Gone are the days of the lone Chinese farmer toiling under the sun. Now drones are here to help – and there’s even a drone sharing platform too.
By Audrey Lan Jiahua
A drone flies over a piece of farmland, about a couple of meters above the crops, spraying exact amounts of pesticide with unparalleled precision. In three minutes, the spraying for a mu of land, equivalent to about 0.0667 hectare, is done.
Such use of drone technology is a growing practice in rural China, where some 120 million hectares of land are being farmed to feed the country’s 1.4 billion population. As young people quit the land to go to the city in search of more lucrative work, drones are a big help to farmers faced with labor shortage.
Since drones are operated by professional pilots, and not by the farmers themselves, a trio of enterprising young urbanites from Beijing have launched an online sharing platform connecting drone operators with farmers. Named Farm Friend, the platform opened just in February 2016, but has already raised more than US$10 million from leading investors such as GGV Capital and the Xiaomi-linked Shunwei Capital.
With agriculture making up nearly a tenth of China’s economy, it’s no surprise that the agricultural drone market, while still in its infancy with just 2,324 devices in 2015, will see exponential growth ahead. Some are forecasting a market worth nearly RMB 13 billion by 2021.