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23 May
Thursday

Asia

Biggest agricultural drone work in China

It used for crop monitoring as well as pesticide spraying

Photo: SCMP

/NOVOSTIVL/ On a road trip through Xinjiang in 2012, Peng Bin saw how ageing farmers laboured in vast cotton fields with heavy tanks of pesticides strapped to their backs, spraying the chemicals without any protection. This article appeared in the South China Morning Post.

“I could smell the acrid stench of pesticide from afar and I thought maybe my unmanned aircraft could help,” said Peng, 37, founder and chief executive of XAG, one of China’s biggest makers of agricultural drones. “At least drone spraying would limit the farmers’ exposure to the chemicals.”

It is also more cost-effective, an important consideration for the labour-starved agricultural industry in China. In general, a drone can do the same spraying job in 1/30th the time, and the more challenging the terrain, the more advantage a drone has.

The Shenzhen-based company sees its latest drones, including the Mavic 2 and Agras MG-1, as being squarely aimed at the industrial segment, which accounts for more than half of the global US$9 billion drone market.

During the drive, they visited farmers and showed them demo videos of XAG’s drones, like travelling salesmen. Peng said some farmers showed interest and asked where they could buy the drones or send them for repair. One farmer invited them to his land and asked if the drones could monitor the crops and help him save on water, he said.

The ultimate aim, said Peng, is to reshape farming into a respected profession like medicine or engineering. The average annual disposable income of a rural resident in China was 14,617 yuan (US$2,443), or 37 per cent of a city dweller, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

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