Bayer and XAG has recently collaborated in Hangzhou, China to host a crop dusting drone demonstration on citrus trees. Justin Gong, Co-founder and Vice President of XAG, together with Bayer’s crop scientists and agricultural experts from China, Germany, India, and U.S., attended the joint convention, in which XAG showcased its Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) fruit tree solution based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 3D flight mode.
XAG’s fruit tree solution is the world’s first all-terrain autonomous drone spraying technology that resolves the global challenge of applying pesticides and fertilisers on complex terrains, such as mountains, hills and terraces. The partnership between XAG and Bayer, combining pioneer crop science research with advanced agriculture technology, aims to develop an innovative horticulture crop solution that would improve food safety and encourage healthy diet with high-quality fruits and vegetables.
To examine the efficacy of UAS fruit tree solution, XAG and Bayer selected a typical citrus orchard in Hangzhou’s Jiande Town to conduct spraying on mandarin trees. The orchard covers a small area of 1.5 hectares but is located in rugged hills, where the mandarin trees are planted in uneven density and have grown to different heights. It used to take three days for three workers aged over 60s to manually spray the entire orchard for one time.
By contrast, the field experiment showed that one XAG P Series Plant Protection UAS could effectively spray half of the orchard area in only 10 minutes. While Bayer’s experts had provided plant disease diagnosis and prescription, XAG utilised its newly released 3D flight modes – band, hover and spiral to conduct precision spraying operation on different types of terrains. Each of the fruit trees only received its demanded dosage, without excessive waste of water and pesticides. This was achieved through a coherent process from aerial surveying, 3D modelling, AI recognition to targeted spraying.
Prior to the spraying operation, XMission Multifunctional UAS can autonomously fly over the orchards for centimetre-level mapping and 3D terrain modelling. This is then followed by cloud computing and AI analysis, which are implemented by XAG Agriculture intelligence (XAI) to recognise field edges and each fruit tree’s location and size on the 3D high-definition maps. Nearly 7 hectares of fruit trees can be accurately identified within one second, with recall ratio and precision ratio reaching as high as 98.60% and 98.04% respectively. Users can therefore easily capture a full image of the farmlands from different angles to ensure safer, more precise spraying during the whole flight.
Fruit tree disease management is indeed a worldwide agricultural problem. Due to rural labour shortage and rising labour cost, farmers in both developed and developing countries have found it increasingly difficult to improve their cost-efficiency. Spraying chemicals manually on trees grown in different sizes and shapes not only fails to achieve precision application, impeding the production of high-quality fruits, but also places the operators in high poisoning hazards.
China, with a long history of fruit cultivation, is one of the countries that are taking the lead in utilising agriculture drones to tackle the thorny problem of fruit tree spraying. Most of its orchards are developed and managed on hilly or mountainous areas. This means that large ground-based machines are inflexible to reach these regions, whereas small robots such as drones can take the chance. Compared to scale-farming, China’s smallholder economy has begun to unleash its huge agricultural productivity, when it comes to serving consumers’ increasing demands for more diverse nutritious food such as high-value fruits and vegetables.
Riding over the wave of agricultural revolution, XAG has been introducing drones and AI into more remote rural areas to boost productivity and improve livelihood. The UAS fruit tree solution can help farmers grow high-quality horticultural crops and other cash crops in limited lands with less water and chemicals. In the future, XAG will continue to closely collaborate with its global partners to accelerate the process of digital farming with its smart agriculture solutions and solve local problem in a global scale.