SHE Power Innovation: Switch Over to AI-driven Rice Farming
SHE Power Innovation: Switch Over to AI-driven Rice Farming
2021-08-11 23:49
2021-08-11 23:49
SHE Power Innovation: Switch Over to AI-driven Rice Farming

In late July, Guangdong's Sihui - one of the main rice producing regions of Southern China, a tranquil paddy field had finally ripened and was ready for its summer harvest. 100 days after the seeds were sown, this year's early-season rice yielded a surprising bumper crop harvest, as drones and robots came here to help.

Ripe rice crop awaits for summer harvest in Sihui, Guangdong, China

Ripe rice crop awaits for summer harvest in Sihui, Guangdong, China

The paddy owner is a young female called Chen Lihua, a post-90s generation farmer who just entered the second year of her career in agriculture. Since farming is deemed by many to have an unpromising future, Lihua chose to work in big city after graduated from university, instead of taking over her dad's farms.

However, a big change came to her life when she met XAG's agricultural drones two years ago when they were seen flying over the sky to spray crops. The potential and convenience of this new technology left her a positive impression.


Witnessing the potential of agricultural drones

As her family's farms were struggling with hiring enough workers amid rural aging, Lihua boldly changed her plan and bid farewell to city life. She returned to Sihui as a farm manager and decided to bring agricultural drone and other AI-controlled devices into her hometown.

In Lihua's village, before drones were trending among farmers, rice cultivation still heavily relied on workers using bare hands to sow seeds or manual sprayers to apply pesticides. Labour shortage and increasing labour cost have been the long-term problems of improving yields.

As the first step, Lihua had to start with operating the drones. Despite all her worries, this is a challenging new domain to an amateur farmer. "I was a bit afraid when first getting in contact with such a giant drone. But soon I gained confidence as I was getting my hands on this new tool with more practical exercise."

 Lihua is now a veteran drone pilot in her village

Lihua is now a veteran drone pilot in her village

To her surprise, the easy-palm control system and fully autonomous flight route enabled inexperienced operator to handle the drone with ease. During the spring planting season, simply through several clicks on the mobile app, the drone could automatically take off and navigate itself over the paddy fields, dropping rice seeds precisely into the target areas.

From a drone pilot to farm manager, the road was not always running smoothly. Due to her lack of agronomic knowledge, during the first season, Lihua failed to take prompt actions on farm and caused large extent of yield loss. 

Therefore, this year she dived deep into rice farming, while also introducing XAG smart agriculture system to help manage her farms with AI crop modelling.

AI crop modelling helps Lihua better manager her farm

AI crop modelling helps Lihua better manager her farm

Throughout the 100-day growth cycle, Lihua could obtain in-depth insights into what was happening on the rice crops without getting her feet into the fields. She has made the most of the system to identify risks, and then sent out agricultural drones to control pests or diseases whenever it was needed. 

Within two years, Lihua started from zero based and has gradually grown into a tech-savvy farmers and young expert of rice farming.

Lihua checking with her crop in the field

Lihua checking with her crop in the field

"Drone is much more efficient than manual labour, but it is not enough to solve all the problems. That's why I adopt the agricultural IoT system and remote sensing drone as new equipment this year to monitor crop growth in real time. Next season, I will consider trying more autonomous technologies in my field, such as the smart water valve management system," said Lihua with confidence.

At the harvesting ceremony, Lihua's paddy was estimated to meet a crop yield of 6000 kilogram per hectare, 20% higher than the expected output. The bumper harvest has filled the young farmer with determination to boldly expand her agribusiness plan, further bridging the yield gap from the beginning of next planting season.

Lihua discussing her agribusiness plan with her cousin

Lihua discussing her agribusiness plan with her cousin

As the first early adopter, Lihua also teaches other rural youth in Sihui to operate agricultural drone. Drones and AI not only encourage these "next-gen farmers" to embrace countryside, but also empower more young women like Lihua, who have passion for serving their hometowns, with the opportunity for equal occupations and decent works. Rural women can play to their strengths in agriculture and become the main force to invigorate the rural economy.

When agriculture gets rid of those tedious, dangerous farm work, more young people will be attracted to return to rural areas and see farming as an appealing career.