ABZ: drones will transform post-Brexit UK farming

  • July 26, 2023
  • William Payne

Hungarian agtech drone maker ABZ Innovation is entering the UK market which it sees as one of the largest potential markets for drone technology. The company is already operating its agricultural drones across five countries in Europe, and is the biggest European agtech drone manufacturer in a European market that is currently dominated by Chinese technology.

The company sees Britain as presenting the largest opportunity for agricultural drone technology in Europe. This is due to a number of factors. The UK government has recently changed regulations allowing drones to conduct spraying. There is a shortage of agricultural labour which has been exacerbated by Brexit. British farmers are also among the keenest to embrace the technology in Europe.

ABZ chief executive Karoly Ludvigh said: “With the problems with the lack of workforce in crops and orchards in the UK, drones can provide a very cost-effective alternative. They also have the benefit of helping growers use significantly less water and chemicals.”

Developed and tested together with the University of Gyor in Hungary, the drone solution offers a lower cost, highly-efficient means of spraying fields and orchards that allows farmers and growers to benefit from a reduced workload and an easier means of spraying hard-to-access areas according to ABZ.

Cost savings are a key element of the ABZ system, which tests showing that targeted, precise management through drones uses 90% less water than conventional spraying and up to 50% fewer chemicals.

In the case of the UK, the ABZ drone system offers a potential system to growers and farmers hit hard by the post-Brexit shortage of agricultural labour. According to calculations from the UK’s National Farmers’ Union, some £60m of fresh produce was left to rot in the fields in 2022 due to a lack of workers.

According to experts, British farmers are some of the most enthusiastic in the world about the benefits of drones for farming. ABZ is poised to enter a large and relatively untapped market, thanks to new rules which allow drones to spray crops. According to ABZ, this could transform British farming and massively boost its productivity at a time of high energy costs, and a tight labour shortage.

With the cost of rising input materials having a major impact on accuracy, Ludvigh said the pinpoint accuracy of spraying with ABZ drones – within 1.5m – can be a valuable asset in keeping input and water costs down. In fact, in the light of the Ukraine war, food shortages and the rapidly changing weather, Ludvigh believes precision farming is no longer a choice, but the only way to uphold agricultural production.

“Proper soil and crop management has become paramount to really provide our plants with the kind of soil they require to withstand weather conditions as well as possible.” At the same time, Karoly said drone technology has been accelerating at an incredible rate with as many changes in the 12 months of 2022 as in the previous six years put together. “The pace of these changes has been amazingly fast and I think it will get even faster,” added Ludvigh.