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
Supporting the national cassava policy, XAG, an agricultural robotics and AI company has delivered new technology to the sector with its drones that can use less water and chemical and ease the workload on farms.
Leap forward in productivity
According to XAG, cassava covers the second-largest planting area after the rice paddy and contributes to 4% of GDP growth and is broadly grown on over 600000 ha of farmland in Cambodia. However, traditional cassava farming involves intensive labour and is known to be a time-consuming process. To meet the growing demand for 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.
A local farmer named Chhay Thi is an early adopter of spray drones who owns 20 hectares of land in Varin District, Siem Reap Province of Cambodia. According to the company, he ordered services from XAG local partner Red Sparrow Cambodia and had the XAG Agricultural Drone demonstrate autonomous weeding on his 10-hectare cassava field.
Unlike 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 a mobile app.
The drone flew over ridges of cassava plants, sprayed precisely along the pre-set route, and finished eight hectares of herbicide spraying via unmanned control. In the past, the same amount of work usually takes farm workers more than a week to complete manually, but now, it can be done within one hour by only one agricultural drone.
Battling rising costs
Besides the increased efficiency, drones are helping farmers like Chhay Thi to reduce overall planting costs. "If I have an XAG drone in busy seasons to help me with crop protection, I can save US$8-10 per hectare that is formerly spent on manual spraying. Drone operation also reduces the use of chemical by 10-30%, so the resources and money saved can be reallocated to the other crop cultivation," said Chhay Thi who witnessed the whole process of drone spraying demonstration.
The agricultural drone has other benefits of closing the yield gap and protecting farmers from chemical exposure. XAG drone sprays top-down from the air successfully to prevent direct contact of large ground machinery on cassava crops, ensuring that pesticides or fertilisers can penetrate the plants with precision and avoid crop damage.
The production, processing and export of cassava have been the key driver of Cambodia’s agricultural economy. According to the "National Cassava Policy 2020-2025" issued by the 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 the regional and global market.