How Asia’s best drones project cut farmers’ costs by 60%

Why did we give this small scheme from Indonesia a big award?

The problem in Indonesia is that farmers have scarce or unhealthy crops, said Hermawansyah, Director of the Swandiri Institute. Rural farmers rely on the yield of their crops to sustain their livelihood, but this often depends on factors beyond their control - weather, soil fertility, and resistance to disease. In Kalimantan, a local team has turned to drones to help farmers slash expenses and increase crop yields. The project - a joint collaboration between the Swandiri Institute and Pulse Lab Jakarta - helped local farmers save 60% of their expenses through precision agriculture. It won the best drone project at the GovInsider Innovation Awards at Innovation Labs World. The drones were used to survey the health of crops to identify where rice crops were scarce, so farmers could target more pesticides to increase their produce, Hermawansyah, Director of the Swandiri Institute told GovInsider. It was equipped with an infrared camera to analyse photosynthetic levels in crops; the higher the photosynthetic levels, the healthier the crops were. The drone survey results displayed green, yellow and red areas of land - where green indicated crops with healthy growth; yellow showed ailing patches; and red suggested that crops are damaged and diseased. Farmers then used pesticides effectively based on the state of the crops. “It takes about four months until the farmer gets the result, so if we first use drones to identify where the crops are [scarce], the farmer can focus on handling the crop” by using the right amount of pesticides, he said. His team monitored the progress of the rice crop in the first two months of the project, and in the third month they advised farmers on how to handle their crops, he added. “Several local governments were very enthusiastic with our idea”, Hermawansyah said, and they have approached his team to train public officials on “how to use drone to help the farmers”. The Agricultural Office of the North Kayong District, in West Kalimantan, has added drone mapping to its 2017 budget, and a local university is working on drones for agriculture and food. Innovation Labs World is a festival of public service innovation organised by GovInsider. It was held on 27 September in Singapore.