Pemberton Press

Innovations for Marketers

“Marketing with video” – New Report from AMI & my perspective on the findings

I was very interested to read AMI’s recent report “Marketing with video: the state of video production in Australia” (Dec 2017).  The survey was answered by 182 members across sectors important to my business such as technology, financial services and health care which, from previous research, are known to be some of the sectors using video the most.

The report proclaims that “Video content is taking the world by storm… It’s evident that video increases engagement with audiences… Businesses are shifting their marketing strategy to incorporate more video content”. It then concludes that marketers increasingly want high-quality video but they don’t want to pay for it. Well knock me down with a feather.

The survey results were encouraging yet there still seems to be striking gaps in some marketers’ understanding of how to use the medium for the greatest impact and return. Many seem to be too willing to serve their prospects a steady stream of filet-o-fishes and small fries when those same clients usually dine on sushi and champagne.

It’s true that production costs have declined markedly over the last 10-15 years with the advent of PCs, storage and non-linear editing software.  Today you can produce for $10k what it might have cost $50k to produce in the 80s & 90s.  Yet production still takes time, a broad range of skills, high tech equipment and efficient processes to create the wow factor marketers say they want.

In my experience, more savvy marketers understand this and are increasingly willing to make the proper investment to drive the impact they need, rather than spreading budgets too thinly and merely ticking a box.

I admit that my commercial interest in producing video for corporate clients partly drives my enthusiasm, but it’s also an all-consuming passion and tied into my very life purpose.



1. There is considerable demand for video with organisations “prioritising quality and reliability from production companies”. Check. I’ve always believed that quality would win out over low budget productions we have seen proliferating wildly in the B2B marketing space. Bring it on.

2. The majority of respondents said that their organisations produce less than five videos per month. Wow, that’s a lot! At that volume, even one per month, production values must be rather low and I would argue less effective at seizing & holding attention, building credibility and persuading target audiences of a particular value proposition.  Most companies I work with publish 3 or 4 high-quality productions per year. Each production may have several different versions of the main story, tailored for different viewing contexts.  Click here for an example featuring Johnson and Johnson Medical working with Macquarie University.

3. More than half of the respondents identified the average cost of each video as being less than $5k and even those using professional production companies usually spending less than $10k. No surprises here. High-quality video can be more expensive, so I often advise my clients to do fewer things but do them better, an approach I put into practice in my roles as a senior marketer at Microsoft and Canon in Australia, Singapore and the US. My company now typically charges $10 to 20k for a 3 to 5 minute piece. We can also provide low-cost options, but once clients understand the drawbacks of skimping, they often upsell themselves.

4. A large majority are using video primarily for brand awareness and credibility. Of course! – the reason I got into this game was the high credibility of customer testimonials to validate vendors’ claims about their brand, products and services. It’s a much subtler but more powerful technique than old school direct selling techniques, providing compelling information and value to the viewer. As they say, your best customers can be your best sales people.  And these days people want to hear from the seller directly, not a professional presenter or voiceover artist.

5. The Most successful video length is one minute and mostly distributed through business websites and on YouTube. I’m not so sure about the conclusion that one minute is most effective. While it’s true that attention spans are shortening and that a 30 to 90 second video can be just perfect for a specific purpose, the report also says marketers are confused about how to measure the effectiveness of video -so I’m not sure how they can conclude one minute is the most effective. Effective at what? My definition of effective is how well it grabs and holds attention, how well it persuades the audience through an interesting story told by interesting and credible characters.

Further, the report’s breakdown of “effective” video durations shows that 48% of videos were longer than two minutes, and 20% were longer than three minutes, so it seems a bit simplistic to reach the conclusion that one minute is the most effective. One minute of what? Advertising? Or content? That’s a subject I shall return to.

6. The last key finding was that due to the high availability of video content, viewers are demanding higher quality production and wow factor. Check! Happy with that.


The report goes on to talk about shifting customer behaviour and shrinking attention spans in particular. The authors argue that this has led to a surge in the popularity of video as the way brands are communicating directly with audiences.

Well, that’s all to the good as far as I’m concerned. But lets examine the meaning of the term “content” for a moment.  What is it?  I offer two primary observations;

1. Subject matter vs the medium.  The story of Roger Federer’s 20th grand slam, as subject matter, can be carried by several different mediums – the written word, video, radio, pictures etc.  So “content” is the story itself. Go Roger!

2. The term is also used by marketers to differentiate standard product or brand marketing (advertising) vs interesting stories which relate to the brand or product in some way, eg Redbull TV.   The former can be merely intrusive noise you want to skip, unless you’re in active buying cycle, the latter is something you actually want to watch.

Back in the heyday of television, we were hostages to (unwanted) advertising… But no longer! I confess that like the majority of marketers surveyed in the report, I am generally not persuaded by traditional advertising. I’m skeptical of its claims and it’s outlawed from my house, my car and my smart phone.  If, however, ads are engaging, highly targeted to my interests, I may be willing to watch.

Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, argues that today’s mobile Internet experience is driven by the traditional business model of advertising, with terrible consequences for our quality of life at work and at home. According to Harris, we’re unwitting victims of the new “attention economy”, wasting precious time reacting to algorithms designed merely to extend ”time on site”,  at the expense of our own interests.  In a recent Ted talk he defines the concept of  ”time well spent” and argues that  our experience of the Internet should be driven by our own values and interests, not that of advertisers.   He imagines a world where software is designed to do just that.

And in such a world, in my view, high-quality video content will be even more compelling, aiming squarely at viewer interests. So how does high-quality video content work in today’s world of websites, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google & Twitter?  Have a look at Redbull TV, possibly the worlds leading content and media platform.  It’s more than just sport sponsorship, the company focuses on characters and missions and tells amazing stories about incredible athletes with high stakes and spectacular visuals.  Even the ads are exciting and relevant to the subject matter at hand, whether on your TV, tablet or phone.

In conclusion, we have now completely moved into the world of “On Demand” viewing.  In this context, marketers should find, craft and publish interesting stories that target viewers actually want to watch, weaving their value proposition in and providing value to prospects.  They also should avoid the temptation to skimp!  This fun little video drives home the point, showing the results of an artist drawing Spiderman first in 10 minutes, then in 1 minute, and finally in only 10 seconds.

Click here for some valuable information about storytelling from one of the world’s great storytellers, Robert McKee.  Great stories are everywhere, in every customer’s business. Marketers just have to (1) find them and (2) bring them to life.

We can help!


Andrew Forsyth

February 5,  2018

Pemberton News

Why I do what I do.

1. My purpose is to support human flourishing, wellbeing and freedom through science – with critical, rational, sceptical thinking – and the best of our emotions, art and creativity.  I believe people are at their best when they can think for themselves, have true autonomy and are able use their imaginations to do things in new ways, supported by good education, technology and ethical, effective management practices.

2. I want to promote great breakthroughs and achievements won through innovation, focus and hard work, commitment & teamwork to maximise human potential & greatness.

3. I love the creative process, working with smart & interesting people, learning about their lives and projects and helping them engage their audiences with the craft of storytelling and the emotional impact of music and video. My aim is to create an oasis of inspiring stories which rises above the avalanche of information we are all deluged with 24/7.

4. I support the growing opposition to the swelling tide of irrational, superstitious, anti-intellectual politics and the various medieval cultures which threaten humanity’s potential, spreading misery and heartbreak purely for their own misguided self interest, power and delusional beliefs.

5. I want to actually live my dreams of the best life I can imagine, not just dream ! I encourage others to live theirs and to use their talents to make the world a better place.


Andrew Forsyth

Production Tips

Drones in Documentary Film Making (36 min)

Doco cams in motion

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a group of documentary filmmakers at AFTRS, the Australian film, television and radio school at Fox Studios with Kim Batterham.

My task was to discuss the use of drones as a vehicle for storytelling, CASA regulations and logistical considerations for planning film shoots.

The event was streamed live on Facebook by Alan Butterfield with some clever AV switching between the slide deck, pre-recorded videos and a multi live camera feed.

We had about 80 people in the theatre, with a further <tbc> people tuning in online.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to show some of our work and to participate in the Q&A session with Lizz Vernon after the presentation.

Thanks to Erika Addis and Brendan Palmer at Ozdox for assistance developing and  presenting the material and to Marcus Stimpson for providing me with this exciting opportunity.

I hope it may be valuable for anybody looking to use drones to tell interesting stories.

Andrew Forsyth

Production Tips

How not to connect with your audience with video

As a follow-up to my last blog post on connecting with your audience with video content, consider this;

Here we have a strong business story about IBMs data encryption solution, “Z”. It’s well written and well shot, however, I think it fails to connect in a truly memorable way – why?

Transform security and compliance – IBM Z.mp4

The answer lies in the creative execution, which for the most part mimics an “interview” where viewers assume there is an interviewer with whom the subject is speaking, hence the off-camera angle of the presenter.

Yet this is clearly a straight sales presentation without an interviewer.  So who is this gentleman talking to?  You, the viewer.  A strong piece to camera as the main angle would have been far better in my opinion.

Not to say that the off-camera framing doesn’t work, in fact it can be extremely powerful when used in the right context.  The tone, pace, facial expressions- everything about the presentation is completely different “in conversation” when a presenter is really connecting with an interviewer.  Done well, the story can be riveting.  But when used to avoid or minimise facing your audience directly, it can fall a bit flat.

To summarise, the off-camera angle is very suitable for a conversation format but is often missed-used in the form of a straight sales presentation, which kills the direct connection with the audience.  Creatives ought to guide and assist their clients with delivering these kinds of communications with more authenticity and charisma, direct to camera, if they really want to connect and persuade.

I don’t know why we are seeing more and more of this creative style in social media video content. I’d hate to think it’s simply to make it easier for the director or presenter…!

Here’s another presenter actually connecting with his audience, from the heart, not the tele-prompter.  He looks straight down the barrel and delivers an engaging and informative piece to camera, as though he is right there talking directly to you.  The production quality is nowhere near as good, but the presentation is streaks ahead, and that is what really matters. Of course both together is a killer combination.  In this creative style the cutaway to off-camera angle actually enhances the presentation by allowing for some visual variety/ perspective change, but only as a support act.  A super interesting topic I hope you’ll agree.  

Feynman would be proud!

Andrew Forsyth

David Eagleman- Welcome to Your Future Brain.mp4

Innovations for Marketers

Connecting with your audience using the “Piece to Camera”

You’re passionate about what you do and the value you have to offer- but how can you connect with your audience in a truly authentic and powerful way?

Well, talk to them.

Nothing beats a relaxed, articulate, well-paced piece to camera, face-to-face.

As exemplar of the piece to camera presentation, psychologist and author Paul Bloom offers some incredibly interesting insights in dealing with our emotions. He argues that empathy is not the best way to care for others and that compassion is a far more effective mechanism. He’s also a master of connecting with his audience – have a look at this for example:


Why Empathy Is Not the Best Way to Care – Paul Bloom.mp4

It seems so simple, so easy to do, right? But most people fall apart when called on to speak to an inanimate object – the camera. The key is simply to do the adequate preparation, so that you really know your stuff, and to visualise the audience you are talking to as you are delivering your piece.

Inadequate preparation is almost always the reason why people fail to perform when recording a piece to camera and thereby fail to connect with and inspire their audience.  For those who fail to prepare, I have just a little compassion, but not too much ; )

Interested? We can help you prepare, deliver and connect. Call Andrew Forsyth 0431 770 620

Aerial Video & Surveys

Drones in Grazier’s Hellfire

The town of Bungendore, set in a scenic green valley in the New South Wales southern tablelands, is an important crossroads linking Goulburn, Braidwood, Queanbeyan, Canberra and Cooma.

Nearby Mount Fairy is home to graziers whose cattle and sheep roam large tracts of farmland and a wind farm powered by the prevailing winds that careen through the valley.

Currandooley Fire burns out of control.


On 17 January  the Goulburn Post reported that 2,500 hectares of farmland had been wiped out by a huge and raging grass fire, with more than 30 units from the Southern Tablelands, Lake George and ACT zones called on to join the fight.

The fire had jumped two roads, Bungendore Road and Mount Fairy Road, reaching Tim de Mestre’s property, Merigan. Volunteers who heard of his plight moved quickly to help upon news that 88% of his 900 hectare property had been decimated.

Merigan Driveway.


Many of the livestock had been badly injured, with burned hooves, lips and teats. The pretty tree-lined driveway leading to the homestead had been destroyed, but thanks to the efforts of valiant firefighters the house had been saved and no lives had been lost.

Many of the surviving cattle and sheep were able to be moved and Tim and his band of hardy volunteers wasted no time in starting to clean up the mess. Fixing fences, removing debris, getting much-needed water to the right places and keeping the troops going through the early days was a huge challenge.

When we arrived a few days later we found him lying on the floor, unshaven and utterly exhausted, but resolute. Aerial imagery would be useful for assessing the scope of the damage, so we quickly got to work with Tim’s son, Darcy, as our guide.

Merigan homestead was saved by aerial firefighters.


Shooting with the Inspire One Quadcopter and Z3 zoom camera we were aiming to get the big picture as well as zero in on particular areas which warranted further examination. Up at 400 feet, we had a clear view of the property but the winds were stiff and even stronger higher up.

To the West of the front gate the nearby windfarm turbines spun at an increasingly furious rate and the drone  struggled to maintain position as the wind speed picked up to over 25 knots, well above the safe upper limit for operation.

Unable to fly, we returned to our base at Tree Change Cottage, further down Mount Fairy Road, where owner Anne Fairhurst and her 89-year-old mother, Ida, had also survived unscathed . Airbnb had lead us to an oasis where we could re-charge the batteries and regroup. Like Merigan, the house had been saved but everything around was burned to a cinder.

Tree Change Cottage.


When we arrived we found Anne putting out water for the surviving wildlife which clung to the few small patches of green visible from the cottage.  She was effusive about the strength of the local people and what needed to be done to restore the land.

An Echidna waddled along nearby, but thankfully there was no sign of the local tiger snakes.


Anne’s mother, Ida,  had been out in town that morning and was lucky to have missed the whole thing.   She pointed out that their structures had been made from metal rather than timber as a protective measure against this sort of catastrophe.  Our flying robot was certainly a surprise for her!  Watching with keen interest, she had many questions about how it worked and what it could do.

Anne Fairhurst


As the winds abated we were able to get airborne at Tim’s place once again. Moving to five different locations in the property, we shot 360 degree views of the devastation from 120m, which is the maximum altitude permitted under CASA UAV regulations.  We later enjoyed a cheerful dinner with our hosts before returning to the cottage for the night. We were able to pass on the Fairhurst’s contact details at Tim’s request, who offered to connect Anne with local services organisations who could render further assistance. It was so great to see the Aussie spirit alive and well in the face of such brutal adversity.

Tim De Mestre and volunteers winding down after a long, hard day’s work.


Tim sent out a heartfelt thank you to all who were able to assist and was optimistic about finding answers to the cause of the blaze. “According to one theory a bird had shorted an electrical wire, caught fire and fallen into the dry grass below.  It isn’t the first time.” he said.

Tim De Mestre (right).


The fire is now likely to be the subject of a coronal inquiry. Goulburn MP Pru Goward wrote “Following my meeting with Tim de Mestre I have written to the Attorney General…I am now seeking a coronial inquiry in the absence of any other means of establishing a full, independent and transparent inquiry. There is a history of fires and bird deaths in the area that probably need to be part of this inquiry. I consider the matter to be urgent.”

Windfarm to the West.


Aerial Video & Surveys



This month I had the pleasure of working with the talented canopy pilot, Tashi Gye, who tasked me with realising her vision for a new video that could change people’s perceptions about Speed Flying. In a traditionally adrenaline fuelled, male dominated arena, Tashi wanted to bring out the art, the grace, the dance and the music, with her femininity and skill as the undeniable hook.

Using the DJI Inspire 1 with the new Zenmuse Z3 Zoom camera, we were able to get close-ups not previously possible with a mid-range drone.

The paragliding and speed-flying social media circuits lit up, with over 8,000 views in the first week, hundreds of comments and an overflowing outpouring of positive emotions for the way she chose to illustrate and interpret the sport.

In her words:

“Seagirl” is my final project I presented at the end of a 2 month mindfulness course for creatives, sharing my love of flying and music. Speedflying is not just an adrenaline fuelled sport. Flying is rhythmic, much like a dance in the sky and to me has a musicality about it that feels similar to playing the piano. I chose one of my favourite piano pieces by Jean-Michel Blais “Nostos” to illustrate how flying feels. I recommend the course I did to anyone keen to be more creative or want to finish those projects they have started or yet to. I had a lot of fun :)

Special mention to Andrew Forsyth (Pemberton Productions) for the drone footage and videography, Julian Walker for ground control, and Aaron Lyon for co producing and editing.”

Aerial Video & Surveys

DJI Unveils powerful new zoom camera for aerial asset inspection: Zenmuse Z30

It was a real thrill to be asked by the guys at Australian UAV to participate in DJI’s launch video for the new Z30 telephoto 30X zoom camera. It was the first time in eight years I’ve been in front of the camera instead of directing, so it was certainly a change of perspective!

Andrew Chapman piloted the DJI M600 Hexacopter with impressive precision and control, demonstrating the Z30′s powerful capabilities in a point-of-interest scenario.  In addition to my role as gimbal operator on the M600, I was tasked with piloting and shooting the air-to-air scenes with a second, smaller drone; the DJI Inspire 1 with Zenmuse X5 Camera.  Manually flying a counter rotating arc around a $30k drone and cell tower has definitely challenging but happily we got the shots the DJI film crew were after, plus a few of our own creation.

View the video here:

A high-powered zoom means that any movement in the system is magnified, so stability is of utmost importance. The Z30 incorporates DJI’s leading gimbal technology for stabilisation within 0.01° and the same precision for controls. This enables long-range inspection that is always high in fidelity.

The Z30 takes asset inspection to a whole new level, allowing safe acquisition of very detailed images and line of sight verification. While not yet commercially available, it is expected to arrive on Australian shores early in the New Year. As you can see above, it’s so easy you can do it with your eyes closed!

For more information on aerial asset inspection please call Andrew Forsyth on 0431 770 620.


Aerial Video & Surveys

Fish Underfoot?


Tasmania’s Vale of Belvoir and Skullbone Plains Reserve,  August 2016 (3 min).


The Clarence galaxia is a rare and endangered freshwater fish which lives in a very unexpected place; under the grassy plains of Tasmania’s Central Plateau, in the hinterland of the majestic Cradle Mountain.  They actually live under the grass, right under your feet.  Really?

Also incredible is the fact that introduced brown trout live in the same unlikely place and prey upon this native species, which occurs in only six isolated locations across the island.  Skullbone Plains Reserve is one of them.  


Tasmania’s native Clarence galaxia.  


You’ve got to wonder how they do it. A vast labyrinthine network of subterranean waterways criss-crosses just below and within the glacial plains, in one of Tasmania’s only sub-alpine karst, or limestone cave systems. This small fish grows to about 13 cm in length and has irregular dark brown patches along its back and sides. It spawns in spring with eggs taking approximately two months to hatch.

Above ground, this is home to carnivorous marsupials such as the spotted-tailed quoll and the endangered Tasmanian devil. Snaking rivers, tarns, karst potholes and expansive lagoons hide undisturbed in what can seem from the ground to be a rather featureless landscape, pristine and desolate in the depths of winter.  


Near Kenneth Lagoon, Skullbone Plains Reserve.  


From the air, though, it’s a whole different story.   Skullbone Plains consist of 1,600 hectares of exquisite open valleys, old-growth forests, native grasslands, cushion plants and rare, endangered sphagnum moss beds.   To the north, at the Vale of Belvoir, snow capped mountains frame magnificent valleys and grassy plains which are skirted buy old-growth sub-alpine rainforests with Myrtle Beech and Eucalypts towering above a soft, spongy carpet of green below.

Rainforests in the snow and fish underfoot?   With Cradle Mountain thrusting sharply skywards on the horizon, this region truly is something else.  



The Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) is now finalising a plan to protect the little Clarence galaxias as part of their stewardship of the of Skullbone Plains reserve, which was acquired by the NGO in 2010. After filming the Big Punchbowl for TLC earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to be invited back to the capture more imagery of these wilderness areas with our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone), the DJI Inspire 1.


Kenneth Lagoon, Skullbone Plains Reserve.


Teaming up with TLCs Community Engagement Officer, Phillip Roach, Strategic Projects Officer, Margie Jenkin, Media and Communications Manager, Stephanie Cahalan and Field Officer, Tim Devereaux, I was able to produce extensive coverage of these and other TLC reserves, including Lake Lea and the newly acquired Daisy Dell.

We were shooting video and stills with the integrated Zenmuse X3 camera.  As keen photographers, Stephenie and Phil both had the opportunity to take advantage of the quad–copter’s dual camera controls, which gave them a full view of the action on their own iPad and the ability to move the camera around and to adjust the exposure settings to their desired effect.   While I was piloting the drone, they were able to take the shots they wanted at the click of a button.


 Phillip Roach on camera with Andrew Forsyth piloting the DJI Inspire 1, Vale of Belvoir.


The Vale of Belvoir has been described as one of the most important places for nature conservation in Australia and was protected in 2008. These World Heritage Listed areas are now private land thanks to the generous contributions of philanthropic donors around the world and the tireless efforts of dedicated conservationists.

While challenging for UAV operations due to the effect of cold temperatures on the batteries, we were lucky to see some brilliant morning sunshine in a place where clouds normally rule the roost. Thanks to the intrepid efforts of the TLC team we were able to get the camera in the air in the right place and at the right time to produce over an hour of finished video and over one hundred high resolution still images over three days. By the end of the trip the wind was picking up and we had to fly below low, fast moving cloud to capture the last few shots of Kenneth Lagoon, where the little Clarence galaxia desperately flee the clutches of the marauding brown trout.


Introduced brown trout.


It’s great to know that TLC makes these remote wilderness areas accessible for all, particularly with excellent new camping facilities at Skullbone Plains. Just make sure they tell you how to open the gates!


Vale Drone Social v1.1

Stephenie and Magie’s excellent adventure (3 min).


For more information  or to lend your support please visit

Andrew Forsyth, Managing Director, Pemberton Productions.


Pemberton News

Drones in Macadamia Heaven

In 2016 the Australian macadamia industry is in the best of times. Long periods of dry weather in the majority of growing regions has resulted in ideal harvest conditions for most growers. Production is up 4% (Source), prices are high, demand is strong and the time is right for investment & innovation to further improve quality, yield and profitability.

Technology is also driving the pace of change in agriculture at an unimaginably rapid rate. The way farms are managed will surely be very different in two, five and ten years from now thanks to advances in precision agriculture.  In fact it is already happening here in NSW.

Farm Manager Chris Cook from Dymocks Arapala Macadamia Farms at Yarrahappini is one of the new generation of young, tech-savvy managers who is taking things to the next level. Chris has made significant progress by pioneering several innovative approaches, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or Drones) as part of an integrated orchard management strategy.

His deep belly laugh belies a razor sharp eye and a relentless pursuit of results based on carefully crafted plans and consistent execution.

Chris Cook, Farm Manager, Dymocks Arapala Macadamia Farms.

When Chris took over the 70,000 tree orchard two years ago he had challenges to improve the health of the older trees in the plantation. Average Nut in Shell (NIS) from the mature trees was down around 2.5 tonnes per hectare, compared with an industry target of 5 tonnes per Hectare.

His aim is to get the average yield up over 5 tonnes per hectare of NIS.  In some blocks he and his dedicated team are already hitting 6 tonnes due to changes made in the past two years.  Being a radio-controlled helicopter enthusiast from way back, Chris clearly sees the potential of drones in agriculture and was very receptive when I approached him 18 months ago.

“We started out with a small consumer drone just shooting basic video from the air, and over time scaled up to a larger commercial drone with an autonomous flight program capturing still images.  These images could then be stitched together into a Geo-referenced “Orthomosaic” to give us a much clearer view of problems and patterns not obvious from the ground. We could also use these images to plan and communicate workflows with the team.” – Chris Cook.


The Author piloting the DJI Inspire 1. Photography Credit Wade Hughes.

While impressive at first blush, the software platform for flying the drone autonomously, capturing the data and stitching images together had many problems. We spent months working through the issues with the vendor before eventually being able to deliver high-quality maps which were really useful for making decisions.

Several Macadamia growers in the NSW Northern Rivers district heard about the work we were doing and were interested to participate. In one week in April we flew six farms totaling more than 500 Hectares, generating some 40 maps, which gave the farmers a whole new view of their orchards.

Thank you for your efforts in surveying our farm. The resulting data is very impressive.  It has enabled me to see the extent of damage done to our orchard in the 2012 storms and in the next pruning season I will be able to undertake more targeted pruning operations, dealing with issues in a more focused way.   Overall I feel that this has been a positive result for the financial outlay.”

-Rob Colefax.

Macadamia grower Rob Colefax & son.

In addition to high resolution orthomosaics, 3-D elevation maps provide a way to clearly assess drainage issues and come up with solutions.  An adjustable scale allows different colour gradations to be applied to the image to show relief in dramatic detail.  Several growers and interested agronomists commented that the ability to zoom in and switch between views of a block, back and forth, was particularly powerful.

3D elevation map.

For Chris Cook, the imagery has been particularly valuable in developing nutrition plans and in digging new drainage channels.  Here’s an excerpt from the latest management plan;

Diversion drains [blue triangles] and subsurface drainage [red boxes] will be installed to mitigate damage from rain events. Diversion drains guide water away from the block without causing losses to crop. Subsurface drains are to prevent waterlogging, allowing trees to grow, and machinery access quicker after an event.

Being able to see the big picture is one of the great advantages of this new approach. Using special digital filters and indexes also allows farmers to see the unseen, such as disease or levels of plant vigour and trends within the orchard. Variations in the amount of solar radiation reflected, absorbed or transmitted by vegetation provides a strong indicator of tree health.

The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is a measure which has been used with satellite imagery and we were able to try using this filter with the image data we had captured. However, as the drone was not equipped with a camera with Near Infrared (NIR) capacity, a pseudo NDVI was derived from reflectance data measured by the Green and Red spectral bands.

While the pseudo NDVI could indeed show variances in tree vigour, which prompted Chris to ask new questions he hadn’t thought to ask previously, we soon discovered the limits of the Red Green Blue data (RGB) used in standard photography.  While RGB is very good for producing high-resolution orthomosaic visual images, elevation maps and 3-D models it is limited in its ability to enable detailed and accurate analysis of plant health using reflected light. That is because the RGB camera we used is only able to capture a small percentage of the solar radiation reflected from tree canopies compared to Near Infrared cameras. To get more accurate and detailed information with NDVI we needed a different kind of camera – a multispectral sensor which detect a range of infrared light spectra as well as RGB.

Associate Professor Andrew Robson (University of New England) is one of the leading researchers in the field and I had the opportunity to meet with him in June this year.  He is currently leading a National Tree Project funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia and the Federal Government’s Rural Research and Development for Profit scheme. Andrew was able to recommend some innovative new sensors which can easily be fitted to our UAV, the DJI Inspire 1.

He also invited me to participate with the UNE project team to fly some surveys with the multi-spectral sensors over Macadamia orchard blocks.  This collaboration will allow the UAV imagery to be evaluated alongside a range of other satellite and field based sensors to identify its capacity for future commercialisation. This includes the evaluation of specific yield and quality algorithms that have the ability to convert the imagery into real parameters that growers can easily use.

Looking forward, our UAV platform is one of the first to be compatible with the industry leading FLIR thermal camera system, which is opening up exciting new applications in asset inspection, search and rescue, firefighting and other areas. For agriculture the big advantage of these sensors is in detecting disease – plants heat up when they are stressed.  It’s not hard to imagine a future where the orchard is managed down to the tree, instead of the block, using customizable development platforms like the DJI Matrice 100 Quadcopter.

For now, Chris is focused on finishing the harvest by the end of August, a full three months ahead of average harvest time over the last few years.  Apart from improving drainage he’s also using aerial imagery for guiding the nutrition plan as part of the integrated orchard management (IOM) strategy.

Chris: We have drains in some of our steeper gullies that are fully grassed, that do a great job moving water away from the orchard quickly. The different management zones along with aerial imaging of the farm will form my new soil test and leaf sampling zone [previously done block by block]. For the farm’s nutrition program, Integrated Orchard Management (IOM) is very important, but I need to have a solid science based, nutrition program. The program should take into account previous seasons yield, the amount of compost or organic matter you have used in IOM program, and different soils types within your farm. I am currently doing a thorough soil map of the farm so I can fine-tune the nutrition requirements.”

In closing, I believe every grower can benefit from this technology, especially those with larger orchards where it is prohibitively time consuming to inspect the every block on the ground regularly.

Please call for an obligation free quote on 0431 770 620.

Andrew Forsyth

Managing Director, UAV Data Solutions.