Experts at Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture to showcase game-changing solutions for regional date palm farmers
As the progressing lethal infestation of the red palm weevil beetles continues to threaten date production across the region, scientists are preparing to present the successful results of Saudi Arabian trials at the upcoming Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA).
Bill Haraka, Managing Director at Dutch organisation TEC-IB, the creators of DateGIS, a multi-spectral satellite data gathering system for date farmers, will outline the advancement in remote sensing technology to save date palms. He believes that the only solution to combating deadly infestations is early detection and directed treatment with the use of remote sensing technology, which can save farmers millions of dollars.
Speaking ahead of his presentation at GFIA, which returns to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from 20-21 March, Haraka said: “The best chance of gaining control and subsequently eradicating the infestations is when the insect population is still small and can be localised for direct treatment.”
Following the success of remote sensing data acquisition trials carried out in Saudi Arabia’s Al Kharj region in 2016, TEC-IB has already gained support from the Kingdom’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and is now looking for partnership with commercial farmers and the government organisations to conduct trials in the UAE and Oman.
Due to its magnitude, the infestation of red palm weevil (RPW), a snout beetle, has become one of the biggest problems for farmers in the region, whose production accounts for 30 per cent of the world’s date supply.
Haraka added: “Traditional methods of detecting infestations take months and are inefficient as often the presence of the red palm weevil becomes apparent when the insects have already burrowed into the date palm, while a single aerial survey can provide a detailed map with the exact geo-location of infected date palms in a matter of days.”
Combined with sharp variations in rainfall, regional water scarcity and the increasing numbers of pests and diseases, the infestation of red palm weevils poses a challenge the farmers across the region cannot solve alone and need governmental support to combat it.
Haraka added: “The trials convinced the farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture that utilising the remote-sensing technology in the agricultural sector provides more control over the production yields increase and brings down internal costs due to directed and timely treatment of affected palms.
“Large-scale detection through the analysis of data acquired by satellites and aerial remote sensors is now a game-changer and the only solution for ministries of agriculture and commercial farmers.”
Held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, GFIA will also feature an exhibition hosting some 300 companies, and an Innovations Programme, showcasing a series of 15-minute talks from start-up companies who think they have a next-generation solution that could shape the future of farming around the world.