Agricultural drones used more and more by farmers in the Republic of Moldova
07 July 2022
Ecological and efficient, drones are modern agriculture’s know-how, which comes to complement sprinklers and tractors.
Agricultural drones take over pest and weed management
DRON Assistance, a company financially supported by UNDP Moldova and the European Union, provides, with the help of drones, intelligent services to Moldovan farmers: pest and weed management, mapping and monitoring of agricultural lands.
Half of a wheat field of 73 ha in the village of Onitcani will be treated with herbicides using a drone, and the other – with a sprinkler and a tractor. The land belongs to the experimental didactic station “Criuleni”. The station has a total of 570 ha of agricultural land, where they cultivate, besides wheat, corn, mustard, sunflower etc. Increasing the profitability of crops is a priority, says the administrator, Alexandru Zolotco, which is why experimenting is their second nature.
“We want make a comparison. Last year we treated the corn sow seeds, and the results were just right. That is why this year we are testing the wheat field,” explains Alexandru Zolotco.
Agricultural drones, which fly 2-4 meters above the crop, sprinkle on average up to 40 per cent less active substance (herbicides dissolved in water) and the technology of very small droplets allows more uniform and more accurate spraying. Skillfully handled by a DRON Assistance specialist, the drone sprayed the field in just four hours.
“Everything that a sprinkler does, a drone can do, too. The difference is that it takes 10 liters of water (used to dissolve herbicides) per hectare for the drone, while the tractor needs 200 liters of water to do the same job,” stresses Alexandru Zolotco.
The drone, an ecological and efficient know-how
The experimental didactic station “Criuleni” is one of the 60 clients of DRON Assistance.
“In 2021, we sprayed 11,000 ha of agricultural land and estimated that farmers in the Republic of Moldova can save 1500 tons of pesticides annually and between 100-150 euros per hectare by avoiding mechanical losses and making actual savings from more a more effective spraying,” notes Vitalie Sacară, the founder of DRON Assistance.
Because drones spray from above, farmers do not use tractors that destroy, by their mechanical movement through the field, up to 10 per cent of crops, while at the same time they avoid burning fossil fuels that pollute the crops.
From a bird’s-eye view, it is easier to detect and treat outbreaks
DRON Assistance, known among farmers for its agricultural land treatment service against pests and weeds, offers mapping, analysis and monitoring services for agricultural lands.
With the financial support provided by UNDP Moldova as part of the “Accelerating digital transformation in the public sector of the Republic of Moldova” programme, the company purchased a drone equipped with RTK (real-time kinematic) technology that allows mapping and multi-spectral analysis of cultures in real time by recording GPS coordinates and images with embedded geotags. While the drone is in the air, an active ground base station sends it raw GPS data. Thus, the drone's on-board GPS combines this data with its observations to accurately determine its position in relation to the base.
Thanks to this technology, farmers can now easily detect outbreaks of weeds, pests, and diseases, and, can intervene only where it is needed to prevent the spread of the problem.
Drones should become accessible to farmers, just like a “taxi service”
Thanks to UNDP’s “Accelerating digital transformation in the public sector of the Republic of Moldova” programme, and the “EU4Moldova: Focal Regions” programme, financed by the European Union and implemented by UNDP and UNICEF, DRON Assistance is extendingits network of drone and operator support centres. Along with the centres from Edineț and Căușeni, new branches will be opened in Bălți, Comrat and Ungheni.
“Our vision is for all farmers to be able to use drones to increase their productivity, and this does not require every farmer to have their drone. It will be enough to use our service available to them in their vicinity, at our assistance centre, where they can learn how to use a drone, rent it, treat their land and give it back. We want our drones to become as used and accessible to farmers as a taxi service in the city,” says Vitalie Sacară.
DRON Assistance now owns 16 agricultural drones for spraying and two for monitoring and mapping; six of them were purchased thanks to support of UNDP Moldova and the European Union.
An ecosystem of innovative services, available to farmers in the Republic of Moldova
DRON Assistance and the experimental didactic station “Criuleni” plan to continue to experiment together to increase crop productivity.
In partnership with young researchers from the University of Tashkent, supported by the UNDP Uzbekistan Accelerator Lab, DRON Assistance will import smart pheromone traps and use specialized software to remotely monitor crop condition. This solution relies on artificial intelligence, which will be trained to detect pests for local crops, for which specific algorithms are under development, with the support of UNDP Moldova.
Subsequently, the affected crops will be treated with the Trichogramma, which is a species of tiny wasps that eat the eggs of insects, this being an environmentally friendly method.
To make accessible to all farmers the data on air temperature, soil, humidity and precipitation, the company plans to publish the geospatial information it collects through its customers. This will increase the quality of decisions made by farmers.