01 Jun Drone Changing The Rice Industry
Drones Changing the Rice Industry
In the mid-1800s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used for military purposes (balloon bombers) and as pilotless aircraft in the World War I. Today, drone (a small autonomous craft) has become popular & being applied in diverse industries including agriculture in Malaysia.
Malaysia estimates the global drone sector will generate $127 billion in value by 2025. “We expect the size of the drone tech sector by 2025 to be three times larger than now,” (Surina Shukri, CEO of the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation)
As fewer young people take over from their elders, new technologies such as drones are becoming a central part of agriculture in Malaysia rice farming industry.
More & more rice farmers in Malaysia starting to leverage drone technology as part of the initiative to offset labour shortages due to an ageing farming population in Malaysia and overcome the challenges in rice farming such as unable to utilise technology of driverless tractors due to complex terrain, the small size of many farms, and high costs of inputs & labour
In Malaysia, spraying activities using mist blower & power sprayer are both labour-intensive and detrimental to workers’ health. The labour shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of the technology.
Although we have plenty of rice farmers, our rice imports from other countries are still quite substantial – Thailand (48.8 percent), Vietnam (25 percent), Cambodia (8.2 percent) and India (7.8 percent). In September 2020 Malaysia’s Rice exports accounted up to MYR10.3M and imports accounted up to MYR170M, resulting in a negative trade balance of MYR160M. Between August 2019 and September 2020 the exports of Malaysia’s Rice have increased by MYR10.3M (17.6k%) from MYR58.1k to MYR10.3M, while imports increased by MYR56.4M (49.6%) from MYR114M to MYR170M.
As rice is staple food for Malaysia, the government must ensure the supply of rice is sufficient for future and the government should encourage local production of rice and reduce its dependency on imported rice by lowering export so as to give positive impact on the rice industry of Malaysia
Attracting younger generations of farmers is a continuous problem. The industry player believes that the piloting of drones is a skill set the younger generation finds attractive. While many people do not have any interest in hand spraying a field, they may have interest in piloting an unmanned helicopter to do the spraying.”
As the younger people are generally tech-savvy relatively to the elderly people, they are the right ones to continue empowering agriculture sector. Showcasing the evolution in agriculture to youngsters can also be done through social media as that is the fastest channel of information for them nowadays.