South Africa’s Sugarcane farmers might finally be able to make some profits off of their crops. For a long time, the sugar industry in South Africa had been suffering and moving towards a downward graph due to the quality of the sugarcane’s being bad. The XAG drones were recently tested on the farms, and the crops have given sweeter results this time. The drones are equipped with special spraying technology that might breathe some life into the industry again. South Africa is the world’s fifteenth largest sugarcane producer, and a lot of its GDP also depends on this cash crop. The sugar cane industry in South Africa alone is worth 833 million dollars.
The industry had been struggling to keep up its profit margins due to sugar taxes and an influx of cheap imports. In June, in Seafield farm, the stalk of crops that arrived was slightly different, in terms that a commercial ripening method was tried on it with the help of drones and helicopters. The commercial ripening of crops is a process where a chemical ripener is applied to the crops to enhance the sucrose content in the crop and is usually done six to nine weeks before the harvest.
The farm was divided into different parts taking calculated measures. Each was sprayed with a selective ripener. The drone had a custom sprayer attached to it and a 12-liter liquid smart tank designed in a modular fashion. The drone used was a XAG P20; it sprayed inside the given segment very precisely. The drone consistently stayed at the height of two to three meters above the crops during the process. This process has shown that the drones have performed considerably better than the manual spraying using helicopters, in terms of both the crop yield and its overall quality and sugar production.
Since the quality of work done to the high worker wages is very disproportionate, the drones will come in super handy for the sugarcane farmers of South Africa.
As drone technology’s advantages are coming into light in various industries, people are gradually accepting the technology into their daily lives. “Drone, imagery, and a smart agriculture system can help us solve many environmental and labor problems,” said Kim Hien, the man behind the Seafield trials.
Sugarcane crops grow to a height of 3 meters to anywhere near 7 meters, thus using tractors and other ground technologies is not good enough.
Manual spraying with workers’ help is also not an option since the workers will be exposed to the chemicals. It leaves us with the only option: aerial spraying with manual help, which was airplanes and helicopters for the last two decades. With the introduction of smart drones, the sugarcane industry may be looking at a revolutionary change in the way they grow their crops. Hein said that they usually end up with the helicopter company’s problems, which offers a minimum spray of 50 hectares a day, but they usually only want to do 2 to 3 hectares a week. It does not allow flexibility in the ripening process, which means the outcome might fail, and drones will be a good alternative.