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Foundation for new tech in tea industry

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The Tea Research Foundation of Central Africa (TRFCA), an organisation advocating tea sector revitalisation through modern technology, has said players in the industry have capacity to reduce the cost of production by 70 percent and increase output by 5 percent by adopting drone technologies.

This was said during a demonstration of the new technologies in Mulanje District on Thursday.

TRFCA Director Jonathan Mkumbila said most companies use airplanes to apply fertilisers in tea fields and some is wasted.

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He said the use of drone technology is a secure way as the fertiliser is only applied on the crop.

“We have also come up with another cheap method of applying fertilisers called fertigation. This is a process in which fertiliser is applied with irrigation water. The fertiliser solutions are prepared in advance in stock tanks and the solution is then injected into irrigation water,” Mkumbila said.

In an interview, Group Agriculture Systems Manager for Farming and Engineering Services (FES) Gavin Taylor said the cost of the technology varies depending on size.

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“This technology is about agriculture spraying applications. We are using the DJI version of the drone. We, as FES, have the T16s, T20s and T30s that are on order, the T16 can carry 16 kilogrammes (kg) load or 16 litters while the T20 can carry 20 kgs or litters.

“This allows us to spray pesticides, herbicides or even fertiliser application and, with a fleet of drones, you can cover a large area in a day and its very effective in getting the chemical to the crop or to the ground, the turbulence caused by the propellers of the drones causes a vortex that gets the chemicals to the plant,” Taylor said.

He added that the technology is being used in sugarcane plantations in Chikwawa.

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