Taking South Carolina Farming to New Heights

Perrow Family Farm in Cameron grow cotton, soybeans, corn, wheat and peanuts and uses a drone to check his field.

Cameron, SC (WLTX) -- Agriculture is the number one source of income for the state of South Carolina, but every year, the number of farms decrease. One fourth-generation farmer in Calhoun County is looking to defy those odds, as he combines farming with technology.

Drake Perrow knew he wanted to be a farmer ever since he was tall enough to see over the steering wheel. After watching his father and grandfather spend countless hours on the farm, Perrow knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps. 

"It's a lot of hours, but the satisfaction at the end, if you make a good crop, is great," he said.

At the Perrow Family Farm, they grow cotton, soybeans, corn, wheat and peanuts. Just like every other farmer, Perrow experiences good crop seasons and bad ones. With hundreds of acres of crop, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where those bad crops are. Insects, weather and diseases are just some of the issues farmers deal with every season.

"With corn, it was almost impossible to do. You just couldn't see it. With the cottons and peanuts, it was a lot of walking. You check so many plants within 20 acres. It was time consuming," said Perrow.

So Perrow and his son, John, decided to take their farming to new heights, by using a drone to check the crop and spot any problems.

"What we saw was mind-boggling. When you look at an entire field, it tells you so much. You can just really get down right on top of the crops and figure out if you have a problem," said Perrow.

'Out of sight, out of mind' doesn't work in the farming and agriculture industry, so the Perrows knew buying a drone would not just be beneficial to their farm, but to other farmers as well. That's why they expanded Crop Companions to a drone consultant company.

"We still go through the fields every week, looking for insects, weeds, diseases. If I see something I don't like, I might ask them to fly. We find out more than what we were seeing," said Perrow.

At an altitude of 400 feet, the drone can cover 100-120 acres in about 20 minutes, taking photos every two seconds. When Perrow downloads the photos onto the computer, the individual photos are 'stitched' together to create one photo of the entire land.

If there is a lot of red in the 'plant life' photos, Perrow will try to fix the problem, but he said he might not be able to save the crop for that season. He learned that the hard way with his own peanut crop.

"50 percent of the field was dead. It was due to the zinc toxicity to the peanuts," he said.

While it was too late to save the peanuts, there have been a number of times the drone helped save crops for the season. 

Drake Perrow is improving the effectiveness of South Carolina farming with a piece of technology, and he said it's only going to get better.

"Drones can help evaluate the whole field a lot quicker than we did before," he said.

To be able to scout crop for other farmers, Perrow needed to get a license to fly drones commercially. The Federal Aviation Administration's test has 60 questions and you have to get at least a 70 percent to receive your license.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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