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Drones Drop Seeds with Hope for Chile’s Highland Farms

As the largest city of the northern Chilean Patagonia, Coyhaique has some of the most suitable highland pastures for grazing. Facing severe soil erosion due to climate change, this treasure land has become the focus of government and agricultural research institutes, who are working together with local young entrepreneurs to introduce farming drones for aerial seeding. Drones are now flying over the Patagonia to bring healthy vegetation back to the land of Chile.

The view of Coyhaique pasture from a glance. (Source: Tecmundo)

In recent years, the composition of the soil in the Coyhaique pastures can hardly preserve water and is extremely vulnerable to strong winds and hard rains. Subject to overgrazing, these fragile soils have been exposed to the risk of biodiversity loss which threatens the livelihood of local herdsmen.

The Agricultural Research Institute of Chile (INIA) is the Chilean national agency that has conducted long-term studies on pasture development and sustainable agriculture with a 40-hectare experimental land in Coyhaique. Led by INIA and the Production Development Corporation of Chile (CORFO), a field trial of using XAG agricultural drones to spread grass seeds was carried out in November 2021 for the mountainous regions. 

The XAG P Series Agricultural drone ready for grass spreading experiment. (Source: Tecmundo)

Tecmundo, as XAG’s local partner in Chile, prepared technical support for this field research together with Eduardo, a 27-year-old drone pilot who set up the first crop protection service company in the Coyhaique area.

After pouring a mixture of five grass seeds into the smart container, Eduardo skillfully set the drone’s flight route and spread velocity on his mobile app. With a few clicks, the drone started its fully autonomous operation with high precision, spreading grass seeds along the delineated area.

Chile’s agricultural experts measured the length and angle of slope before spreading. (Source: Tecmundo)

Based on the undulations of the terrains, XAG’s JetSeed granular spreading module on board the drone enabled an average distribution of seeds projected to the soil. The grass seeds is expected to sprout and grow strong roots as the anchor to fix the fragile soil layers, while providing tasty and nutritious forage for the livestock once they are fully grown.

Representatives from CORFO and INIA checked the drone spreading performance. (Source: Tecmundo)

Rodrigo Quitana, an agricultural engineer and specialist in precision agricultural technology, automation, and mechanisation from INIA, revealed that the outcome of spreading will be useful to the study of drone technology in Chile. The grass seed germination rate and growth status constantly monitored by INIA will be an important reference for the national research with the Chile Ministry of Agriculture. Rodrigo believed that the research result will provide effective guidance for Coyhaique herdsman to improve their grazing behaviours and raise productivity.

In the future, as XAG keeps working with Tecmundo to be the promoter of autonomous agritech on Chile’s diverse landscape, drone technology will allow more Chilean farmers to find the right balance between improving incomes and protecting environment.

Eduardo, a local young entrepreneur in Coyhaique region, Chile. (Source: Tecmundo)
Rodrigo Quitana, an agricultural engineer and specialist from INIA. (Source: Tecmundo)
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Rural Spotlight | Small vs. Big in Ukraine

With its extensive fertile lands, Ukraine is naturally suited for grain production. During the busy farming season, before dew falls off from the grasses, carrying their new drones and setting off to the farmland has become the daily routine of a professional pilot team.

They are the early adopters of the XAG V40 Agricultural Drone, with full confidence that this nimble new technology will connect more and more Ukrainian farmers into the digital age. With the power of autonomous drones, they believe the traditional “breadbasket of Europe” will be endowed with a new identity as the outpost of smart farming in Europe.

In a peaceful morning, two vans were driving smoothly on the field border. What would they have in the van container?

The foldable twin-rotor agriculture drone, named XAG V40, is highly portable that it can easily be transported and unloaded to the field.

Two young men just put down the drone gently and unfold it swiftly, waiting for a good show to begin on this open field.

This female drone pilot shows us to always remember ‘safety first’ when working on farm. Put on your drone safety vest and keep distance away from the operation zone.

Remote control in palm, take flight and soar, easy-peasy as ever.

“Hello big guy! Are you the buddy work with me in field?” Drones and tractors could become friends to help farmers reap a harvest.

Running on such a vast landscape is never an easy thing. “Do not come and chase me! My wings are designed for the sky, I was born to fly high.”

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Rural Spotlight |”Skywalker” Above the Mekong River

Astonishingly exotic and utterly compelling, Vietnam is a southeast Asian country of unique natural beauties and incredible historical heritages. It thrives on agriculture with rice being the most important staple crops that are grown primarily in the Red and Mekong River deltas.

As Vietnamese farmers are burdened with a heavy manual workload, XAGand its local partners are bringing exciting new technology that attracts young people back to the farmland. Following their footsteps of scaling up drones in rural areas today, we’ll see how a new blueprint reveals for future farming.

From China to Vietnam, XAG P40, the newest “skywalker” brings farming automation to this land of friendship.

Two young drone pilots are carefully conducting maintenance before taking the new agricultural “skywalker” to rice field demonstration.

This two-rotor drone carries not only revolutionary agricultural innovations but also the power of women in rural development.

Suit up with steady gaze at the nearby drones. As everything is ready, these two newbies of farming are now on the way to becoming skilled drone operators.

The game is always on balance when the P40 spreads rice seeds straight on the spots.

Took off, cool as a breeze, XAG P40 shows outstanding smooth mega-flow spraying to the rice crops.

From playing with a toy to operating a real game-changer, they will grow up as the future landscape of farming is destined to change.

Photo credit: VietNam Smart Agriculture Technology Joint Stock Company

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Kenaf: Nature’s little-known wonder in Malaysia

A 200-hectare kenaf plantation in the Chuping Valley Industrial Area, Malaysia

From paper to furniture and from biofuel to textiles, a plant that most people may not have heard about can be used to produce many types of eco-friendly materials. That is Kenaf, a warm-season annual row crop in the same plant family as okra and cotton.

In Malaysia, kenaf is fast becoming the country’s third industrial crop after palm oil and rubber after first being introduced in 2010. Across the country, there are about 2,000 hectares of kenaf farms, including those run by smallholders— the export value of which stood at RM10 million.

Locals, however, are not keen to work in plantations despite lucrative income. At the same time, “the production of downstream industrial products (end products), including fiber for local usage, is still low,” said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin, after visiting a 200-hectare kenaf plantation in the Chuping Valley Industrial Area (CVIA) this October. 

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Zuraida was adding fertilizers into the container of XAG Agricultural Drone.

In addition to assistance for kenaf cultivation from the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board (LKTN), Malaysia government also supports the introduction of drones and robots to help reduce the labor burden. During the visit, XAG’s local partner Alliance Agrotech hosted a field demo of autonomous farming drones and invited the minister to experience the new tech. With these great helpers, farmers can easily handle fertilizers and pesticides spraying with high precision.

The ready-to-work drone from XAG is waiting on field for its mission

Kenaf may already be “all over the place”, including the production of industrial building system, pulp for environmentally friendly packaging, biocomposites and animal feed. Malaysia, as a leading exporter of kenaf, will be continuously providing high-quality kenaf and other end products in the future to build a stronger and sustainable economy.

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Rural Spotlight | Support #COP15 Biodiversity Targets

Shaped by natural processes and the increasing influence of human activities, biodiversity forms the web of life of which we fully depend upon for thousands of years. On October 11-15 this year, the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) is held in Kunming, China to convene governments from the world to agree on a new set of goals for nature over the next decade.

21 targets are proposed in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, among which sustainable management of agriculture and forestry serves as the main measure. Agriculture might be generally neglected as a great constituent to maintain biodiversity. But as technology arises in rural areas, there have been more applications of tackling biodiversity loss in agriculture, from less use of chemicals to land restoration.

From fields to pastures, crossing rivers and forests, drones and robots are now the integral part of maintaining the balance of nature. They are acting as the new type of “painkiller” in natural habitat under potential threats to lift the pain of environment.

Two young herdsmen poured grass seeds into the tank of their newly bought drone, which they consider a new hope to protect their beloved pasture that was subject to degradation, Hongyuan, Sichuan, China. June 2021.

Witnessed by a group of pilot teams, a nimble drone was flying above the fire-affected peat swamp to broadcast grass seeds for post-fire recovery, Lake Cobrico, Victoria, Australia. April 2021.

On a pasture attacked by the African Lovegrass, drone’s humming was just like the war cry of battle declare to one of the most invasive weeds, New South Wales, Australia. March 2021.

Another battle begins to protect shrimps and fish against invasions. A very impressive and cost-effective way to control aquatic weeds in and around multiple large dams. Queensland, Australia. August 2021.

A neatly planted apple orchard gets its first fungicide spray of the year, enjoying the sophisticated care from R150 robot without chemical pollution, UK. April 2021.

Do you want to know the secret behind this picturesque paddy scene? This organic rice field was experiencing a contamination-free shower from a spray drone with bioagent loaded, Geumodo Island, South Korea. July 2020.

The crop-devouring borers were being ambushed by the spray drone delivering biological pesticides made from Trichogramma. There’s going to be a “bugbits” in this organic sugarcane plantation, Ecuador. July 2020.

Keep quiet! The flying forest ranger doesn’t like to be disturbed while on mission of warding off scarab in poplar forest, Northwest China. June 2021.

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In Brazil’s Planted Forests, Drones Hover for Tree Protection

In Latin American, Brazil is famous for its ‘powerhouse’ identity as the world’s major exporter of agricultural products such as soybeans, maize, and rice. Ranked 1st on natural resources out of all countries, Brazil’s agricultural-related sectors including forestry and logging also accounted for 6.9% of the national GDP, according to the Brazilian Industry of Planted Trees (IBA).

Most Profitable Trees to Grow

In southeastern Brazil, you can easily find a spectacular landscape of forests and woods: vast densely planted forests spread to the horizon just like a nicely weaved dark green carpet, with millions of neatly arrayed trees swaying amidst the breeze.

The vast densely planted forests in Brazil (Source: Tecponta)

Among all tree species in plantations, eucalyptus can rapidly grow over 10 meters within a year, making it one of the most profitable plant cultivations. However, eucalyptus saplings can be vulnerable to the Eucalyptus snout beetles, a destructive insect pest that feeds on young leaves and has caused wood losses of 648 million euros in the past 20 years.

Traditionally, plantation managers used self-propelled sprayers to apply pesticides for their freshly planted saplings. Unlike most crops in Brazil, eucalyptus is usually located at hilly sloped areas, which makes it a difficult task for large ground machinery to access with timely care. In a long period of time, plantation managers have been seeking smarter alternatives for tree protection.

Traditional tools like self-propelled sprayers used to spray pesticides for saplings (Source: Tecponta)

Defend against Snout Beetles

This summer, when snout beetles launched an attack, agricultural drones as new helpers have actively pitched in to defend the forests. On June 24 to 25, witnessed by a group of plantation managers and experts from pulp and paper company, agricultural drone fleet from XAG was sent for tree spraying demonstration in Botucatu, State of Sao Paulo.

Plantation managers and experts witnessing the XAG agricultural drone fleet spraying (Source: Tecponta)

Controlled by one single pilot, XAG drones easily crossed through complex landform from 2-3 meters above the canopy, entering rugged terrains to spray precisely without restriction.

One single pilot controlling XAG drones for the forest protection mission (Source: Tecponta)

Flying spirally above the top of trees, the drone could cover the whole canopy. Through powerful downdraft, the atomised droplets better penetrated the bark and leaves top down, providing reinforced protection against wood pests and preventing severe income loss to plantation owners.

“In Brazil, spray drones are mainly used for controlling agricultural pests, diseases, and weeds with biological products. Currently, some forest science research institutes as well as pulp and paper companies are starting to explore the possibilities of drone applications in forest management. We are now ready to support with XAG’s drone technology,” said Antonio Ferreira, Director of Megadrone Brazil.

Using spray drones to explore the possibilities of forest management (Source: Tecponta)
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Rural Spotlight | Ecuadorian Farmers on the Rise of Drone

Renowned for its tropical specialty crops such as bananas, cacao and coffee, Ecuador is one of the most environmentally diverse countries located in northwestern South America. With the introduction of autonomous drones and robots, Ecuador is now reinventing the future of farming.

Megadrone Ecuador, as a group of agri-tech forerunner in the country, plays a vital role in expanding the use of agricultural drones and training young pilots. The involvement of drones throughout the agricultural product chain has been gaining momentum, to help Ecuadorian farmers cope with its challenging terrains and increase profit margin.

Andes Mountain range is a green jewel of the rich variety of landscapes that can be widely seen in Ecuador, July 2021

The Megadrone team with fleet of XAG drones took a long but stunning trip to participate in the high-altitude potato trial project in Hacienda la Ovejeria, Andes-Northeast Ecuador, July 2021

Since drone testing was conducted on rugged terrain, organisers were carefully discussing the details of the trial to ensure each team can perform perfectly, July 2021

Sitting beside high-altitude potato field, an XAG Agricultural Drone impressed people on site by precisely controlling its atomised droplets, July 2021

Experts compared the results of sensitive paper tests, where XAG drone made an excellent show on delivering uniform sprays on potato crops, July 2021

A mother filmed the spraying drone together with her lovely families in a terraced avocado field deep down the Andes, July 2021

With the companion of her lovely puppy, the little Pom Pom Beanie was enjoying the visual feast of drone flying over cornfield, July 2021

Just like a Superman flying between highland terrains, the farming drone looked after the vast fields without any restriction, July 2021

Two technicians were checking the farming drone. Megadrone Ecuador regularly provides technical training to pilots and makes ensure that the machine can keep daily work routine, July 2021

SHHH! There is no worry of the Supermen having no time to get enough rest, July 2021

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Japan Aroma Bombs: The Most Expensive Grapes?

Large, seedless, with light green skin as well as firm and crispy texture of each single grain, just a nibble to let sweet juice exploding in your mouth along with strong floral and musk aroma. This is the Japanese “Shine Muscat”, a popular high-class grape that has the trio of quality, aroma, and taste, known as the “Queen of Muscat”. In a vineyard of Japan, a mysterious robot with the classic red colour frame was recently spotted to correct the effect of labour shortage on muscat.

The Japanese grape with juicy, sweet, thick flesh and unique refreshing aroma (Source: 企業組合ジパング)

Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture is one of the four main production areas of Shine Muscat that is widely exported to other Asian countries. However, most grapes are cultivated with intensive labour under family-run model or small-scale business. As elderly farmers retired and rural youth fleeing their villages, the Japanese fruit industry is seeking for new techniques to bear this premium sweet grape variety.

Shine Muscat vineyard in Yamagata Prefecture (Source: 企業組合ジパング)

In mid-July, Japanese farmers have brought an autonomous farm robot – XAG R150 Unmanned Ground Vehicle into a private Shine Muscat vineyard in Yamagata Prefecture with the help of drone company Zipangu. They used the robot in a trial to test if this hands-free machine can precisely spray the vineyard and ward off pest insects or diseases.  

On the request of the fruit growers, the robot operator adjusted the spray volume and angle carefully on mobile app. With a few clicks, the R150 began moving forward and spraying water bottom-up to grape vines that climb on overhead trellis.

The local farmers and experts watching the spraying demonstration (Source: 企業組合ジパング)

This nimble robot also easily traversed beneath the horizontally arranged grape vines, in which farmers need to bend over to walk through. This can reduce adverse health impacts on farm workers who used to perform repetitive motions. “It’s like a new type of cure to my back pain, I suppose,” a farmer who watched the demo said.

The R150 farm robot performing autonomous and precise spraying to the grapes (Source: 企業組合ジパング)

From this summer, it is expected that Japanese farmers can enjoy a higher level of automation when growing their queen of fruits. 

Who will be the one to taste the first batch of high-value grapes served by an autonomous robot? And are you willing to pay 10 times the price of locally-produced grapes to try this new table variety?

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The Sunflower Monologue | From Seeds to Harvest

Across the world, a spectacular sea of distinctive yellow sunflowers is now blooming and waiting to be harvested. In Ukraine, it is expected that the 2021 sunflower harvest would increase to between 16.5 to 17.5 million mt due to a rise in acreage and yield improvement. Different from the last season, this year Ukrainian farmers are grabbing a new harvest-aid tool – agricultural drones to protect their sunflowers.

The mature sunflowers, with the fat head holding all the seeds, remain moisture for an extended period before Mother Nature doing the desiccating. They should be dried down to 15% moisture or less before being harvested for seeds.

Natural sunflowers dry down can be slow and uneven. Therefore, farmers usually spray desiccants to speed up the drying process and render the same piece of land ready for harvest at the same time. This can also decrease yield losses due to inclement weather, lodging and bird depredation if the optimal reaping time is missed.

However, these fleshy heads own rough hairy stem 2 to 4.5 metres high after the flowering stage, which means that traditional tractors lose its magic for these mature, giant yellow disk flowers. High-clearance machinery with four long legs used to be the only answer for desiccating sunflowers.

Since high-clearance tractors are not always within reach, farmers have resorted to more high-tech equipment such as XAG’s autonomous drones. These agile, terrain-adaptive drones can easily reach up to 4 meters, allowing desiccants to be sprayed from an appropriate height without damaging any crop.

Using drones to shave a week or two off the maturing process and keep these yellow blooming flowers dried down at the same pace can be advantageous for growers. Otherwise, they are likely to experience late-season stalk disease in their crops.

(source: DroneUA)

Drones as the flying guards are spraying down, while sunflowers are swaying mildly in the wind for their drying process. Have you seen such a beautiful scene?

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Youth Actions | Sky is Not Her Limit

As the 32nd Summer Olympics ended, the clock is now ticking for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Zhangjiakou, a city in the Hebei province of Northern China, will join Beijing as one of the three competition zones. And Kangbao County of Zhangjiakou has taken on the responsibility of supplying clean and green energy to the Olympics venues utilising wind energy source. Believe or not, just a year ago, Kangbao had just dismissed from the national list of poverty-stricken counties.

Behind the scenes of getting rid of poverty, there is a group of rural entrepreneurs who introduce drones into agriculture and help local farmers master this new technology. Women power takes a large proportion among them, and Sheng Guangning is one of the young females who contribute to changing the face of her hometown.

Sheng Guangning was born in 1980s in Kangbao County, once a state-level extreme poverty county in China with an average age over 65. During the busy farming season, hiring workers for pesticide spraying was a huge headache to elderly farmers. They had to carry a knapsack sprayer to care for their crops, which was rather low efficient in pest and disease control to protect food yields. Moreover, this also posed a severe health risk to farmers who exposed themselves to chemical and scorching sun in hot summer. Agriculture ended up with painstakingly heavy labour.

At that time, Sheng as a graduate from agricultural university, was quite depressed by the aging and labour crisis in her hometown. With a strong sense of responsibility, she hoped to use her knowledge to turn around the underdeveloped economy.

Local farmers in Kangbao

Through a field visit to Henan in 2017, she came across XAG’s agricultural drones as an intelligent spraying tool in farming. From then on, Sheng worked hard to introduce these machines into her village to help smallholders effectively improve crop yields amid labour shortage.

Though it was a bumpy road to convince farmers to accept new tech, the stable drone operation as well as the professional and high-quality service provided by Sheng enabled her to tackle the mistrust of villagers. Her drone spraying service has covered a variety of crops ranging from wheat, corn, potato, flax to roses.

With Great Ability, Comes Great Responsibility

As a civil servant of natural resource and planning bureau, Sheng has also galvanised a pilot team to provide precise farming services for Zhangjiakou farmers. In a morning of this July, when the temperature reached 30 degrees in Kangbao County, Sheng and her team were just about to set off for another mission.

They had received an order from a vegetable grower, as a deadly pest was discovered in his lettuce field with high potential to destroy his harvest. Emergent spraying must be arranged quickly to curtail the spread of pests.

lettuce field that requires spraying

Sheng’s team reacted immediately the moment they reached the scene. Two sets of XAG agricultural drone were sent to the field, having flight speed, height and droplet size all adjusted on mobile app. As usual, the drone took off to spray right above the pest host spots with minimal pesticide use.

Sheng operates the drone to perform pest control

“There’s a huge difference in efficiency and cost between hand sprayer and drone,” Sheng said, “For one single worker, it takes at least three days to manual spray this 2-hectare veggie field, but the same amount of work can be done within an hour if he orders a drone for operation.

“Also, drone spraying is 50% cheaper than hiring workers who get their feet into the field. In this way, smallholders can reap higher revenue with lower production cost, while young people can improve their lives by working as drone pilots or drone surveyors.” From 2018, Sheng has worked with Kangbao County government and technical schools to provide drone training courses for farmers and graduate students.

Drone spraying is more efficient than manual spraying

Her training courses provided a quick access for rural youth who wish to improve their skills for better employment. Till today, more than 600 new-gen farmers have learned hands-on skills through Sheng’s training programme. In summer season, they can earn an extra monthly income of around RMB 5,000 by conducting drone spraying and field mapping on farms.

In 2020, China has made great progress in eradicating poverty, and rural women are the ‘powerful force’ for no poverty and zero hunger actions. There are millions of women from rural areas who are breaking through the confines of public opinion, bravely entering the field of agri-tech to transform the food system.