In 2017, many of Colorado’s eastern farmers and ranchers were devastated by natural disasters like fires and blizzards. The Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation does their best to support the farmers and ranchers who have suffered great loss due to these disasters.

This summer the Foundation expanded the programs it offers and its disaster relief mission to include an important part of the agriculture industry — technology.

Thanks to the generosity of the Bayer Foundation and Bayer Animal Health, the CFB Foundation was awarded a grant to help expand the disaster services they offer rural communities to include UAS (unmanned aircraft system) or “drone” technology.

Already common in agriculture, drones help producers do everything from search for cattle, survey crops, check water and even help produce marketing material for their farms or ranches. However, this technology isn’t always the most accessible. Whether it’s cost or uncertainty about how to deploy the technology, buying a drone isn’t always a reality for a producer.

Because of the generous donation from Bayer and their request that the money be used for a program enhancement, the Foundation is in the process of building a drone technology program.

“We anticipate deploying the drones for multiple future uses,” explained Shawn Martini, CFB vice president of advocacy and staff lead on the new program. “For example, we can help producers search for lost or drifting cattle after a blizzard clears up, or during or following a prairie fire. We also envision helping producers assess crop and forage losses from fires, floods or severe storms.”  “

Martini says that the program is, “still in the conceptual phase, building out our capability and internal knowledge. But we expect to be in a good position to offer aid in the coming winter should the need arise.”

The program doesn’t just stop with the drone’s hardware. Martini says as the program continues to grow and develop, staff anticipates offering training and education to ensure members understand how to utilize the technology to the best of its ability and how to deploy it on the farm or ranch. The program aims to remain flexible and targeted in its deployment and ensure that it meets the needs of CFB’s many diverse members and communities.

It’s an exciting yet challenging time to be in agriculture and the drone program is another way that the Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation can help members face those challenges and rise above them.

If you have questions about the work that the Foundation does or any questions about the new drone program, please reach out to Shawn Martini (shawn@coloradofb.org), Colorado Farm Bureau’s vice president of advocacy.

The Foundation was originally started in 2007 to help Colorado’s farmers and ranchers deal with a devastating blizzard after it became apparent there was a pressing need for rural disaster assistance. Since then, every major natural disaster in Colorado that impacted the agricultural community has been addressed by the Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.