Using data and innovation for better yield predictions

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BusinessToday speaks to Aerodyne Group Founder and CEO, Kamarulazman Mohamed on the usage of drones in plantations and how innovation technology could further elevate the living quality of settlers in Felda settlements.  

  1. How will your drone services complement and benefit the farmers and Felda settlers in terms of improving yield and reducing operational costs? 

Using drones at paddy fields and plantations are highly advantageous over conventional agriculture practices, because precision spraying enables even distribution of seeds and fertilizer and eliminates the risk of crop injury during seeding and spraying. 

Additionally, precision spraying saves over 30 percent of chemical and 90 percent water usage and it is also able to reduce dependency on manual labour, particularly foreign workers. 

Furthermore, with lesser exposure to chemicals, it minimises health risks. Usage of drones will also give farmers access to drone data that can enable better yield prediction and allows for early detection of diseases 

Automation further allows multiple drones (up to three at the moment) to be flown simultaneously, resulting in increased productivity  

  1. Do you think that this would also help create high-skilled jobs for a new-generation of Felda settlers?  

Most certainly. The usage of exciting tech like drones, IoT and robotics is set to revolutionise jobs this heavily-traditional sector and promote innovative agri-practices. While it allows for digital upskilling among current settlers, it will also spur the interest of the younger generation to dabble in agriculture (which has dwindled over the years).  

  1. What are some of the societal and sectoral issues do you think these services could address?  

In terms of societal issue,  our youth have preferred leaving for cities as opposed to making a living in the country. Through our drone services, we foresee the phenomenon of  ‘reverse migration’ – the return of the younger generation from cities to venture into agriculture. 

And on sectoral issues, drone services can effectively tackle the heavy dependency on manual and foreign labour, which also brings a set of moral challenges to the countryside, high input cost (fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides) and low productivity, yields and margins 

  1. Will the Sandbox Felda programme with MaGIC help commercialise your startup’s innovative ideas/concepts?  

Most certainly, as precision agriculture solutions is gaining traction worldwide and there is great potential for large-scale operations in Malaysia and beyond. Via economies of scale, the benefits are more evident i.e. increase in yield, reduction of environmental impact and overall cost, etc. 

  1. Can you share a successful case study through your services? 

Aerodyne uses smart drones to generate actionable insights to provide cloud-based asset management solutions for industries such as energy, utilities, renewables, and infrastructure.  

To date, we have performed inspections on 350,000 critical assets (telecommunication towers, power lines, railways, bridges, wind turbine generators, etc). One of our key clients is the national power provider. Power lines run across harsh geological conditions and are often difficult to access.  

Manual inspections require scaling these towers, which is labour intensive and very hazardous especially in bad weather. Also, conventional maintenance of these power lines and towers take months to plan and cause lengthy downtimes. The data gathered from ground-level lack details to generate predictive insights. Through our drone-based solutions, we have been able to provide a cost saving of 30% to this client and maintenance time savings of up to 400 percent. 

  1. Drone services often face regulatory issues, do you think initiatives such as this can help tackle that issue?  

As we perform pockets of trials and tests at the sandbox, the findings and learnings will be shared with the regulators to build their confidence to efficiently govern drone services provided by reputable providers like Aerodyne. 

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