XAG drones will be helping Australian farmers to reduce chemical and water usage after three farming seasons of intense drought and months of bushfire devastation that has badly battered the continent of Australia. The drones will be used to map hard-to-reach locations and drop seeds to restore empty fields.
Jamin Fleming grew up in a farming household and is a drone entrepreneur based in Bundaberg, south-east Queensland, Australia. He has been working with many farms, since June (2020) to spray for pests, weeds, and diseases. Since July, he has been collaborating with local fruit growers, such as Redrock and Suncoast Gold Macadamias, on a series of trials to apply fungicides and fertilizers to macadamia trees with XAG drones.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that keeps presenting challenges amidst a second wave, agriculture has shown strong resilience, becoming one of the few bright spots of Australia’s economic activities. Sales of agricultural machinery is booming, as well as farmers’ demand for crop protection services.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has forecasted the winter crop yield to be “44.5 million tonnes in 2020–21, which is 11 percent above the average annual level of the past ten years.”* This is due to the weather conditions, such as rain beginning to fall steadily and the soil developing good moisture.
Unlike other parts of the world, with an aging farming population, Australia has seen a return of young people into the countryside. Their young people are showing less interest in office work and/or in doing repetitive work. Therefore, agriculture offers a great range of experiences and technology that is getting better all the time.
Fleming shares his challenge in using drones to help farmers:
“The biggest challenge I find is that people find it hard to believe that our drones can do what we say they will do. Hence, this is why I often drive and take time out of my day to visit potential clients to show them what we can do, and then they are always blown away with what we are able to achieve.”
It is estimated that the drones allow for “a decrease in chemical use of around 30% and can conserve up to 90% of the water. On top of that, the drones also reduce the carbon emissions created when compared to the heavy diesel machinery that is currently used to spray crops.”*
The Process of Using Drones in the Fields
Fleming first sends out a drone to map the area using XAG’s XMission surveying drone to find out if there are any issues with the macadamia trees. If a survey drone finds unhealthy trees, the spraying drone is sent in and programmed to follow a certain course so it can do continuous spraying, or hover spraying, for the smaller trees. Because the drone is able to reach the canopy easier than ground solutions, it has been found to provide the trees with better coverage.
Instead of using a tractor that would damage the crops in the process, a drone is now used to kill weeds that grow around the watering systems. A mapping drone is used to see where there are weeds and then the spraying drone is sent to kill the weeds without causing damage to the crops.
Instead of using a tractor to drive through a field, which invariably damages part of the crop to get to these water hydrants, they now use a drone to control weeds around the hydrants in the middle of a field where there may be as many as 50 hydrants. By using the XMission drone, they are now able to safely survey the entire field and quickly find the water hydrants.
Fleming’s business now includes a wide variety of crops, including grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. He says drones can “flex their muscles” over complicated terrains where large manned machinery, such as tractors or helicopters, find it difficult, if not impossible, to handle various operations. He is managing invasive weeds with XAG drones in all their hard-to-reach areas.
As a young drone entrepreneur, Jamin Fleming’s vision for the use of drones, and its practical application, should be inspirational for all of us. It is no wonder his business has taken off!