Increasing 3000 Ton Production While Saving 2 million Baht, DJI AGRAS T40 Making a Difference in Sugarcane Plantations in Thailand

Sugarcane and other tropical cash crops play a significant role in Thailand's economy. By the end of 2021, sugarcane was planted in 47 provinces in Thailand, with a total cultivation area of 11,600,000 rai (approximately 27,840,000 mu). In total, 56 sugar refineries have been built (Source: Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China). As of February 27, the end date of the 2022/23 pressing season in Thailand, the cumulative quantity of pressed sugarcane was 80,007,200 t. Much of the white sugar consumed daily is refined from Thai sugarcane.

 

 

Kamphaeng Phet Province is located in the middle of northern Thailand. Its eastern region is mostly flat river beds, while its west is covered with high mountains and forests. The region is known for its tropical fruits and sugarcane. The sugarcane from this region is fertilized approximately 5 times annually. Local farmers used to spread the fertilizer manually and by using tractors.

 

 

By the end of 2022, the price of solid fertilizers in Thailand had risen overall due to the increased cost of the raw materials of these fertilizers. Sugarcane farmers were keenly aware of this, and increasingly turned to liquid fertilizer. Chawanakorn Tharamani, a 25-year-old Thai man, was one of them. After growing up on his family-owned farm, he was educated at Chiang Mai University's Department of Agronomy. He devoted himself to agriculture, and after graduating from college he immediately returned home to help his parents manage their family farm.

 

 

His background and education in professional agriculture have helped Chawanakorn develop his own agricultural insights that are different from those of the older generation. He is very interested in emerging agricultural equipment, such as drones.

 

 

T40 is used to spread liquid fertilizer, Saving 2 million Thai Baht annually

 

In 2022, with the shift to liquid fertilizer, Chawanakorn purchased a DJI T40 agricultural drone and started to use it for trial operations on his own sugar plantation.

 

 

Chawanakorn's family's sugar plantation covers an area of approximately 2,000 rai (4,800 mu), and has been farmed by his grandfather and father for two generations. The previous generations of his family used to apply solid fertilizers manually or by using tractors.

 

 

Chawanakorn has discovered that the general operational cost of using liquid fertilizer is lower than that of using solid fertilizer with the same active ingredients. The annual cost per rai (1 rai = 2.4 mu) of spreading solid fertilizer is 3,000 Thai Baht, so the total cost for Chawanakorn's family's 2,000-rai farmland totals 6 million Thai Baht. The annual cost per rai when using a drone to spread liquid fertilizer is 2,000 Thai Baht, and the total annual cost is 4 million Thai Baht, saving 2 million Thai Baht every year.

 

 

 

Increase sugarcane production by 3,000 ton, Sugar content is up to 13%, higher than the average level

 

As a long-stalk crop, mature sugarcane can grow to 2 m or even taller. A tractor can only drive into the fields to spread fertilizer at the early stage of sugarcane growth (when the height is less than 1 m). On rainy days, the tractor cannot drive into the fields for operation as they are too muddy. When the sugarcane is taller, the fertilizer spreading can only be conducted manually in the fields. Passing through the fields for manual fertilizer spreading is difficult. Hard work is involved, and the spreading is uneven among different fields.

 

 

The T40 agricultural drone helps the sugarcane farmers effectively reduce fertilizer costs, significantly improve operational efficiency, and enable easy and efficient operations without restriction from the terrain in the sugarcane fields.

 

 

Chawanakorn's father used to drive a tractor to spread fertilizer. For a 20-rai field, it took one whole day for one person to complete the spreading. Chawanakorn uses a drone to spread liquid fertilizer, and it takes merely one hour to spread fertilizer on 20 rai of farmland. The liquid fertilizer is more evenly distributed than the solid fertilizer.

 

 

Operation parameters

 

Before fertilizer spreading, Chawanakorn usually adds 90 liters of fertilizer to 600 liters of water. 6 liters are used every rai. The operation height is set depending on the sugarcane height. If the sugarcane is 2 m high, the operation height is generally about half a meter higher. Refer to the table below for detailed operation parameters.

 

Model T40 Flight Speed 5 m/s
Dosage/Rai 6L Height 2.5 m
Row Spacing 7.5 m Operation Mode Full-autonomous planned mode

 

Last year, after foliar fertilizer was spread by drone, the sugarcane production ran to 20,000 t, 3,000 t higher than the production of the year before last at 17,000 t.

 

In addition to the increase of sugarcane production, the sugarcane quality is also much higher than before. Sugar content is a key indicator to measure sugarcane quality. Higher sugar content means a higher selling price for the sugarcane. The national average sugar content of sugarcane in Thailand is 12.2%. According to the test measurements and calculation, the average sugar content of sugarcane produced by Chawanakorn's plantation is 13%, which is higher than the average values of all regions in Thailand (12.4% in the north, 11.35% in the middle, 11.74% in the east and 12.91% in the northeast). "The sugar content of our sugarcane is also 1% higher than that of last year. " Chawanakorn said delightedly.

 

 

New cultivation solution for tropical cash crops, Drones empower the mechanization of Thailand
 

Drone technology has brought new solutions for the cultivation of sugarcane and other tropical cash crops in Thailand. It has also changed the mindset of numerous Thai farmers and workers in the sugarcane industry chain, helping them to reduce costs and increase production. As a result, Thailand is enjoying an increase in both sugarcane production and earnings.

 

 

The benefits of agricultural drone operations are increasingly well-known among the local community, giving farmers in Thailand diverse choices. Over 6,000 DJI drones now fly over Thai farmland. Like Chawanakorn, more and more new farmers with scientific and agricultural education have chosen to return to their hometowns, bringing new life to the farmlands and instilling new technology and wisdom into local agriculture.

 

 

We believe that in the near future, more modernized farms will emerge in rural Thailand, bringing the excellence and convenience achieved through agricultural technologies equally to those living in cities and rural areas.

 

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