Before Lincoln Hughes tended the land on his farm in Nevada, Mo., so did his father and his grandfather.
“My dad worked to leave the land better for me,” Hughes says. “My goal is to leave the ground even better for my children, and hopefully their children. It’s all about taking care of the land.”
For Hughes that means turning to the skies. On his corn, wheat, and soybean farm, he monitors everything from seed count to nitrate levels with drones equipped with specialized cameras. When equipment malfunctioned and began laying too many seeds, a drone caught the error. When abnormal rains caused a drop in nitrates, a drone spotted the exact soil regions that needed replenishment—a formerly inexact process that required the family to send soil samples to a laboratory. It all saves Hughes between $30 and $40 an acre, which can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
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“We have a large farm, and there’s no way I can get to every field in a timely manner,” Hughes says. “The drone solves a lot of my problems. We’ve got data running out of our ears.”
This article is part of the Future of Work article from Fortune’s July 1, 2016 issue. Click here to see the entire package.