Only two weeks after Hurricane Irma, another catastrophe hit the Caribbean islands: Hurricane Maria.
Hundreds have died and many are still missing. And so far, the damages have amounted to over $50 billion, some even talk about $80 or $100 billion (November 2017).
Puerto Rico suffered in particular. According to Fortune.com, at least 85% of the total damages from Hurricane Maria occurred in Puerto Rico. “Everything collapsed simultaneously,” said Puerto Rico’s governor director of safety and public protection Héctor Pesquera. Cellphone towers, the banking system, the power grids — everything went down at once,” he explained according to the Washington Post.
Even two months after the Hurricane hit the island, most people have no proper power supply: “[the power system] is not working in more than 50% of the island. This is affecting family, business and economy,” says Ramón Pagán, drone operator and business owner from Puerto Rico.
According to him, the damages Hurricane Maria caused in agriculture are devastating. In the past weeks, Ramón has met and worked with banana, mango and coffee growers who lost between 90 and 100 percent of their production. And unfortunately, it’s not just Puerto Rico: growers in Dominica, Guadeloupe and many other countries affected by Hurricane Maria share the very same fate.
“The farmers’ and the field workers’ life was affected dramatically. Farmers lost 100% of their production.” — Ramón Pagán
How Can Drones Help Farmers in the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria?
One of the most important things after such an event is a professional damage assessment.
There are two main reasons why damage assessments in agriculture are important. First, drone imagery can act as evidence in insurance claims, especially if there are images of how a fields looked like before the damage occurred. And second, drone images of fields let farmers see how much loss they are facing at this point in time.
Afterwards, drone analyses can track and evaluate how the plants are responding to treatment and count how many new plants have emerged.
Today, this is done with the help of drone operators, who capture fields from above and analyze the images with software solutions like Agremo. It’s easy to do and has many benefits.
How Drone Operators Assess Damages in Agriculture
Ramón is already doing it.
He has been using drone data and Agremo analyses since 2016 to help farmers count and analyze plants. And after Hurricane Maria, Ramón analyzed a banana plantation for Martex farms, a Puerto Rico-based company specialized in growing tropical fruits.
Martex farms requested one of the Agremo plant counting analyses to see:
- How many plants they have lost compared to previous plant counting analyses
- How many plants are left on the field for the next harvest.
In our recent article on using drones in agriculture, we’ve talked about Ramón’s drone business CaribeDrones and how he uses drone data and Agremo analyses to help farmers and agronomists add more value to their business.
And after Hurricane Maria, using drone data in agriculture showed its worth once again. Ramón performed the suggested analysis for Martex Farms and obtained rather shocking results.
The plant stress analysis of the farmer’s banana plantation revealed that 97% of the farmers’ field was irreversibly damaged by Hurricane Maria:
And in this case, “irreversibly damaged” means that this year’s production of this field will be next to zero.
But why and how is this data helpful?
Martex Farms know about the benefits of regular drone-based plant health monitoring. Besides having full insights on his plant’s overall health and accurate number, they have solid proof of how their fields are doing throughout the season. And this data is particularly important for insurance claims after disasters such as Hurricane Maria. Drone data is visual proof of how healthy your plants have been prior to the event.
Can we do something to help Caribbean Farmers?
Yes we can! By simply sharing this post on social media.
This way, we spread awareness on this kind of technology and help Caribbean farmers get back on track as soon as possible.
After all, Caribbean fruits are exported to the entire world. Caribbean agriculture depends on us just as much as we depend on their beautiful products.