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Digital Revolution in Crop Protection


Conventional crop protection work consists of surveying of insect pests, monitoring of plant pathogens and weeds, collecting data on crop health status, and the actual control measures such as agrochemical spraying. It has been manpower dependent, labor intensive, relying on field trips of specialist, technicians and farmer workers.

The application of digital technology in agriculture has brought significant changes in crop protection. Various type of sensors have been developed to monitor major insect pests in agriculture and forestry so that a real-time data collection and analysis can be achieved for the optimization of control measures, thus effective, efficient and sustainable pest management is made possible.

Drones have been adapted for surveying the farm field in recent years.  Lithium battery powered drones equipped with multi spectral imaging camera can provide more accurate mapping on crop nutrition needs.

However, due to the complexity of crop protection, there are still many obstacles to overcome before the industry can be fully transformed into the next level.  Taking insect pest monitoring as an example. Currently only a limited number of sensors have been developed to achieve automated monitoring of certain species, as the current sensors are mostly designed to use a combination of insect pheromone for specificity and electronic sensor for counting. The need for  monitoring many hundreds of target insect species of various size, morphology, behavior, and biology would require insect recognition and species identification using AI based technology. 

Although attempts have been made to use drones for large scale crop spraying, the limited payload of lithium battery powered drones remains a bottleneck.

Nevertheless, digitization of crop protection remains to be a challenge as well as a great opportunity for those who work in this field.

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