva also has the largest fleet of agricultural drones at its disposal. In 2019, Corteva announced that they would be partnering with drone logistics and mapping specialists DroneDeploy. With more than 400 DJI drones at their disposal, “This agreement fortifies Corteva Agriscience as a leader in the use of advanced UAV technology,” said Jeremy Groeteke, Corteva Agriscience U.S. Digital Agriculture Lead. “The field intelligence technology will enable our Pioneer agronomy and strategic account management teams to work with farmers to provide real-time aerial views of their operation.”
Drones have become the next big driving force in agricultural sciences. Understanding the need to continue the advancement of agricultural drone technology, Corteva is determined to foster education in the field. In December of 2020, Corteva made a generous donation of some of its retired drones to the alma mater of one of its employees. Harlin Wilkin graduated from the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences at the University of Tennessee Martin in 2011. Harlin was honored to help Corteva support one of the companies main goals, the perpetuation of STEM studies, by presenting Professor of Natural Resources Management, Dr. Philip Smartt, and Professor of Agricultural Engineering, Dr. Sandy Mehlhorn, with 35 drones valuing $35,000.
For the fall 2021 semester, UT Martin plans to offer three new courses to students in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. These courses will prepare students for a future that merges agriculture and drone technology. As Professor Mehlhorn pointed out, being able to learn through experience is what makes all the difference for UT Martin students. With the donation orchestrated by Harlin, Professor Mehlhorn’s students will have access to relevant experiences. If it weren’t for the drone donation, the school would not have had the funds to supply students with enough drones to experiment with.
As an experienced and Part 107 licensed drone pilot, Professor Smartt will be teaching the new drone courses. The goal of the courses will be to show students the many ways in which drones benefit agricultural sciences, how to fly and use drones for data collection, and how to maintain and repair these vital units. Professor Smartt will also prepare his students to take the FAA’s Part 107 exam so that upon completion of the course, students could become income earning drone pilots.
Professors Smartt and Mehlhorn, along with Corteva, are fully aware that drones will shape how agriculture moves into the future. “We talk a lot about giving our students tools for their toolbox so that when they go out, they’re going to be decision-makers, they’re going to be managers. We’re wanting them to be able to go into the workforce and be leaders, so this is something that they are going to need to know,” said Smartt. “What the drone does for us, it helps us to have what is called actionable data. It allows us to have information that we can make decisions with that is cheaper and quicker.” By educating students with hands on experience, they are ensuring that the future of agricultural sciences is a bright and productive field.