Cacao growers in Ecuador are using drones to combat labor shortage

Ecuador drones xag

Ecuador is the world’s leading export of cacao, the chief ingredient in single-origin chocolates. Over 90% of the cacao production in the country is undertaken by small farm owners. But a downward trend in crop prices and labor shortage during the busy season has left farmers struggling to improve efficiency and remain profitable. This is why they have now turned to drones for fruit tree spraying.

XAG, one of the top three commercial drone manufacturers of 2021, has detailed in a new blog post how its partner company Megadrone was recently contracted to manage a 180-hectare cacao farm in Guayaquil, the second largest city in Ecuador.

The cacao farm in question is located on a mountain, and its sloped, undulating terrain makes it hard to reach by large ground machinery. Over the years, hired workers have manually sprayed the crops and spread fertilizers on the farm. This process would take at least a month, even with sufficient labor.

This growing season, however, the farm deployed two XAG P series agricultural drones, and wrapped up fertilizer and fungicide spraying in less than four days.

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The farm owner explains that he has often missed the best time to spray for pest control or disease prevention during manual operations. But with the help of drones, he can now apply timely fungicide sprays and supply fertilizers to boost growth right after heavy rains. In addition to aerial spraying, the drone can be fully automated to deal with the complicated landform of cacao trees.

“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 a mobile app. This is convenient to learn even for our elderly workers,” the farm owner says.

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.

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