Revolutionizing Agave Farming: Using Agras T50 Drones to Spray Agave

DJI AGRAS T40DJI AGRAS T50

 

 

Introduction

 

Background on Agave Farming

 

Agave, a resilient desert plant, is central to the production of tequila, a beverage deeply rooted in Mexican culture. Predominantly cultivated in Jalisco, Mexico, particularly the Tequila region, agave farming has unique challenges and requirements. The region's arid climate and rocky terrain make traditional farming practices both labor-intensive and costly, especially for herbicide application, which is crucial for the proper development of young agave plants (1-3 years).

 

 

 

Challenges Faced

 

Proper herbicide application is essential but comes with several significant challenges:

  • Time Constraints: Herbicides need to be applied just before the rainy season, a narrow window during which farmers must cover extensive fields.
  • Labor Shortages: Manual spraying is labor-intensive and costly due to the expensive herbicides and the need for large labor forces. It can be difficult to hire sufficient labor, especially for larger agave farms.
  • Safety Concerns: Traditional methods expose workers to harmful chemicals, posing significant health risks.
  • Water Shortages: Water resources are limited, especially in remote areas where agave is grown.

 

 

 

Shortcomings of Traditional Techniques

 

Manual Labor and Tractors

 

Growing high-quality agave requires timely interventions, including herbicide application, fertilization, and pest control, across a 7-year growth cycle. Traditionally, these tasks are performed manually by large teams of laborers or by tractors, which is time-consuming, costly, and prone to human error.

 

 

 

Inefficiencies of Conventional Methods

 

Before the advent of drone technology, agave farmers relied on tractors with sprayers or manual backpack sprayers. These methods have several drawbacks:

 

  • Time-Consuming: Tractor spraying takes about 1 hour per hectare on average, while manual backpack spraying requires 1.5 hours per hectare with a team of 10 people.
  • High Water Consumption: Traditional manual or tractor spraying methods use significantly more water compared with drones. For agave, 200 L of water can be used for a single hectare.
  • High Costs: Traditional methods increase the cost per hectare by 42% to 55%. Manual labor requires large teams, takes a long time, and costs approximately $60 per hectare.
  • Safety Risks: Both tractor and manual backpack spraying expose operators to harmful chemicals, as well as the risk of injuries from traversing the rocky agave fields.
  • Limited Accessibility: The rocky and uneven terrain of agave plantations makes it challenging for tractors to operate, often resulting in inefficient coverage. Tractor usage, while more efficient in terms of time compared to manual spraying, could damage the agave plants and still incurred the same cost per hectare.

 

 

 

End-User Introduction

 

Meet Our Farmer

 

Our case study focuses on an agave producer in the Tequila region who began exploring DJI Agriculture drones about 10-14 months ago. Faced with the time constraints and high costs of traditional herbicide application methods, they decided to adopt DJI's Agras T40 drones during the 2023 wet season. With a team of two pilots, they have successfully treated approximately 300 hectares of agave fields so far.

 

 

 

Operation Workflow

 

Date and Time

 

The drone intervention took place on June 28, 2023, in Tequila, Mexico. The weather on the day of the intervention was favorable, although specific details on temperature, humidity, and wind speed were not recorded.

 

Drone Used

 

The chosen drone for this operation was the DJI Agras T40, selected for its larger capacity, allowing more terrain to be covered per flight. The P4 Multispectral drone was also selected for its mapping and sensing capabilities, which enhanced the efficiency of the spraying process.

 

Chemical Information

 

The herbicide used was Amvac Krovar, a combination of Bromacil and Diuron in dry granule form, diluted in water at a ratio of 3 kg per hectare. This solution applied at a ratio of 200 ml per hectare, significantly reducing the amount of water required compared to traditional methods.

 

 

 

Results

 

Immediate Outcomes

 

The results were evaluated one month after the intervention. Compared to untreated controls, the agave plants treated with the drone showed a significant improvement in health and growth, with a noticeable reduction in weed competition. When compared to plots treated manually or by tractor, the agave health appeared comparable, but this was achieved with significantly reduced operational costs and time:

  • Time Reduction: From 1 hour per hectare with a tractor to just 6 minutes with the drone, a reduction in operation time by 90-95%.
  • Environmental Benefits: Decreased water usage by 88%, from 250 L/hectare with traditional methods down to 30 L/hectare with drones.
  • Cost Savings:

 

Cost Breakdown

Drone Spraying

Tractor Spraying

Manual Spraying

Labor Costs

$1.43

$14.29

$57.14

Chemical Costs

$133.71

$133.71

$133.71

Fuel Costs

$0.00

$44.57

$0.00

Equipment Maintenance & Depreciation

$1.83

$1.83

$0.00

Other Costs

$2.86

$5.71

$26.74

Total Cost Per Hectare

$139.83

$200.11

$217.60

 

Method

Area Covered

Number of People

Time Taken

Manual Labor

1 hectare

10

90 minutes

Tractor

1 hectare

1-2

1 hour

Drone

6 hectares

3

1 hour

 

 

Benefits of DJI Drones

 

The DJI Agras T40 drones offered multiple benefits:

  • Efficiency: Time spent on herbicide application reduced tenfold.
  • Cost Savings: Lower operational costs due to reduced labor and chemical usage.
  • Safety: Minimized direct contact with harmful chemicals.
  • Environmental Impact: Water usage reduced from 250 liters per hectare to just 30 liters.

 

Testimony

 

Farmer's Satisfaction

 

"Using Agras T40 drones for herbicide spraying was not only a cost-effective solution that allowed us to make better use of our resources and personnel but also enabled us to complete our herbicide application schedule just before the rainy season began," said the agave producer. "This technology has revolutionized our approach to farming."

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, the integration of DJI Agras T40 drones in agave farming has demonstrated significant improvements in efficiency, cost savings, safety, and environmental sustainability. This case study is a testament to the transformative power of drone technology in agriculture, offering valuable insights for agricultural innovators, drone enthusiasts, and sustainable farming advocates.

 

Future investigations will proceed with the Agras T50 in order to determine how many tasks a drone can complete for an agave producer within one year.

 

The Agave farmer featured in this case concludes with this advice: "For those considering DJI Agriculture drones, start by understanding your specific needs and how drone technology can address them. The efficiency and cost savings are transformative."

 

 

* Drone images in this article feature Agras T50, which has since been adopted by this agave farm in Tequila, Mexico.

 

See Agras drones in action over agave fields in our case study video

 

Special thanks to Agrac for sharing information used in the article above. 

Contact Agtrac: rmartinez@agtrac.mx 

Follow Agtrac on Instagram: instagram.com/agtracmx

 

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