Drones on farms

Cow drone

In this post I discuss solutions to New Zealand’s nitrogen pollution issue.

While I was at Gather yesterday I had two more ideas.

1. Barking Drones
Drones can already herd sheep. I’m sure if they barked they could herd cows. Moving cow campsites every night would distribute the Critical Source Areas (CSAs) and have a significant impact. A really smart drone might even be able to move an individual cow three meters south east to avoid an existing urine patch or move them mid-event!

2. Top-dressing Drones
Instead of one large chemical dump, drones could be used to distribute tiny payloads to targeted sites. They could be solar powered and use the internet to predict rainfall.

There is no reason the same drone could not do both jobs. They would both build a map of nitrogen distribution over time… smart farming.

UPDATE
With rotational grazing on Dairy farms the campsites are less of an issues. So braking drones would be best used in Beef farms or run off areas (dry stock).

I did the math on using a splash drone (all weather) for fertiliser application:

Splash Drone $2,200. 45kph, 35min to charge, 17min flight time, Max wind speed 40 kmph, Lift 1kg.
I will assume 1 minute to get payload.
45kmph speed for 15mins = 11.25km travelled.
The average NZ Dairy farm is 150ha. 1 ha = 200m return flight.
The done needs to be able to fly 150*200 30,000m or 30km
So the drone either needs to be in the middle of the farm, carry more battery and less payload or the farm needs two drones.
Equip farm with sensors so drone can fly 24hrs by itself.
35min charge + 20 minute run + refuelling = 26 trips per day or 26kg per day, 9,490kg PA.
94 kg N/ha/yr = 14,100 kg PA.

So you would need 1.3 drone stations on the average farm, but the hope is that with regular and targeted applications volume can drop dramatically. It would require a very large solar array, maybe a 20K system with big batteries if you are flying at night.

Squandered

SQUANDERED: THE DEGRADATION OF NEW ZEALAND’S FRESHWATER by Dr Mike Joy
SQUANDERED: The degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater by Dr Mike Joy

I was stoked to have helped design this eBook for Mike who is a kiwi ledgend.

Inorganic rubbish collecting in Omaru creek

Trash collected and piled up on the side of the road.
Trash collected and piled up on the side of the road.

I had some help from Lucas this year and we pulled out some really big bits of trash. The most interesting thing being an entire cash register! I had pulled the shopping trolley in the photo out of the creek a few months ago when it first went in. I did call PAK’nSave and give them an address for where their expensive trolley was. Unfortunately it was eventually biffed back in the creek and is now ruined.

Things Aucklanders can do to help the Hauraki Gulf

Inspired by some recent conversations, I put together this list (in no particular order).

Things Aucklanders can do to help the Hauraki Gulf

Paint in Omaru Creek again…

2:30 Saturday 14 June 2014. This time the creek has gone green.
2:30 Saturday 14 June 2014. This time the creek has gone green.
I looked upstream and I could not find the source. Tho I do wonder if the recent metalling of Elstree ave  has something to do with it.
I looked upstream and I could not find the source. Tho I do wonder if the recent metalling of Elstree ave has something to do with it.
It did not go so far downstream this time. But I did not check it later.
It did not go so far downstream this time. But I did not check it later.
Clean green :S
Clean green :S

Paint in Omaru creek

1:15 today, I was horrified to discover Omaru creek had gone white. I called the Pollution prevention hotline case #14/1714.

At the Taniwha st intersection
At the Taniwha St intersection.
The roof of the Tamaki Recreation Centre that was blasted.
The roof of the Tamaki Recreation Centre that was blasted.
Access water blasting cleaning down their vehicles which were parked next to the roof and got covered in toxic gunk which they washed into the stream with the rest of the paint. You can be assured tho... on their website http://www.access.kiwi.nz/about-us/ Sustainability is one of their values. "Creating a Sustainable Business Sustainability = Vision + Passion + Growth + Balance + Profitability" Awesome work guys!
Access water blasting cleaning down their vehicles which were parked next to the roof and got covered in toxic gunk which they washed into the stream with the rest of the paint. You can be assured tho… on their website http://www.access.kiwi.nz/about-us/ Sustainability is one of their values. “Creating a Sustainable Business. Sustainability = Vision + Passion + Growth + Balance + Profitability”
Awesome work guys!
Lichen on the wheels of their vehicles.
Lichen on the wheels of their vehicles.
Lichen and paint in the creek.
Lichen and paint in the creek.
Downstream where the wave of paint is about to hit.
Downstream where the wave of paint is about to hit.
Closeup of the freshly painted periphyton.
Closeup of the freshly painted periphyton.

If this is a regular thing (blasters are supposed to divert the downpipes) then I bet 90% + of the zinc contamination in the Tamaki Estuary comes from water blasting roofs, not regular wear from rainfall.

UPDATE: 4:30 PM

Pollution prevention made it out and then went to talk to the TRC (Tamaki Recreation Centre). Apparently they need to make sure their contractors are not cutting corners and doing horrible stuff like this. I believe the TRC is a council facility partnership.

Though it's diluted I would not want to be a fish trying to breathe in there.
Though it’s diluted I would not want to be a fish trying to breathe in there.
Great for duck tracking, not so great for the ducks.
Great for duck tracking, not so great for the ducks.
Pollution is often quite beautiful close up.
Pollution is often quite beautiful close up.
Little evidence at the mouth of the river... Whew.
Little evidence at the mouth of the river… Whew.
As the sun goes down you can still see it creeping out.
As the sun goes down you can still see it creeping out.

UPDATE: 2 Days later and I can’t see any obvious ecological damage. I imagine it would be more obvious in a less polluted stream. Like a lot of contamination events the effects will be largely long-term.

I would not want to eat these oysters that I know at least one local old Maori guy eats!
I would not want to eat these oysters that I know at least one local old Maori guy eats!

UPDATE: 30 July. A super nice guy from the TRC got in touch, they were very concerned about the event and have put in place processes to make sure it does not happen again.

Access also gave me a call, they told me this was a one off accident. The council confirmed this and accordingly let them off with a small fine of around $400). I think the maximum fine is only $1,000, if Mr Burns was running one of these companies he would definitely risk it (given the difficulty in detection). Access invited me down to give a 15min talk to the team about the Auckland environment, which I did. They also walked me through some of their process which are designed to keep the contaminants out of the stormwater system. Most interesting to me was listening to the guys talk about their day while I waited for the meeting to start, they are tasked with cleaning up some really toxic stuff. I put hundreds of hours into helping the environment every year, but these guys can probably make a bigger difference in just a few hours by doing the right thing.

Browns Island Mussel Reefs

Or what is left of them! Even the oysters are swamped by mud from the Tamaki estuary. Wikipedia needs updating:

“The flatter areas to the west have very large part submerged mussel beds which extent out 100 m (328 ft) from the shore preventing easy landing”.

Now the exposed rocks are surrounded by thick mud.

Some green mussels in the large clumps. They were not often dominant.
Some green mussels in the large clumps. They were not often dominant.
Most of the solo green lipped mussels were around 9-10cm.
Most of the solo green lipped mussels were around 9-10cm.
At least 50% of the mussels were blue, of the mussel groups at least 80% of those individuals were blue.
At least 50% of the mussels were blue, of the mussel groups at least 80% of those individuals were blue.
The water was very dirty. It had not rained for at least a day or two.
The water was very dirty. It had not rained for at least a day or two.
This mussel and ambitious eleven armed starfish look like they are suffocating.
This mussel and ambitious eleven armed starfish look like they are suffocating.
Most mussels were above the low tide line. I know this a feature of blue mussels but why were the green mussel following suit? I made the same observation on the Mission Bay reefs.
Most mussels were above the low tide line. I know this a feature of blue mussels but why were the green mussel following suit? I made the same observation on the Mission Bay reefs.
Another example
Another example