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A first-of-its-kind virtual conference on drone use for pesticide application in Asia concluded this week after three days of dialogue and discussion among stakeholders from across the food supply chain
The event focused on perspectives ranging from those of regional governments, manufacturers as well as commercial adopters, and experts in the field forecasting future innovations.
“Our industry takes seriously its commitment to ensure responsible use of plant science technologies and sustainable agricultural practices. Drones are a new tool that can support and strengthen that effort - and have the potential to play a transformative role in Asian agriculture,” said Gustavo Palerosi-Carnerio, CropLife Asia president.
“As with any innovation, the most critical components are the best practices that reflect responsible use and the policies that underpin them. Through this week’s conference, we've heard vital insights from agricultural drone use experts in these areas and what the future may hold. We look forward to continuing these constructive conversations, and working with regulators and other key stakeholders across the food supply chain to help deliver drone use for pesticide application in Asia that is conducted responsibly.”
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being used by large and small-scale farmers globally. This includes use for mapping, crop surveillance and scouting, pesticide application, and monitoring both irrigation as well as grazing livestock. According to a recent Industry ARC report, “Agricultural Drones Market - Forecast (2021-2026)”, the market for agricultural drones is projected to reach more than US$5.8bn by 2026.
In Asia, the use of drones for pesticide application is rapidly growing in popularity due to the advantages it provides, namely: efficiency with the use of inputs; enhanced spray precision; reduced water consumption; and less dependence on labour, resulting in lower associated costs.
“As food and agricultural stakeholders, we all must ensure our region’s farmers are enabled and empowered to grow the nutritious crops on which we depend - and help deliver a food supply for Asia that is safe, secure and sustainable,” commented Siang Hee Tan, CropLife Asia executive director.
“When used responsibly, drone technology can be a game-changer for Asia’s smallholder farmers. However, the growth in agricultural drone use in our region must be matched by an expansion of sound and science-based regulations to support their responsible use. By bringing together a broad array of government and private sector stakeholders, this week's forum was a substantial step forward on that front.”
Asia is home to the smallest-sized farms and the largest number of smallholder farmers in the world. It’s estimated that 85% of the world’s 525 million smallholder farmers live and work within our continent. These growers face unique challenges in comparison with larger commercial farmers - landholder rights, access to finance, labour shortages, and availability of technology among them. With COVID-19 having an exacerbating effect on many of these and other obstacles Asia’s smallholders face, drone use with pesticide application has the potential to benefit these growers by helping drive production and sustainability at the same time.
CropLife Asia’s Drone for Pesticide Application Online Forum was conducted 8-10 March and brought together virtually technology experts and sector stakeholders from across Asia and around the globe. The three-day conference was structured to convey and grow: common understanding of drone benefits to sustainability as well as farmers’ safety and productivity; strong cross-sector partnership between government and industry; and an open exchange of knowledge and best practices to manage risks and concerns.
A total of seven sessions were conducted during the forum to guide the discussion on a range of topics. From the government perspective, this included sessions on: Digital transformation and its impact on government agricultural policies; Regulatory frameworks for pesticide application by drone around Asia Pacific; and Safety Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for pesticide application by drone. Sessions focusing on the field perspective included: R&D - Technology enablers for pesticide application by drone; and Commercial adoption of drone for pesticide application in APAC. Lastly, capturing the future perspective were sessions on: Emerging technological advancements in drone for pesticide application; and Roundtable - Future collaborations to drive best practices in the region.