The PrecisionAg Institute, formed and managed by CropLife Media Group, just announced their 2009 precision agriculture awards that include a top farmer, crop advisor, educator and legacy award winners.
Farmer of the year is Robert Blair, who is not your typical dryland Idaho farmer. While his passions rank family and farming first, he is also staunchly dedicated to promoting precision ag for the betterment of all farmers.
In addition to farming 1,500 acres of wheat, peas, lentils, garbanzos, alfalfa and cows, he taught the precision ag lab at the University of Idaho during the 2008 fall semester and has also started a precision ag business called PineCreek Precision. The company is centered on Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) – small, autopilot-controlled planes (less than 20 pounds) that can be used to gather imagery. Blair, the first farmer in the United States to own and fly a UAS on his own farmland, decided to make a prototype airframe in 2008. Today he is a national leader in the promotion of UAS for agriculture, and is the first person in the U.S. to file a petition to the FAA for commercial use. Not even Boeing, Lockheed, or other aircraft businesses or organizations had done that. He has traveled on his own dime to Washington, D.C. to try to make commercial UAS rules that are sensible for end users. He has spoken around the country at different venues on UAS use in ag.
Robert is a board member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, Lewiston Chamber Ag Committee, U of I/WSU Legume Virus Project, Idaho Farm Bureau LASR Committee, Nez Perce County Farm Bureau President, CEO Coalition on Transportation member, Governor Otter’s Kitchen Cabinet (Advisory Group), IGPA Alliance for Rail Competition National Representative, and taught the precision ag lab at the University of Idaho.
He is helping the University of Idaho to expand its precision ag program and is also promoting agriculture by doing TV interviews for a new farm program in our area. His leadership and ability to bring things together are excellent and promotion of ag and precision ag is at the front of everything he does.
Robert hosts a precision ag field day each year and 2009 will be the third. His on-farm experiments with fertilizer, varieties, and different equipment has opened the eyes of many farmers in the area to the benefits of precision ag. Besides the economic benefits, he emphasizes the environmental stewardship aspects precision ag brings. He touts the benefits of precision ag records for proving environmentally safe tillage, application, and record keeping.