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Guarding Sugarcane Plantations and Creating New Jobs: DJI Agriculture Works for the Wellbeing of African Farmers

When he received his first license from the South African government in 2019, Tim Wise, head of the PACSys team, DJI Agriculture's partner in South Africa, made several phone calls to the DJI Headquarters to share his delight, and those at headquarters knew how difficult it was to obtain it.


Tim (third from left)


In early 2021, the second drone flight license in South Africa was again granted to DJI Agriculture. DJI Agriculture is currently the only brand allowed by the South African government to use aerial application. The DJI Agriculture aerial application drones provide services for a wide range of crops such as sugarcane, forestry and maize in South Africa, while the local team creates jobs and greater value with operator training programs and community projects.



From Zero to One: Break the Deadlock


In 2016, DJI Agriculture entered the African market.


The South African government was completely opposed to the aerial application drones at the time, refusing to provide a path for legally compliant operations and for pesticides suitable for spraying by drones. The task of breaking the ice and entering the market was slow.


Tim giving a speech


The PACSys team spent 3 years testing the drones on various crops across South Africa, with the purpose of proving the effectiveness of aerial application. The tests demonstrated that DJI's aerial application drones were effective on maize, wheat, sugar cane, citrus fruits, and other crops. The product also proved to be reliable with many collision and dropping safety tests. The South African government eventually relaxed their attitude toward the aerial application drones and accepted them in the end.


Tim also found that the fundamental need of local farmers was to improve crop quality during the tests. Compared with large aircrafts, small drones can save water and reduce pesticide usage with a precise sprayer, making them the perfect fit for applying concepts like green planting, pesticide reduction and efficiency, as required by the South African government.


DJI Agriculture and Tim's team are currently working together with BASF, Syngenta, and other pharmaceutical companies to conduct experiments on different crops, in order to provide better solutions for improving farm efficiency and crop quality.



25% improvement in benefits

Make the most of the land


As the largest sugar producer in the world, South Africa has 380,000 hectares of sugar cane, the crop with the third largest planting area in the country. Due to the country’s terrain and other factors, large aircraft are used for aerial application in most traditional sugarcane plantations.


Due to the concern of pesticides drifting and affecting the growth of other crops, large aircraft usually only spray pesticides in the middle of sugar cane fields. As shown in the comparison chart below, a large area around the sugar cane field is not covered (marked in green).


Instead, the drone covers 100% of the land, generating 25% more income for sugar cane farmers. In the face of water shortages and pests, drone can effectively spray the crops to ensure their quality and enhance the bargaining power of sugar cane farmers.


According to Tim, a 25% higher benefit is only a conservative estimate.


Due to factors such as land, labor and management, most sugar cane plantations in South African are very large, and a lot of small sugarcane fields are unexplored. The promotion of aerial application drone technologies will not only help effectively exploit the defunct sugarcane fields, but also create new jobs for neighboring communities, thus achieving a greater social value.


Operation in sugar cane plantations



Cooperation with the Bureau of Agricultural Education and Training

Promoting the development of modern agriculture


Besides servicing the crops, the aerial application drone operator training program that Tim leads has also been operating for nearly four years. In 2021, the aerial application drone operator training program in South Africa was accredited by AgriSeta, and will be focused more on serving agricultural practitioners in the future.


Operators in training


Currently, the operator training program is flourishing. By teaching highly demanded skills in agriculture and enhancing the professional level of 'new farmers', DJI Agriculture and its partners are providing more trained agricultural flight experts in South Africa.


DJI Agriculture is sowing the seeds of the future on a continent full of hope - this is a journey in the sea of stars.



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