Panama: Chiriqui incorporates drones in agriculture

Yesterday, the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) presented the use of drones in agriculture to enhance productivity to producers from Orillas del Río in Alanje, Chiriqui.

These drones, which have GPS technology and infrared cameras, detect the variation of colors in plants and are able to discover affected plants within the production plots, allowing producers to treat more effectively any pest that damages the crops.

Jorge Arango, MIDA minister, said that "the drones are a technology being used for some time in other countries but that are only starting to be used in Panama. There are three demonstrations that have been made in the country and we know that this will help improve production costs."

Arango said that this technology "will allow lowering production costs because producers won't use fertilizers or other productivity mechanisms discriminately as this technology will help them determine what part of the plots need support at any given time."

"Producing more quintals per hectare, by only using the fertilizer needed is a way to lower the market basket and to double production," said the minister.

"This technology seeks to optimize production by lowering labor costs, pesticide and fertilizer use because they can detect where the problem crops are," said Melquiades Gaitan, a promoter of drones.

Among other things, the drones can detect pests, water stress, and the plants' nutritional problems without having the staff travel long stretches of land on the farms.

The geo-referenced maps of the production plots are downloaded as photographs to determine the specific points where the administrator needs to work in a productive farm.

Producers seek help from the MIDA 
Due to the presentation of the use of new technologies in agriculture, rice producer Nodier Diaz said "we need to implement a pilot plan to support these producers, especially the small ones that do not have access to these drones that are so expensive, so the state must intervene to help them."

Diaz stressed the importance of this technology and said the Government should provide logistical and technical support to producers through the MIDA.

Panama currently uses drones very effectively in the production of sugarcane, bananas, and rice, which are the largest productions in terms of land and crops.

The flights of these drones are automatic, they dominate the topography, count plants, detect problems, and tell producers when the ripening process of some crops begins in just one flight.

A top of the line drone in Panama can currently cost around $ 15,000, so agricultural officials hope to provide the necessary support to the producers who are interested in adopting this technology in their field work.


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