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High-tech farming coming to 200 acres of Okanagan orchard

One of InDro Robotic's drones in action.
One of InDro Robotic's drones in action.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ City of Kelowna

The City of Kelowna is partnering with a tech company to bring drones and robots to the local agricultural industry.

The new partnership between the City of Kelowna and Canadian engineering company InDro Robotics will see robots patrol the city’s crops for the next two years.

Two-hundred acres of apple, pear and cherry trees will be monitored by drones and industrial robots, which will use AI software to detect plant stresses, plant health, and crop yields.

That information will then be relayed to a ground robot which will travel to the plant in question a perform a closer examination using thermal, NVDI and a range of other cameras. The data collected would then go into an app for farmers to access.

READ MORE: Up to 80% of Okanagan peach crop wiped out by winter cold snap

“We've done a number of projects with the city of Kelowna before,” Phillip Reece, CEO and Founder of InDro Robotics, told “We were very heavily involved in their wildfire efforts last year when we dispatched drones to the early wildfires.”

While the company has used similar drones and robotics in the past, this project is the first of its kind.

A key part of the project is that robots will be immediately dispatched when stressed or damaged plants are detected by drones. This is not only more efficient for farmers, but also allows them to see what the very early stages of certain diseases look like.

Moreover, farmers will not have to pay to be involved in the pilot. Reece said he and his company are more interested in their feedback.

Most of the funding for the project will come from Agri-Food Canada, which will be putting six figures towards the pilot.

Meanwhile, the City of Kelowna will work with the regional district to find a list of potential farmers to participate and help build the app to store the collected data.

“Kelowna as a municipality or a city seemed to be embracing technology for the good,” Reece said. “We're really happy to have Kelowna as such a great partner.”

Jazz Pabla, director of Information Services at the City of Kelowna, has played an important role in getting this project off the ground.

“Municipalities typically don't step into the agricultural world that way. But we saw a great opportunity to help a community... with resiliency, with climate change,” Pabla told

“We need solutions to help farmers farm a little bit better and this is a great way to do it.”

READ MORE: January deep freeze devastated BC Southern Interior cherry crop

Pabla said his father is a farmer and he grew up on a farm, and they've been seeing the effects of climate change with heat domes, late freezes and early freezes.

"When you hear the farmers in other countries have this technology to help with the resiliency, we just thought what a great way to engage our citizens. At the end of the day, the farmers of Kelowna are citizens of the City of Kelowna.”

Similar technology has been used in the United States to help farmers increase their crop yields, reduce overhead, improve resiliency to climate change, improve water use efficiencies and assure competitiveness in the global market.

According to Pabla, this pilot project should help smaller-scale, local farmers keep up with the increasingly competitive industry.

Mayor Tom Dyas said Kelowna’s agricultural industry is an integral part of the local economy.

“Council is committed to supporting innovative ideas to help farmers better navigate changing conditions to be more resilient and sustainable,” Dyas said in a city media release. “It is an economic sector that occupies more than 40% of our city’s lands and is also an essential part of our cultural identity. This initiative is an example of how council’s priority to support agriculture is being advanced.”

More information about InDro Robotics can be found on its website here.

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