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Annual farm show debuts drone technology

Saturday, July 5, 2014 | 5:22 p.m. CDT

DODGE CITY, Kan. — Back in 1950, it was the latest in tractors without cabs — machines like the John Deere B and the McCormick-Deering WD 9 — that brought Kansans out to the forerunner of the state's biggest farm show.

The early forefathers who began what would become the 3i Show, however, could never have imagined the technology showcased at the 60th annual show this year — which even has drones taking to the skies.

"It seems like there are more new products than ever," said Eddie Estes, the veteran director of the show, slated for July 10 to 12 in Dodge City.

Technology has spiraled, after all, from the show's early days in the 1950s as a traveling caravan until now. The official 3i Show began in 1953.

For 60 years, the event has worn the 3i trademark indicating that it promotes the latest in industry, implements and irrigation. This year's show is no different, Estes said, noting that machinery and equipment aimed at precision agriculture and a better farmers' bottom line are among the displays highlighted by the more than 700 vendors at this year's show.

"More will be added up until the show date," Estes said.

Agriculture drones are one of the new technologies emerging across the nation in an effort to help farmers oversee their acreage while saving them money in the process, said Cody Warden, with BTI Ag Solutions, one company now selling the tool.

BTI will have drone demonstrations every hour on the hour in the BTI Ag Solutions exhibit.

Walking the field, as well as the use of satellites, are the main ways farmers monitor their crops, said Warden. These methods, however, can be incomplete and lengthy. Thus, it can be difficult for the farmer to react to a problem like a disease outbreak or blown-out seedbed before it's too late.

"You can check blowouts, insects, crops that didn't even come up," he said. "You can check your nozzles on your irrigation.

"You get a bird's-eye view of the field," he said. "You can't cover the whole field yourself, but with a drone will let you get up 400 feet in the air and look for those problems."

A quadcopter can hover on a problem spot, as well.

The Bucklin-based company researched the concept for months before putting together a drone solution for producers. 

Utilizing a high-definition camera, Warden said the product soon would offer other solutions such as infrared capabilities.

BTI began selling drones about two months ago, he said. "They are really starting to take off especially now that corn is out," he said of sales. "People are really starting to ask for them."

Estes said it is a testament to the show that it is still going strong with a growing number of attendance and exhibitors. For years, the show alternated between two locations, Garden City and Great Bend. But a few years ago, the show moved to a permanent location in Dodge City, which Estes says has helped the show develop even more.

He noted the 3i Show was one of the charter members of the North American Farm Show Council, which formed in the early 1970s.

"There are not a lot of farm shows that have been around this long," he said. "That is pretty exciting. The 3i Show, it's pretty special."


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