Ecuador Cocoa farmers have been using drones from technology company XAG to alleviate labour shortages. XAG makes a range of products, from land-based rover robots to airborne drones.

With cocoa prices under pressure as a result of the slowdown in the global economy, finding ways to increase efficiency is more important than ever. Drones are not the magic bullet that some manufacturers portray them as, but for certain use cases, they can be a useful option in the toolbox.

The XAG XPlanet, one of the company’s top drones, for example, can hold a total of 20 litres for either spraying or seeding crops.

Maximum Capacity:20L liquid / 16L granule
Spray Width*: Rapid Spray 7m, Fine Spray 4.5m
Working Efficiency*: Rapid Spray 18ha/hr, Fine Spray 10ha/hr

The firm issued a press release in which they say their drones are being used in Ecuador to protect against pests and disease. 

Press Release

13 July 2022, Guayaquil, Ecuador – To facilitate sustainable, local cacao production for the finest chocolate, XAG agricultural drone is adopted by cacao growers in Ecuador and provides relief to labour shortage during the busy season.

As more plantations struggle to improve efficiency and remain profitable, farmers are now seeking better solutions to combat plant diseases that can flourish with rainy spells. XAG’s drone technology steps into Ecuador’s cacao gardens to spray timely after rains, protecting cacao fruit from yield loss with trustworthy effect.

More Efficient Spraying Solution in Sloped Farm

As the world’s leading export of cacao, Ecuador is the top spot of high-quality cacao beans, the major ingredient of single-origin chocolates. Small farm owners account for over 90% of the cacao producers. However, the downward trend in cacao prices and the capricious weather have pushed more pressure on preserving yields.

This season, Ecuadorian farmers are opening their arms to embrace drone technology for fruit tree spraying. XAG’s local partner, Megadrone, dispatched an agricultural service team to manage a 180-hectare cacao farm in Guayaquil, the second largest city of Ecuador. Drone was used as an alternative spraying tool to cope with the increasing labour costs.

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Before working, XAG agricultural drone sits on the slope of cacao plantations

The cacao farm is located on mountains and the sloped, undulating terrain makes it hard to reach by large ground machinery. Over the previous years, spraying crops and spreading fertilizers were mostly conducted by hired workers manually. It took at least a month to cover the whole fields even with sufficient labour.

With the help of drones, now cacao farmers can apply timely fungicide sprays and supply fertilizers to boost growth right after the heavy rains

Since the drones arrived this April, cacaos can be farmed in a more sustainable practice and become more resilient to climate change. During the operation, the XAG P Series Agricultural Drone was equipped with a full tank of foliar fertilizers and fungicides. It took off from the slope and flew over clusters of bushes to precisely spray on the cacao trees.

Due to the powerful downdraft under propellers, chemical droplets could be easily carried to the whole plant and attach to the leaves uniformly. Two sets of XAG agricultural drones were able to serve the entire 180-hectare cacao fruits in 3 to 4 days.

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The XAG drone service team was introduced to the cacao farm

Keep Cacao Distant from Rain Season Diseases

When the rainy season comes, manual operation is susceptible to the changing climate, and farmers often miss the best time to spray for pest control or disease prevention. In this cacao farm of Guayaquil, the hot, humid weather has lasted for at least two months, which would accelerate the nutrition loss in plants and increase the risk of infesting diseases.

With the help of drones, now cacao farmers can apply timely fungicide sprays and supply fertilizers to boost growth right after the heavy rains. In addition to aerial spraying, the drone can be fully automated to deal with the complicated landform of cacao trees.

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Drone pilots and technicians discussed the spraying plan of XAG drone

“What’s more, XAG’s agricultural drone can be easily operated by most people. Before launching the drone, the pilot just plans the flight path and sets up parameters on mobile app. This is convenient to learn even for our elderly workers,” said by the farm owner.

In the coming three months, the cocoa plantations in Ecuador will enter a vital stage where foliar feeding and insecticide spraying are required for a bumper harvest of cacao pods. With their high agility and efficiency, drones can strongly support cacao farmers to produce fine aromatic cacao beans that the global market adores.

(Photo credit: Megadrone Ecuador)


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    Nick Baskett is the editor in Chief at Bartalks. He holds a diploma from the Financial Times as a Non Executive Director and works as a consultant across multiple industries. Nick has owned multiple businesses, including an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop in North Macedonia.

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