February 12, 2024 By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Chatham Voice
The use of drones in agriculture is taking flight and Adrian Rivard is in on the ground floor.
Rivard is the owner of the Blenheim-area based Drone Spray Canada – a growing business that utilizes state-of-the-art drone technology in new ways down on the farm.
As part of Drone Spray Canada’s exhibit at the recent Chatham-Kent Farm Show, Rivard unveiled a Chinese-made XAG P100 Pro 50-litre drone, the latest addition to the company’s growing fleet. The $52,000 machine will take to the skies above Chatham-Kent and beyond – to be used for spraying, imaging and seeding.
Rivard, who has 15 years’ experience as a professional pilot, started the company with an eye to the future.
“We saw a marriage between agriculture and drones,” Rivard explained, noting the field was ripe for expansion.
“When we started the company, drones were in their infancy in terms of technology and there was a lot of potential,” Rivard told The Voice. “It’s really grown since. There’s been a lot of interest.”
According to Rivard, the company does a lot of research imaging work for regulating agencies such as Agriculture Canada and has worked across Canada from Winnipeg to Quebec City. Internationally, Drone Spray Canada has completed contracts as far away as Spain and South Africa.
Rivard said the use of drones in farming receives mixed reviews, as some farmers are open to it, while others are not.
One of the big pluses of using drones, said Rivard, is that it aids in the health of soil by lessening the effects of compaction. There are no heavy ground machines lumbering over a field when a drone is used.
However, farming isn’t the only business Drone Spray Canada is involved in.
“It’s not just all agriculture,” Rivard said, adding the company works on environmental projects, spraying for phragmites and assisting with wetland endeavors.
Drone operators also take on jobs that are too small for helicopters or planes, including spraying for mosquitoes and applying shading agents to greenhouses, he said.
Regulations surrounding the operation of commercial drones are strict in Canada, Rivard said, noting it costs $15,000 to get a company license to operate drones.
Using a drone requires a drone pilot’s license. Training to fly the bigger drones takes two days, while an operator’s license for a smaller drone can be completed in half a day.
Rivard, a C-K native, returned to Chatham-Kent after 15 years to help run his wife Diane’s family farm. Her father, Don Giffin, operated Giffin Maple Syrup for many years but he passed in 2018.
The couple subsequently decided to close the maple syrup business and start Drone Spray Canada.
The company currently has three drone pilots and will soon be hiring another, Rivard said.
Drone Spray Canada also sells and services drones.