Brazil: Drones reduce the cost of applying agrochemicals in sugar cane
Jan. 21, 2021
By Leonardo Gottems, reporter for AgroPages
Brazilian energy company Raízen entered into a partnership with startup ARPAC to intensify the use of drones in the intelligent spraying of herbicides.
The result was operational savings of 47%, as well as 82% in spent inputs, which made it possible to decrease the amount of agrochemicals purchased and less environmental impact, with better application of inputs more efficiently and accurately.
“The forecast with the use in a larger area is that the operational savings reach 30% and the savings in inputs around 60%. The company expects to replicate the solution not only in its commercial areas but also to extend the use to its sugarcane suppliers,” Raízen said.
ARPAC, which claims to be specialized in Brazilian cultures, applies artificial intelligence to identify weeds that will later be eliminated through drone spraying. In a cane field, the appearance of invasive plants compromises the productivity of the field, as well as directly interfering in the harvesting process.
The pilot project was divided into three stages: in the first, the technical validation of the application was carried out in an area of 16.1 hectares. In the second, the tests started to be worked on a larger area, on 200 hectares of the company, with to understand the applicability of the technology on a commercial scale to measure its performance.
In 2020, the pilot reached the last stage, being used in 2,300 hectares of cane fields, which made it possible to affirm its validation regarding efficiency, assertiveness and reduction of inputs. For the next steps, the expectation is to test the technology on another 32,000 hectares by the end of the 2020-2021 harvest.
The tests showed that, through the mapping carried out with drones, the weeds were quickly located and the spraying area reduced from 21.2 hectares to 9.79 hectares in productive sugarcane crops. “An area of approximately 46% of infestation had savings of 26.5% of product applied, compared to the traditional method performed by agricultural aircraft,” explained Eduardo Goerl, CEO and founder of ARPAC.
“We proved that the technology we develop generates savings in inputs, because the application is localized, which also contributes to reducing costs and increasing productivity in the cane fields,” Goerl highlighted.
“After validating the effectiveness of the technology for the control of weeds in an agile and localized manner, an expectation was created in the operational teams of the production units due to the logistical ease when compared to conventional mechanized operation. The incorporation of an innovative process has shown benefits in terms of the timing of control of some weeds, added to cost reductions,” pointed out Murilo Bassan, a Specialist in Agricultural Operations at Raízen.
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