A week before the Yamhill County’s forum on agricultural uses for drones, Economic Development Director Jeff Lorton is fielding phone calls from all over the state from people seeking seats. The county’s much-heralded Precision Farming Forum had already sold out its allotment of 100 seats, but seeing an opportunity, Lorton added 20 more.
The idea is to bring industry experts together with farmers, business people, technology buffs and entrepreneurs to discuss agricultural applications for unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs or drones. The late calls are coming largely from people interested in the industry’s economic potential.
Lorton said some are from people interested in locating related businesses here — a welcome development.
“Our goal all along has been to spur investment and economic development in the county,” he said. “This could turn Yamhill County into a global incubator for this industry.”
He told the News-Register: “The big economic impact of UAVs isn’t from the aircraft itself, it’s from the software development that converts the images and data gathered by the aircraft into information relevant to farmers. These things can go in all weather and have cameras so advanced they can see bugs on leaves before we can.
“Fast forward 10 years, and there will be crop-specific software. That means, ultimately, the big payoff for us in Yamhill County is that with our agricultural diversity, we’re an ideal laboratory. There’s no reason Yamhill County can’t be an integral part of creating that plant-specific farmer software.”
As examples, he cited winegrapes and hazelnuts, both of which are high-value crops.
The one-day event kicks off at 8 a.m., Monday Dec. 9 at the Leslie Lewis Pavilion of the county fairgrounds on Lafayette Avenue. For more information, visit www.growyamhillcounty.com.