RESPONDING to the call for food security in the country, Negros Occidental-based firm DC Cruz Trading Corp., through its subsidiary Dragon Drone, is pushing for an innovative technology that will help local sugarcane farmers boost their productivity.

DC Cruz Trading Corp. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ruby Tania Cruz, on the sidelines of the Dragon Drone’s Showroom inauguration at Barangay Tangub in Bacolod City yesterday, October 7, said they partnered with two foreign firms, HiveGround Co. Ltd. from Thailand and Syngenta Agrichemical Company owned by a Chinese-state enterprise, to introduce a “better technology and precise agriculture” practice to farmers in the province.

HiveGround has partnered with Dragon Drone as exclusive distributor of its sugarcane ripener technology (drone) while Syngenta will be the latter’s provider of fertilizers and insecticides, among other crop protection products.

In the Philippines, the use of this technology is piloted in Negros Occidental which happens to be the largest producer of sugar in the country.

Cruz said despite the current high prices of sugar, the production remains low because farmers only applied 50 percent of the fertilizers due to its high cost.

“So we want to give the farmers more options in terms of increasing their yield,” she said, adding that the rate for a complete package including the drone and inputs needed for various services like ripening, weeding, nutrition and crop protection control ranges from only P4,000 to P6,000 per hectare.

Using the drone technology, it can cover one hectare sugarcane farm for only 20 minutes compared to about a whole day using the manual spraying. For large farms, three drones can fly at a time.

Thus, the technology addresses the problem of the decreasing number of farm laborers as well as the need for a more efficient farming strategy, the firm said.

But David Cruz, chief marketing officer of Dragon Drone, explained that the farm closes a month before harvest “so workers cannot come in because the canopy is closed.”

In a five-month old farm, the cane is too tall already and there’s no more space for the workers to go inside and the only way to get there is through a drone, Cruz said.

“So we are not actually slashing the workforce, we are not taking the jobs of the farmers and workers because they cannot be there in the first place. Instead, through this drone, we are giving them the opportunity to boost their productivity,” he added.

Through the drone technology for ripening, the increase in sugar purity is 10 to 15 percent.

For those who want to purchase a drone, the full package that comes with a pilot training, license and registration is worth P750,000.

It can be made through orders, the CEO said, adding that they currently have 20 drones but are not for sale as these are intended only for various service packages.

“This is the future of agriculture, this is about technology. This is a more different world than what we are seeing right now,” she stressed.

The firm and its partners said that drone technology also has a positive impact on farmers and other farm laborers as it lessens their exposure to the risks posed by chemical fertilizers and other substances.

The drone also flies at the “right level” so the possibility that the chemicals will spread outside the farms is unlikely, they added.

For now, the firm is introducing Syngenta’s Moddus, a chemical for sugarcane ripening.

Cruz recalled that some groups and independent farmers in Negros Occidental appealed to make it available earlier this year.

“The government acted immediately by granting the product registration,” she said.

The firms expressed interest in partnering with the government in utilizing such an innovative technology and further exploring its potentials in boosting the industry to address issues and concerns like the shortage in sugar supply.

“This is just one of the technologies that we can bring together. There are others like fertilizer and other crop protection products that can be put in place for the [development of the] sugar industry,” Syngenta Marketing Head for Crop Protection Bart Biagtan said.

Meanwhile, also present during the inauguration were HiveGround CEO Mahisorn Whongphati, Syngenta Commercial Unit Head Saravanan Govindan, planters and farmers.