Technology to be used for pollinating date palms

Muscat: Pollination of date palm trees – performed traditionally by farmers for centuries – will now involve the use of drone-based innovation, thereby ushering in the 4th Industrial Revolution into Oman’s agriculture sector. The use of technology is also expected to reduce the stress on manpower.

The use of drones and Artificial Intelligence in the One Million Date Palms Programme is very crucial because it will reduce reliance on large numbers of labour, said the Director General of One Million Date Palm Project.  “If not for technology we would have had to use thousands of workers,” said Dr Saif bin Rashid al Shaqsi, Director General of One Million Date Palm Project at the Diwan of Royal Court.

The One Million Date Palms Project is a large scale venture spread out across six governorates.  A prime example is the advanced technology used in water conservation in the irrigation of the project.  “We also use the latest fertilizers and now we are reaching the stage of protection and this is where AI and drone technology is being implemented.  But what is even more interesting is that they are going to be used not for just disease control but pollination process.

Of many goals behind the project, the leading one is food security.  “Once you have dates in your house or farm it becomes part of your diet.  The high value of nutrition makes it an integral part of the food security.  The other goals of the projects are developing the farms, fighting desertification in addition to improving the quality of the environment.  The move towards technology is part of the scientific goals,” he explained.  The aim is to market the dates of Oman locally and globally while excelling in production and quality.

Farms for the massive project are planned in Ibri, Masrooq and Al Safa in A’Dhahirah, Al Wajan and Al Qabil in Al Buraimi, Rahab and Al Najd in Dhofar, Nizwa and Samayil in Al Dakhiliya, Al Kamil Wal Wafi in South Al Sharqiyah.

Innovation Land is one of the three companies that have been selected for the project, “Our project is a fixed line plane.  This plane can scan many farms within few hours.  So you have the speed advantage at the same time carry GPS, an HD camera and many other items that can help us screen the farms and the data that we need about the farms such as any diseases and so on,” said Mohammed al Raisi of Innovation Land.

“It has a system called Back Home so it can return back on its own.  It can go up to 8 km.  We are in the process of increasing these specifications so soon it will be more efficient.  We are using the 4th industrial revolution which is based on Big Data and drones,” explained Zaid al Lawati, also of Innovation Land.

By Lakshmi Kothaneth