Australia’s Youthful Agricultural Workforce Step up with XAG Drone for the Hovering Winter Crops – Drones Information


Australia’s younger agricultural workforce is stepping up XAG drone for high-flying winter crops

With the growing demand for unmanned device applications during winter culture in Australia, which has been best seen for decades, XAG is on the right track to use drones to help farmers ease the pressure of chemical usage and save water. Given the growing size of sown land in Australia, XAG is working with millennial drone entrepreneurs from Queensland to provide autonomous spray solutions for the hard-to-reach field areas of horticultural crops such as macadamia, strawberry and potato, while also distributing seeds to restore the overgrazed pasture in response to climate change.

After three years of intense drought and months of bushfire devastation that severely hit the continent, Australia is now accelerating its recovery and looking to a long-awaited harvest. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has forecast a winter crop yield of 44.5 million tonnes for 2020-21, which is 11 percent above the average annual level for the past ten years. This is due to the favorable weather conditions, e.g. B. that the rain falls steadily and the soil develops a good moisture profile.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to bring challenges in a second wave, agriculture has shown strong resilience and has become one of the few bright spots in Australia’s economic activity. The sale of agricultural machinery is booming, as is the demand from farmers for crop protection services.

The sustainable macadamia nuts

XAG Australia works closely with Jamin Fleming of Oztech Drones in Bundaberg, southeast Queensland, to treat pests, weeds and plant diseases from the air. Since July, Fleming has been working with local fruit growers such as Redrock and Suncoast Gold Macadamias on a series of trials to apply fungicides and fertilizers to macadamia trees using XAG’s agricultural drones. The Australian macadamia industry, with a farm gate production value of A $ 267 million in 2019, is a global leader in adopting sustainable farming practices and climate resilient productivity.

Macadamia trees have the natural ability to optimize water use, adapt to arid conditions, and absorb significantly more carbon, indicating a built-in sustainability that many other crops fail to match. According to the Australian Macadamia Society, 70% of macadamia plants are exported as confectionery and healthy snacks to over 40 countries each year, while this accounts for 30% of global production.

However, tractor-mounted spray cannons are still widely used as a spray tool for pest and disease management in macadamia orchards. As the industry works to minimize its carbon footprint, the use of heavy diesel engines should be further restricted. This creates an untapped space where XAG’s drone-based solutions can reduce chemical consumption by 30% and save up to 90% water.

Fleming sheds light on how drones make precision farming easier. “We first mapped an area of ​​the farm with the XMission survey drone and found the trees that were lacking health. Then we sent the crop protection drone to only spray those specific trees and not the entire crop like regular sprayers would. “

With this fully autonomous drone, farmers can even aim at individual plants and skip the distance between trees. “We found that the spray drone can spiral over larger trees and better cover the entire canopy. Also, you can pre-program the drone to do hover spray over the smaller trees, which is more efficient, ”he said.

The results of the experimental phase also showed that droplets were broken down into tiny particles of various sizes that could reach the lower leaf of the macadamia trees. The big picture here tries to help macadamia growers prioritize water protection, minimize pesticide use through traditional techniques, and eliminate possible chemical aberrations. Given that water scarcity is an ongoing problem in Australia, such benefits from drone applications should be seen across the agricultural industry, which accounts for three quarters of all water use.

Fly over the toughest spots

As a young drone entrepreneur, Fleming’s business has really improved to gain experience in the field for a wide variety of crops, including grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. According to Fleming, drones can flex their muscles in complicated terrain where large manned machines such as tractors or helicopters have difficulty performing the operation. He just signed a deal with one of the largest sweet potato growers in Australia who uses XAG drones to manage invasive weeds in all of their canals, hard to reach areas and around the dams.

“We also help them with weed control around water hydrants in the middle of fields. There could be 50 fire hydrants in a field that a tractor used to damage the crop to get to these hydrants. With the XMission drone, we can now survey the entire field, find the hydrants and send the spray drone to target only the hydrant, ”he said. This nimble, flexible technology eliminates crop damage to help farmers close their yield gaps.

With a good raindrop and mild temperatures, many farmers in Australia are very excited about one of their best growing seasons in life. However, a long invisible wet winter also poses another major problem for disease management in moist areas after rain. With that in mind, Fleming has also started working with fruit growers on strawberries.

“Some of their fields have a small area that is inaccessible to the tractor after rain or excessive irrigation. Therefore, pesticides and fungicides cannot be used, making the strawberry plants susceptible to disease and pests. We come in, identify the low areas and then spray them all with agronomist recommended applications. “

While drones seek to create a pest control landscape, they can be of great use in Australia’s 332 million hectares of livestock farms ten times the size of the crops. As overgrazing, drought, and warmer climates have turned pastures into degraded land, the demand for willow seeds is growing and is now on Fleming’s long list of pilot jobs. The modular design of the XAG spray drone makes it possible to switch to a “flying spreader” within minutes if a customer-specific spreader attachment is used.

“Depending on the application rate, we can sow up to 15 hectares per hour. Hopefully it will rain a little more at the end of the week so it can sprout, ”he said. It is hoped that the more precise and safer method of distributing grass seeds will be expanded to rehabilitate the fertile land of Australia.

Note the call of the landscape

Jamin Fleming belongs to the tech-savvy, enthusiastic millennial generation who are passionate about a fulfilling career in agriculture. Raised on a large cattle ranch, he fosters the history and culture of Australian agriculture, but also breathes new life into the social and environmental side of its sustainability.

Unlike other parts of the world with aging farming populations, Australia has brought back talented young people who either inherit the land as the next generation of farmers, work as farm workers, managers and agronomists for farms, or start their own businesses as service providers . A recent snapshot from ABARES showed that more people are now entering agriculture, with the proportion of those under 35 increasing.

“Australia’s agricultural workforce is getting much younger now because I think a lot of young people don’t want to be in an office or do the same thing every day. Agriculture is wide-ranging and technology is getting better every day,” said Fleming. With Australian agriculture being a very volatile industry plagued by harsh, unpredictable weather conditions, innovations from these new faces are urgently needed to deal with the enormous risks of climate change.

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