Drones assist growers in coating and cleaning their greenhouses

Sebastian Hylewicz from the German city of Geldern is a man on a mission. Using drones, satellite navigation and vision technology, he plans to serve hundreds of growers across Germany in the coming years with services that will help optimize their operations. "Aerial seeding and the application and removal of greenhouse coatings are my core activities," says the man behind Drohnen Agrar Service Geldern.

Drohnen Agrar Service (DAS) was founded in March 2023. And although Hylewicz (25) says he still has a lot to learn, he clearly has the requisite technical knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit. "Drones can be used in multiple ways to help farmers and growers optimize their operations," he says. "We use relatively heavy drones, which are suitable for seeding and spraying purposes. Aerial application of crop protection products is banned, but we can use drones to apply greenhouse coatings and greenhouse roof cleaners. Those activities are our core business and that makes us unique in Western Germany."

ReduSol and ReduClean

Hylewicz has had barely any time to spend on advertising and marketing. In spite of this, he has already built up a great portfolio of customers, in part thanks to word of mouth. In the spring and summer of 2023, more than 30 flower and plant growers had their greenhouses aerial sprayed with a temporary coating to protect their crops from excessive sun.
"ReduSol is the most frequently requested coating in this region, but our equipment is suitable for all commonly used coatings," he explains. "In the fall, the focus shifts to greenhouse roof cleaning with ReduClean. The customer decides which cleaning agent they want to use and in what quantity. We make sure it is executed perfectly at the desired time."

Aviation Act

The coatings and cleaner are supplied by Limera Gartenbauservice, also based in Geldern. Hylewicz: "Limera has referred several customers. This demonstrates their confidence in our technology and services. To fly drones of this caliber, you must be fully qualified. Just like in the Netherlands, we must comply with the strict provisions of the Aviation Act. However, we need to balance that with the expectations of the customer. We seem to be succeeding in this, since our customer base has grown steadily and we are hearing good feedback. We have already received the first requests for next spring."

Big boys

As Hylewicz mentioned earlier, you need a relatively heavy machine for seeding and coating. "Compared to drones that take aerial photos or videos, these are heavyweights. Even without the payload and battery, the drones weigh around 30 kg. Each drone has a 20 L fluid tank and two pumps, which each deliver 5 L of fluid to the spray nozzles on both sides of the machine every minute. That amounts to 2 minutes of net flight time per lap.
"On average, it takes about 3 hours to coat or clean 1 ha of greenhouse. This is significantly faster for customers than doing it manually. Most farms in this region are on the smaller side, meaning outsourcing to contractors is less common than in the Netherlands. However, there is still demand. We were surprised to have already treated 25 hectares of greenhouse in our first year."

Faster, safer and an even coating

Beyond the flexibility and time savings that outsourcing to DAS offers clients, this solution is also safer — a crucial advantage. "Manual coating means someone has to go up onto the roof, to do relatively taxing work from the gutter. To ensure the personal safety of the worker, additional safety measures are needed, which cost even more time and money. We make this process safer and more efficient and therefore make the customer's life easier on multiple levels. At the very least, they save time and money that can be used elsewhere. In addition, the drone can fly at a constant speed, giving you a very even coating. It's not easy to achieve that by hand."

Double the surface area

In 2024, Hylewicz hopes to treat double the greenhouse surface area and expand his radius of operation. "Outside our own region, Drohnen Agrar Service is still relatively unknown to farmers and growers," he explains. "Hopefully that will change soon. Lumiforte asked me to present our drone and activities at its booth at the IPM in Essen. That was a golden opportunity. I have spoken to many growers and made them enthusiastic about our services. If that is successful, I will also have to look for suitable candidates to strengthen our team. We'll need at least one more drone as well. Whatever happens, it's going to be a challenging and exciting year for us."

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