Tou Kousal showcases her XAG agricultural drones for daily use in farm work
In Cambodia, agriculture plays a leading role in the economy, with over 34% of its population employed in this sector. For all the crops produced, rice is the principal staple food to feed the Cambodian and makes up around half of the GDP.
However, water shortage and rising labour cost have posed challenges to this growth engine. As farmers struggle to grow rice against all odds, agricultural innovations are gradually on the rise in Cambodia, which aspires to attain higher middle-income country by 2030.
From A Traditional Farmer To Woman Entrepreneur
Tou Kousal is the first female drone pilot to introduce drone spraying solutions in Battambang province, known as the "rice bowl" of Cambodia. As a pioneering woman entrepreneur in agriculture, she not only obtains a decent income as expected, but has also been helping local farmers boost crop yields and reduce their input cost of agrochemical, water, and labour.
Since the business started, she now owns two crop protection service teams with 7 pilots in total, which have served hundreds of farming households and covered 900ha farmlands with XAG's spray drones.
Two years ago, before piloting the farming drone business, Tou Kousal was still a farmer operating a 10-hectare field with limited access to new tools. She also ran a family agrochemical store with her husband. What advanced her decision to throw herself in the whole new realm was the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tou Kousal stood beside a paddy field with one of her drones
In October 2020, when the pandemic attacked Cambodia, she bought the first XAG agricultural drone and offered crop spraying service to farmers, who were faced with a lack of labour and material supplies. She started to see the values of drone in reducing resources and not affecting the health of workers.
"The outbreak had posed pressure in both the economy and labour market, and we had to find a way to yield more with less. When I found out XAG agricultural drones can be such a solution, I was determined to start the new agri-journey," said Tou Kousal.
A Bumpy Road To Challenge The Tradition
As the social media network spread across the rural community, Kousal like many others also used Facebook for friend connection and entertainment."I had seen a lot of companies advertising spraying drones on the platform but none of them grabbed my interest, until XAG's Cambodian distributor Red Sparrow brought the XAG innovations in front of me," she said.
Tou Kousal and Red Sparrow in a field show introducing XAG to the locals
Autonomous flight and precision spraying are the two most outstanding features for Kousal's consideration. This means that less water and pesticides are needed to cultivate crops, while the burden of manual labour can be relieved.
Traditional rice farming in Cambodia heavily relies on rainfall and manual spraying. Despite spending a lot of time, money, and physical effort, farmers often found themselves with low yield and therefore undesirable revenue. As a farmer herself, she was aware of the urgency to make a change and then discovered the possibility of what XAG agricultural drones can do in crop production.
Although drone has numerous benefits in saving costs, making it accepted by farmers was never an easy job. Without any knowledge of new tech, most farmers in Cambodia did not trust the capability of the drones in providing good care to their field crops.
To gain farmers' recognition, Kousal and her team conducted a series of demonstrations on fields by comparing the performance between drone spraying and manual spraying. The results from drones are shown convincing in efficiency and precision, which has dispelled the misgivings and increased the popularity of drone service.
Local farmers watched the demonstration of XAG agricultural drone spraying crops
In just a year, the performance of drone-based crop protection has been witnessed and recommended through word-of-mouth. An increasing number of Cambodian farmers are willing to have a try and encourage Kousal to expand the size of her service team.
"XAG drones can be set up easily and fast, and thanks to that a team of 2 to 3 people can spray 10 to 30 acres per day." In the past, the same workload could take several days for farmers to complete with hand sprayer. Kousal explained that this new form of spraying solution does not damage crops and helps increase crop yields by 10% to 15%.
XAG agricultural drone is guarding the rice in Cambodia
The advancement of technology not only promotes food productivity in Cambodia, but also empowers rural women to fight poverty. Beyond the role of next-generation farmer, Tou Kousal considers herself more of an entrepreneur and forerunner, who are also educating more modern farmers to boost Cambodia’s agriculture.