The Big Idea: Drone technology that offers intel for farmers

The entrepreneurial bug struck Scott Hiebert at an early age.

He launched his first business in high school, selling historical military battle recreation experiences on his family’s farm in Manitoba.

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Years later, it was the farm again that was the setting for his second entrepreneurial endeavor, Green Aero Tech. What began as an interest in using UAVs, also known as drones, to survey his farm has grown into a soaring business, based in both Whistler and Manitoba, that is revolutionizing how people gather and use land data.  

From crop counting and growth tracking to livestock monitoring and drainage analysis, Hiebert saw that UAV technology could change how people farmed. With an eye for putting knowledge into action, he saw an opportunity for a full-service solution that put his fleet to work for others.

“The farmers need the information the drones can generate, but getting access to the best machines and accurate data is an issue,” explained Hiebert. “The amount of money, time and effort it takes to stay on top of the technology, machine maintenance and data processing is prohibitive for them and we realized that by offering this as service we’d be part of their team when they needed it, at a fraction of the cost.”

Digging up smart data

Spotting the market need for accurate and actionable information from UAV technology, Hiebert focused on building his service from the data outward. In 2015 Green Aero

Tech joined forces with AGSky Technologies, a tech start-up that specialized in drone data collection and processing. With AgSky’s background in data and Green Aero Tech’s machines, the move enabled Hiebert to offer a complete package.

“Building our system from the backend first (processing our data) to ensure quality allowed us to break into a market with proof that our concepts work,” said Hiebert, who added that they are constantly looking at how their technology can gather practical information for their clients.   

“We focus on customer service and quality of data first. We have also figured out how to deliver our data in ways it’s useful. We go beyond zeros and ones when it comes to data,” he said, explaining that their data is delivered through a user friendly online platform designed to present reports that are easy to understand and focused on what matters most.

Tapping into water management

Proactive problem solving led Hiebert to recognize water management as a key area where UAVs could deliver powerful results. If a client needs to address a crop health problem, a proactive approach looking at water management might get to the root of the issue.

Green Aero Tech’s services can quickly and accurately spot problem points and map moisture below the surface. Their water accumulation simulations combined with run-off analysis can provide a new perspective so clients can understand, address and even prevent water flow issues.

Applications for managing this resource flow far beyond agriculture, helping Green Aero Tech expand to other industries.

“Everyone has to manage water and water security is a large part of the development process for any project, from building a shopping mall, pipeline, or planting crop,” said Hiebert.

Customer rooted service

To grow his young business, Hiebert focused on the leaders in their target market and the key problems facing these leaders. They built strong relationships and an intimate understanding of their key customers’ biggest needs.

“Using our passion for technology and service, we empower our clients by giving them access to accurate information about the land they’re working with,” said Hiebert of their core purpose. “This saves them time and money, helping their overall business or project.”

Their customer-centric approach has carried immense value when taking flight in new territory. Hiebert may have started by serving agriculture, but Green Aero Tech’s drone business now supports engineers, civil administration, construction and other land users.

“Professional service, with the best technology that gets you the most accurate information you need to move your project forward,” said Hiebert. “We make this promise to our clients, and we stick by it.”

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing an innovative Whistler business.

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