Drone-based solutions for cassava production in Cambodia

Our experts at agricultural drone services developer and provider XAG made a stopover in Cambodia on their world tour to bring drone-based solutions to precision agriculture.

Below is an account of their experiences in the Southeast Asian country.

Drone technology has been recently introduced in Cambodia’s cassava cultivations to help small-scale farmers earn better yields, while bringing down the costs of farm input.

Cassava is the most important agro-industrial crop in Cambodia; it provides employment and a source of livelihood to thousands of rural citizens in the country. Supporting the national cassava policy, XAG delivers new energy to this sector with its agricultural drones that can use less water and chemical and ease the workload on farm.

A big leap forward in productivity

Broadly grown on over 600,000 hectares of farmland in Cambodia, cassava covers the second largest planting area after the rice paddy and contributes to four percent of GDP growth. However, the tradition of cassava farming involves intensive labour and time-consuming process.

To meet the growing demand of cassava-based products including food, flour, paper and alcohol, Cambodian farmers have rapidly expanded their planting areas and started applying XAG’s agricultural drones for productivity boom.

Chhay Thi is an early adopter of spray drone who owns 20 hectares of land in Varin District, Siem Reap Province of Cambodia. This May, he ordered services from XAG local partner Red Sparrow Cambodia and had the XAG Agricultural Drone to demonstrate autonomous weeding on his 10-hectare cassava field.

Unlike the large agricultural machinery, drones can be transported conveniently and deployed to the field much easier. After the liquid tank was filled with herbicide, the XAG agricultural drone automatically took off as the drone operator played simple clicks on mobile app.

The drone flew over ridges of cassava plants, sprayed precisely along the pre-set route, and finished 8ha of herbicide spraying via unmanned control. In the past, the same amount of work would usually take farm workers more than a week to complete manually, but now, it can be done within one hour by only one agricultural drone.

Despite the fact that the agriculture sector maintains an adequate workforce in Cambodia, farm owners are also faced with costs of up to $18-25 per hectare when they hire workers for pesticide spraying. A group of farm workers can only spray a single hectare per day, which would mean the traditional sprayers struggle to catch up with demand during the busy season of cassava growth.

A safer option to battle rising costs

Besides the increased efficiency, drones are helping farmers like Chhay Thi to reduce overall planting costs.

“If I hire an XAG drone to help me with crop protection, I can save $8-10 per hectare,” Chhay says. “Drone operations also reduce wastage of chemicals by 10-30 percent, so the resources and money saved can be reallocated to the other crop cultivation.”

The agricultural drone has other benefits of closing the yield gap and protecting farmers from chemical exposure. The top-down way the drone sprays from the air successfully prevents large ground machinery from having direct contact with the cassava crop, ensuring that pesticides or fertilisers can penetrate the plants with precision and avoid crop damage.

Besides, cassava can grow higher than one metre and sometimes even over the height of an average human being, which can pose problems for traditional spraying methods, where farmers either carry backpack sprayers or drive tractors to enter the field.

Drones can eliminate the health risks of farmers inhaling chemicals and getting poisoned.

“I believe the high efficiency and affordable price will accelerate the scaleup of drone operation among more farmers,” says Chhay, who hails from a village where most people rely on cassava as a main source of income. “XAG’s agricultural drone can not only help me reap more harvest, but also serve other farmers with the same demand for cassava boom.”

The production, processing and export of cassava has been the key driver of Cambodia’s agricultural economy. According to the National Cassava Policy 2020-2025 issued by Royal Government of Cambodia, the country is positioned to be a home of cassava production and processing industries and becomes a reliable supplier of cassava products for regional and global market.

Drone technology has showed its various advantages on farm management, from improving crop yields, using less pesticides to safeguarding the well-being of rural workers.

As Cambodia is the world’s tenth largest producer of cassava with plans for steps forward, XAG anticipates having more cassava farmers adopt agricultural drone solutions to get better profits in a sustainable way.

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