Drone crop spraying demand generates job opportunities

Farmer’s Weekly (South Africa) · 8 Nov 2019

Now that the relevant South African certification structures have given their approval for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as drones, to apply agricultural chemicals on farms, there is strong nationwide demand for suitably qualified operators to provide these services.

This was creating opportunities for many young South Africans, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to earn these qualifications and join the drone crop-spraying industry, according to Tim Wise, the CEO of PACSys, a key driver behind achieving the necessary approvals for the use of drones for commercial crop spraying. The company now also offers training for certified drone crop-sprayer operators.

Wise told Farmer’s Weekly that such operators had to complete about eight months of theoretical and practical training before they could qualify to offer crop spraying services, either as independent service providers or as employees of companies that required these skills.

“The training currently costs R60 000 to R70 000 per candidate. So far, this has been funded by PACSys for graduates that it wants to employ, and other companies that want to employ graduates. We are hoping to soon become registered with the Agriculture Sector Education Training Authority (AgriSETA) for enterprise development funding. This will allow many more candidates to [en ter] the training programme,” he said.

Wise added that PACSys had been working with the Future Farmers Foundation to identify suitable candidates for training as commercial drone crop-spraying operators.

Founder Judy Stuart said the foundation was ideally placed to provide candidates for training by PACSys and its selected service providers because these candidates had already proven themselves in the foundation’s own experiential training programmes.

“They’ve already shown us that they enjoy farming and understand agriculture. The foundation has about 2 000 young people on its database.

“Qualifying as a drone operator does not limit the person only to crop spraying. Drones can be used for numerous tasks in agriculture, such as counting cattle, surveying the farm, scouting for pests and diseases, and investigating the source of smoke on the farm.” – Lloyd Phillips

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