With the press of a few buttons on a remote controller or a mobile phone, a drone takes off, soars to the skies and flies across a wide expanse of rice paddies, raining pesticide on the crops.
This scene is now repeated thousands, if not tens of thousands, of times every day across rural China, as Chinese farmers increasingly turn to cutting-edge technologies such as drone to enhance their production efficiency.
“Humans can only spray pesticide on eight mu (5,333 sqm) of land a day, while a drone can cover an area of 400 mu,” said Tan Jing, a director at a local company responsible for pest control in Xiangzhou, a county governed by southwestern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
“It’s about eight times as efficienct.”
Tan added that the drones can also save 30% of pesticide and 90% of water during its targeted operation, effectively beefing up control of pests that feed on rice.
Rice is the most-grown staple grain in Xiangzhou. During a recent campaign to prevent a pest outbreak, drone technicians were organized to spray pesticide against 3,500 mu of high-yield rice paddies, as part of an initiative to regulate use of pesticide, trim production costs and increase the yield.
Meanwhile, in central China’s Wuhan, peasants are busy planting rice seeds. To raise efficiency, they have enlisted the help of agricultural drones in a quest to improve efficiency.
After an operator inputs commands via a mobile app, an agricultural drone can shuttle between the lengths of the plowed fields to spread ripened rice seeds.
Seeds will land scattered in the fields, at a designated distance apart to help them grow over a 20-day period into seedlings.
The drone, a model named P100PRO that is supplied by leading agtech startup XAG (极飞科技), has become a darling of local farmers in Wuhan.
“A drone carries up to 30kg of rice seeds and can seed 300 mu of fields,” Yan Qigang, a technician from a local agricultural company that provides drone-assisted seed sowing services.
According to him, since mid-May, the company has recorded a spike in its orders for drone-powered seed sowing with each passing day.
It has to date sowed rice seeds in some 3,000 mu of paddies.
It took a single drone less than five minutes to plant seeds in one mu of paddies, an efficiency that has amazed Zhou Fade, a local farmer aged 78.
“We used to work in pairs to sow seeds, and a mu’s rice paddy will be a whole day’s labor,” he marvaled. “(With drones) it’s much faster!”
His son told local media that the family’s 70 mu of rice paddies have all come to be seeded by drones.
As youngster flock to cities in search of work, leaving behind their aging parents often known as “empty nesters,” China’s agricultural sector is in greater need of new technologies and machinery to take care of the often tedious and back-breaking farm work.
This has created numerous applications for companies like XAG.