Rob Willmott, Fresno State’s orchard manager, saw an immediate savings in time and chemicals used with technology he learned about at this year’s World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.
Willmott, a 2013 Fresno State graduate with a plant science degree, oversees 190 acres of nuts, olives, citrus and stone fruit on the university farm that spans 1,000 acres where the cities of Fresno and Clovis meet.
His first experience with the AgOtter sprayer system in a 36-acre almond block on the university farm netted him a $4,000 savings in chemicals alone. Factor the time it would have taken the driver to refill the Air-O-Fan sprayer several more times and the cost to run the small tractor, and the savings get even greater.
“In my opinion it’s much more environmentally friendly,” Willmott says. “It reduces the amount of fertilizers and pesticides you use on the crop.”
Where Willmott sees significant savings is in an electronic eye precision sprayer system made by Arag that senses plant density and mass. This turns on and off the spray rig, which in the large gaps between trees in young almond orchards is where he sees significant savings and environmental benefits.
“It’s hard for the driver to drive this field and turn on and off the sprayer with every tree because of the orchard configuration,” he said.
Willmott demonstrated the system using water in an Air-O-Fan sprayer. The system detected the small almond trees and turned on that side of the fan as it passed a tree. In those spots of young almonds where an occasional tree had died the sprayer did not turn on.
The AgOtter system software allows him to monitor tractors through GPS, control the rate of spray and record the information to a desktop program for his chemical use reports. Through live-view access, he can monitor tractors in real time in the field. He can watch students apply products in the field.