Caswell Messenger Writer
As printed in the 5/23 edition of the Caswell Messenger

On Monday, May 21, the Caswell County Cooperative Extension and Piedmont Community College Small Business Center partnered to host an agriculture technology workshop featuring N.C. technology company

Guest speakers discussed the three branches of the Earthstream platform: drones, scanners, and mobile app software.

Jim Reed, director of business development, presented examples of drone collected data and overviewed challenges of using drones. He utilized years of aviation experience to draw real-world analogies and give insight into the evolution of airplanes into drones.

Mike Prorock, chief technology officer and founder, explained the benefits and future applications of his Earthstream Platform, an in-ground data collector and transmitter for use in agriculture.

Chris Abernethy, lead software engineer, previewed the cross-platform app., not a month after going public. It offers growing tips and will eventually communicate with the Earthstream and drones.

A panel discussion included local farmers and growers.

Prorock said he has a genuine interest in farming needs and left a profitable company to found

For Reed’s presentation, he used previously recorded and color-coded drone footage of local farms to build participation.

“Satellites have been filming the earth for decades, especially for agriculture,” he said. “Ever since WWII, people used planes for everything and drones are just a newer form of that. Unlike a satellite or plane, a drone can be packed up and transported with relative ease. It‘s cheaper than a satellite or plane too, but the biggest thing is in its flexibility.”

Drones may be used to quickly and easily scout a location and see crops from different angles and with different filters. Data may be overlaid for more complex readings and over-time projections. Drones may film a farm and events to market and sustain the business aspect.

Prorock said promoting sustainability is one of his motivators. People are leaving the cities for rural areas and taking closer looks at their food and where it comes from. They’re caring more about quality and about doing it themselves, he said.

Most of the team work from home, ranging from Chapel Hill and Orange County to Danville and Pittsylvania County, but they’re “heavily looking into moving company headquarters to Yanceyville,” said Prorock.

“I used to work, way back, with North Carolina Rural Center, so I’m a big believer in keeping stuff in N.C. and keeping stuff close to home when possible,” he said.

“Our goal for tonight was to find out what people were having problems with and us trying to help with that. I’m excited to find out what people are struggling with. This is my brainchild. I’m everything R&D,” said Prorock.

Earthstream devices are packed with state-of-the-art sensor and data technology. Each device, sensor, and method of capturing data is useful on its own, but when combined an entire environment becomes illustrated.

After the Earthstream is planted in the ground, it automatically calibrates and begins transmitting relevant data (light, soil moisture, surface temperature, and more). The analytics platform analyzes the data and combines it with other sources of information to make concise, cost-saving, recommendations regarding water, crop selection, and more.

“Drones are not toys,” said Reed. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a license to commercially fly an airplane and a drone is no different. There are pretenders out there. If there is someone who offers to fly a drone for you, ask for their license. If they‘re going to get paid for it, they need to have a license.”

“If you have interest in pursuing a license, practice a lot before actually flying commercially,” he said.

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