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RGV Farmer Reaps Benefits from Drone Security

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WESLACO – Rio Grande Valley farmers are turning to drone technology to help crack down on people stealing their crops.

Farmers are plagued by crop thieves year after year and can lose thousands on potential earnings.

Citrus grower Mani Skaria has grown citrus in Hidalgo County for five years.  

 “We are taking an active measure to pinpoint. We have cameras out in the field. We also have the drone,” he said.

He said the remote-controlled unmanned aircraft serves as an extra pair of eye to protect his harvest.

“We’ve had our own share of issues that people have stolen our fruit. We forgive them for the time being,” he said.

Skaria said the $2,000 investment helps him manage many acres of orchards and his nursery.

“We do not have the time to be out in the hundreds of acres of land on a daily basis,” he said.

So far, he said it’s working even more than he originally thought.

Skaria says the drone footage will also help them find hot spots in the orchard.

The citrus grower said the drone also comes in handy when dealing with pests and diseases.

“If there is a change in the leaf structure, that is not normal. A trained eye can easily spot it and abnormality happening,” he said.

Skaria said he feels more farmers and growers should make the investment.

Another use he said the drone can help with is irrigation. The top view allows him to see which trees are wilting and need more water.

The penalty for stealing produce out of a farmer’s field is a first-degree misdemeanor. You could be fined up to $250.

All fruit vendors who are selling more than 400 pounds of fruit are required to have a Texas Department of Agriculture proof of fruit ownership certificate. 

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