Smart Agriculture Solutions
2021-09-16 18:24On the Roof of Ecuador, XAG Spearheads Drones for Sustainable Andean Farming2021-09-16 18:24More >Flying into the Andes mountains of Ecuador, XAG Agricultural Drones are recently introduced to a series of on-farm spray trials for high-altitude specialty crops. The demonstrations on potato fields have presented the high potential of fully autonomous drones in reducing labour cost and agricultural pesticide exposure.XAG's partner driving through this beautiful Andes mountains of Ecuador (source: MegaDrone SA)With diverse climate and rural landscapes, more than half of Ecuador is located in the Andes at sea level over 3000 meters, growing the most common crops such as corn, wheat, barley, and potatoes. The major farming steps from crop spraying to fertilising can become difficult at this altitude comparing to that on the plains.Both smallholders and large farms are seeking high-precision drone as alternative to manual labour and ground machinery. While rural youth have been trained as XAG drone pilots, more abandoned farmlands are being restored to fertile soils that cultivate the exotic Ecuadorian fruits and vegetables.Precision Farming Cares for Fragile BeautySince this July, XAG's local partner MegaDrone has been conducting drone spraying demonstrations for Andean potato farmers in the region of Carchi. The growing potato crops were evenly sprayed with minimal chemical by XAG Agricultural Drone equipped with four atomised nozzles and a 16L smart liquid tank. For most Ecuadorian farmers on scene, this was their first-time watching drone spray crops along the slopes of Andes. Ecuadorian farmers watch XAG's drone spraying crops for the first time (source: MegaDrone SA)Farm Hacienda la Ovejeria, which takes a ten-hour drive from Ecuador's capital, Quito, on the way that is featured with breathtaking blue skies, towering snow-capped mountains and a rich biodiversity. However, the inhabitants of the Ecuadorian Andes have to produce food crops in face of various challenges such as soil erosion and inaccurate pesticide application. Traditionally, manual spraying and ground-based machinery are two main solutions to protect food crops from pests and diseases. Though large tractors can enhance the productivity of potato farms, their increasing weight and size make them hardly adapt the mountainous terrain while the huge tyres would compact the fragile mountain soil.Traditional machinery like tractors is not suitable for mountainous terrain (source: MegaDrone SA)According to the test result, flying over the canopy from 2 meters above, the XAG Agricultural Drone could deliver droplets directly to the base of the potato plants without causing spray drift and soil compaction. As sustainable agricultural practices get highly concerned in Ecuador, Andean farmers start embracing farming drones to increase yield on the sloped Andes areas.The test shows XAG agricultural drone has great spraying performance to the potatoes (source: MegaDrone SA)Promoting Good Agricultural PracticesThe Andean Highlands is home to over 4,000 varieties of potato, yet this staple food crop is susceptible to weevils and tuber moth that can ruin the potato fields. In the past, potato farmers needed to spray pesticides 14 times during a growth cycle to prevent severe yield loss caused by pest hazards. Indiscriminate spray by hand or boom spray by ground machinery can lead to an overuse of pesticides, which has contaminated soil and water of the Andean mountains.Spraying drone can be an eco-friendly helper and makes it a less difficult task for farmers to strike a balance of efficiency and sustainability. During the potato field demo in Farm Hacienda la Ovejeria, XAG Agricultural Drone was operated by an Ecuadorian pilot to show its capacity of precision spraying. Its 30% reduction in chemical use and 90% water saving allow farmers to effectively control pests and fungal diseases with minimum environmental impact.The farm owner, also a major potato supplier in Ecuador, has strict requirements for the quality of potato processing ingredients. It places great importance on Good Agricultural Practices to reduce yield loss and produce potatoes of high quality. The agricultural drone can be a sustainable solution to the Ecuadorian farmers (source: MegaDrone SA)"It has been acknowledged that XAG's agricultural drone can accurately navigate itself and keep spray on the right target. Its level of automation and precision is unachievable by other agricultural equipment, which helps to phase out the farmer stereotype", said Ma Zhiqiang, CEO of Megadrone who has been spearheading XAG's technology in South America. Another test will be arranged in October to further evaluate the spraying performance of agricultural drone before official adoption of this new technology.According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Ecuador, a project financing of 5 million Euro has been implemented with FAO in the country to introduce technical assistance for the preservation of the Andean Landscapes. The agile agricultural drone would be a powerful tool to promote sustainable farming in Ecuador's 3.2 million hectares of cultivable soil.
2021-08-11 23:49SHE Power Innovation: Switch Over to AI-driven Rice Farming2021-08-11 23:49More >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, ChinaThe 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 dronesAs 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 villageTo 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 farmThroughout 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"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 cousinAs 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.
2021-07-28 13:34Sunny Side Up: XAG Spray Drones Come as Emergency Help to Secure Ukraine Sunflower2021-07-28 13:34More >To ensure that sunflower crops will thrive under abnormal weather patterns, fleets of XAG Agricultural Drones have been conducting urgent, timely crop spraying operations in multiple regions of Ukraine. As heavy rains pour in, drone technology can top up the domestic under-equipped agricultural sector facing decline in sunflower crop yield and tight seed availability. This is expected to help safeguard a sufficient global supply of sunflower oil, as well as strengthening Ukraine's lead as "breadbasket of Europe".XAG Agricultural Drone conducted fungicide spraying on Ukraine's sunflower crops Since capturing the Ukraine market at the end of 2020, XAG has rapidly expanded its agricultural drones into varied sustainable farming practices that cover oilseed, corn, wheat, barley, and other grain crops. The spray drones are widely used in cultivated sunflower crops which account for over 20% of Ukraine's arable land area. Ukraine is known as the world's largest sunflower oil producer and exporter. Cultivating Climate-resilience on Farm During this wet season in July, Ukraine's sunflower cultivation makes its way into the vegetative stage, with growers on the outlook for foliar diseases such as sunflower rust. Through a nationwide sales and service networks, XAG agricultural drones have been deployed for fungicide applications with high precision, which are urgent and arduous to prevent large-scale yield loss. The autonomous drone operations to spray fungicide was led by ZigZag Solutions and AgroCopter as XAG sub-dealers in Ukraine. As adverse weather conditions become more frequent due to climate change, significant precipitation could lead to an outbreak of infectious crop diseases caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It also brings out incapability of traditional ground machinery that is difficult to enter the wetland. In the past, agronomists had no other option but to delay operation and later increase pesticide doses as a result of skipping the optimal time to spray. Drones fly into the sky after heavy rains When classic self-propelled tractors are declined to help, drones can be nimble emergency helpers for Ukrainian farmers. They react much faster and are able to perform spraying right after rains in the inaccessible sunflower wetlands, with less chemical use and zero damage on soils. Having flight speed, height, and droplet size all set up on mobile app, the pilot instructed XAG agricultural drones to spray from 4 metres above the canopy on the pre-programmed path. One drone can cover up to 18 hectares of sunflower farmlands in only one hour. Sunflower is one of the most important cash crops that offer the best profitability to Ukrainian farmers. It can be used to produce seeds, animal feed and oil with many health benefits as it is low in saturated fat and high in essential fatty acids. However, the 2020/21 sunflower yields in Ukraine decreased by 15% because of a prolonged drought, while the sunflower seed stocks fell to five-year low this February following the second highest levels of crushing activity on record. Ukraine's large-scale sunflower farms Farmers in Ukraine are now turning to drones for closing the yield gap in sunflower harvest while reducing production costs and fossil fuel consumption. "Drones can work on long-stalk crops without damaging them. This creates a huge opportunity for farmers and a high return of investments," said Valerii Iakovenko, Co-founder of Drone UA who is XAG's official partner in Ukraine. "We have totally positive feedback from farmers, during this rainy season drones were the only solutions in many cases. It is a revolutionary new and effective instrument, and more farmers understand that spraying drones are the real tools and XAG is the best of them." A Yellow Bumper Harvest Ahead Ukraine is one of the largest global grain and forage crop producer which plays a major role in feeding the world's growing population. However, farmers have been incurring relatively rising production costs and higher levels of yield loss, while bearing the brunt of climate impacts. According to World Data Center Ukraine, farm managers estimate that 10 to 20 percent of the standing crops are typically lost due to outdated, inefficient machinery. As Ukraine is marching its way into a global agricultural powerhouse, the demand for high-tech farming equipment witnesses a continuous high growth now and in the future. Specifically, when farmers have problems entering the field due to crop height and heavy rainfalls, XAG's AI-controlled agricultural drones can be applied to various stages of sunflower cultivation. This April, after the sunflower seeds were sown until they germinated, drones were sent to remove herbicides on the field to prevent weeds from competing nutrients, water, and sunlight with the seedlings. A spray drone was ready to take off At the upcoming flowering and pre-harvest season, XAG drones will fly into the blooming bulk of sunflowers for fungicide spraying and desiccation. The sunflower plant height can reach over 2 meters at this stage, when it was mostly impossible to spray in the past because of the lack of high-clearance machinery. It is anticipated that Ukrainian farmers can reap an additional up to 10% of harvest using drones that do not cause any damage to crop. Getting the sunflower harvested several weeks early can result in higher yields and lower drying costs. Drones can be the ideal helpers to spray harvest-aid desiccant for speeding up the dry-down process and decreasing crop losses due to inclement weather, lodging, diseases, and bird depredation. Besides its trademark yellow flower, a bumper sunflower harvest can contribute to brightening the future of global edible oil supply. Drones can be the optimal solution on sustainably boosting sunflower yield and making farming more resilient to climate change.