Don’t look now but drone technology or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle could be flying over Davao Region’s vast banana plantations not for recreation but for helping improve agriculture.
Drone technology has been considered as an ideal approach for precision agriculture among agricultural companies in Mindanao.
To help farmers improve production and address problems on Panama disease, Davao-based company New Hope Corporation, distributor of world-famous DJI drones, is now targeting banana companies for the use of drone technology.
Anthony Tan, CEO of New Hope Precision Agriculture Corporation told Davao media that they are now working for banana research with banana companies in Mindanao.
Tan said the research focuses on the efficacy of the drone technology.
“We have banana companies but mostly for banana research on the efficacy and mixing because when we go for drones for aerial you should know how you are going for ultra low volume,” Tan said.
Small farmers under the Federation of Cooperatives in Mindanao (FEDCO) led by Executive Officer Ireneo D. Dalayon are now mulling of using drones in aerial spraying. In terms of cost, it’s lower compared to a plane and it is good for small land holding and better than manual spraying.
Aside from cutting costs, the use of drones is expected to improve production as well as banana quality with a more precise spraying operation targeting leaves.
Fungicides control diseases such as black leaf streak, sigatoka leaf spot, and post-harvest diseases.
“We engage in research first before we get into something. Now if instead a group of farmers and large companies then probably we can do some experiments and get the right minds together especially sa saging kasi mahal,” Tan said.
Tan said he was able to demonstrate their drone sprayer last in a banana related event.
“Just imagine, one hectrare of bananas will take about one day to spray but in drones it could spray one hectare of bananas in 10 minutes conservatively. Fusarium right now is a big challenge and drone is the best way to go for the Panama disease,” Tan said.
Tan said they are currently working with the Philippine Rice Research Institute for rice seeding, chemical spraying and fertilizer application using drone. Another potential use of drones that was explored by PhilRice is aiding in the pollination of hybrid rice parentals during the seed production.
“One of the things that make us different is we always want to make sure na may efficacy tayo for the client. Expect that for a service that you are paying makukuha mo Yung efficacy na gusto mo. The thing is you are dealing with ultra-low volume chemical companies realized you need to change the formulation and need to see whether it actually works in many seasons,” Tan said.
Tan said it is among their goals to urge Filipinos farmers to leave from older technologies into the new like drone technology.
“The core product we have is drone spraying. With all these technologies coming in to agriculture how could we advance it and especially for the younger ones. Keep in mind the average age of farmers is 57 years old and climbing. The interest in farming amongst the young people is going down.
Why? Because if you could take someone who likes going to the mall and takes them to the farm, the reaction is understandable but if you modernize agriculture and digitalized it like the modern way of spraying is simply fly a drone,” he said.
Tan considered drone technology as a game changer in agriculture.
“In anyway you look at it this is a game changer it could benefit human health, and open up careers for young people,” he said.