Farm drone maker ramps up operations
XAG Co Ltd, China's largest agricultural drone maker, is accelerating efforts to develop drones and self-driving utility vehicles for use on farms, increase investment in research and development, and expand its footprint in global markets as part of its broader drive to build a smart farming ecosystem.
Justin Gong, co-founder of XAG, said agricultural drones have been widely used for spraying pesticides, sprinkling fertilizers and sowing seeds to help farmers improve efficiency and reduce costs.
"Instead of directly selling farmers the devices, we trained lots of young people who went back to the countryside and became drone pilots and robot operators," Gong said.
Drones and robots replace manpower for labor-intensive, tedious farm work, Gong said, while noting the use of less chemical and fertilizers means farming costs are also reduced.
Last month, XAG launched its latest agricultural drones and a new unmanned ground vehicle. The newly updated farming drones not only enrich XAG's smart agriculture product lines, but also leapfrog the previous models in terms of efficiency, precision and safety, the company said.
"Our ultimate goal is to create a smart agriculture ecosystem in which all the repetitive, tedious and dangerous jobs are handed over to drones and robots, allowing farmers to focus on decision-making with the aid of big data and artificial intelligence," Gong added.
The Chinese authorities have released a guideline to promote digital technologies in rural areas, as part of their efforts to advance agricultural and rural modernization.
The guideline, jointly issued by four government departments including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, encourages the use of technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, remote intelligent agricultural machinery and online services in such areas as spring farming, vocational training and recruitment of migrant workers.
"Digital technologies help accelerate the industrialization of the Chinese agricultural sector, and the decline in production costs can improve the competitiveness of agricultural products," Gong said.
In addition, the Guangzhou, Guangdong province-based company has scaled up its agricultural drones across 42 countries and regions worldwide to bridge the digital divide in rural areas.
Gong said XAG's overseas sales have grown rapidly despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and will gradually become an important part of the company's overall revenue.
"In the next few years, we expect agricultural drones to be used on a larger scale in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South America," he added.
Data from the Shenzhen, Guangdong province-based Qianzhan Industry Research Institute said the value of the domestic agricultural drone market will exceed 12.8 billion yuan ($2.0 billion) by 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate of 38 percent.
Chen Shengdou, director of the China Agro-tech Extension Association, said farmers have high expectations for modern agricultural equipment, which plays a critical role in prompting the transformation, upgrade and development of traditional agriculture.