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Published August 19, 2014, 10:25 AM

Drones hit Dakotafest

Technology will dominate this year’s Dakotafest in Mitchell, S.D. Ray Bianchi, senior director for IDEAg Group — which owns Dakotafest — said there will be a total of four programs held on drones through Wednesday. The drone programs will be on different applications for agriculture and how the unmanned aerial vehicles with cameras can assist farmers and ranchers.

By: Anna Jauhola , Forum News Service

Technology will dominate this year’s Dakotafest in Mitchell, S.D.

Ray Bianchi, senior director for IDEAg Group — which owns Dakotafest — said there will be a total of four programs held on drones through Wednesday. The drone programs will be on different applications for agriculture and how the unmanned aerial vehicles with cameras can assist farmers and ranchers.

“Aerial drones will be flown in the vicinity of the site — across the road in a field,” Bianchi said.

Educational sessions regarding drones will also be held in the South Dakota State University Pavillion at Dakotafest, which runs through Thursday on the Schlaffman Farm near Mitchell Technical Institute.

According to a description of one drone presentation, agriculture technology will become incredibly precise in the next 10 years.

“Within the next decade, farmers and ranchers will be able to monitor their crops and cattle with precision, efficiently and at a fraction of the cost and time,” the description reads. “The data drones collect ranges from identifying insect problems, watering issues, to reduce runoff, rationalize fertilizer and pesticide use, measure crop yields or track down cattle in the field.”

Bianchi said presenters from California and New York will be at Dakotafest to discuss drones and the future of the use of equipment in agriculture.

“This is the biggest Dakotafest we’ve had with 1,600,000 square feet filled,” Bianchi said, referencing the amount of space filled by more than 600 exhibitors. “That’s the largest square footage we’ve had.”

A 7:30 a.m. presentation and demonstration on Wednesday will be “A Game Changer if Managed Properly: Drones for Precision Agriculture.” It is also at Mitchell Technical Institute.

A presentation will also take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday, “Silver Bullet, Useful Tool, or All of the Above? Key Issues Surrounding Drones for Precision Agriculture,” at the SDSU Pavillion.

Bianchi expects attendance for this year’s Dakotafest will be well above what it was in 2013, when about 30,000 people showed up over three days.

He said online registration for attendees this year is up by 100 percent, which is a good sign the event will have excellent attendance over three days.

He’s also optimistic about the attendance because livestock production is going well.

“Corn prices are down, feed is cheaper and we’ll have more cattle people attending,” he said.

Dakotafest draws attendees mostly from South Dakota, but 25 percent of the attendees come from Nebraska, he said. People from North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Canada also attend the show.

This is also the first Dakotafest that will include all major agriculture equipment brands.

“There will be a lot more technology,” he said.

Companies will show off satellite technology for equipment to integrate navigation systems, for example. Others will deal with water and soil moisture.

Seed companies will have seed on site and show how any new technology is used to manage crops, Bianchi said.

Dakotafest will also host three political debates this year. They are for the U.S. House, South Dakota governor and U.S. Senate races, which will be decided in the November general election.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard will debate against his opponents Democrat Susan Wismer and independent Mike Myers at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Four candidates for the U.S. Senate seat will debate at 2 p.m. Wednesday. They include former Gov. Mike Rounds, Democrat Rick Weiland, and independents Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie.

All debates will be held at the SDSU Pavillion.

“We’re doing very well,” he said. “On the whole it’s going to be a good time. We’re expecting a lot of good attendance.”

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