A woman who provides pesticide spraying services using drones in Battambang province is gaining support from farmers after running the service for more than two years.

To Kosal, a trader who sells agricultural protection products and provides spraying services using drone technology, claims that farmers initially did not believe in spraying pesticides by drone as it consumed less water compared to what they would do manually on their own and they didn’t believe it would work.

She said she had bought her first drone at a price of nearly $20,000 to provide the spraying service to farmers. The Australia-funded Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Programme Phase II (CAVACII) project provided 50 per cent support for the service fees charged, but no farmers were interested at first.

“Initially, farmers did not believe in drone spraying because it used too little water. They didn’t allow us to try it out on their rice fields,” she said.

The CAVACII project, which subsidises farmers by covering 50 per cent of spraying services, encouraged some farmers to try it out since it mitigated the risk for them if it didn’t work.

“I charge a service fee of 40,000 riel per hectare, so I get 20,000 riel from the farmers and 20,000 riel from the Australian project,” she said. “Now this season they have started to trust us,” she said. “Spraying pesticide by drone wouldn’t have worked without the cooperation of Australia in supporting 50 per cent of the fee.”

CAVACII, which ended in 2021, had partnered with private companies to bring 85 paddy field laser leveling machines and 50 drones to help Cambodian farmers.

The new Cambodia-Australia Partnership for Resilient Economic Development (CAP-RED) project will spend $87 million over five years, focusing on three interrelated areas: infrastructure, trade and investment and agro-processing.

According to the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh, at least eight women from Prey Veng, Kampong Thom, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces have been providing agricultural drone and paddy rice flat laser levelling machine services. Some of them have already expanded their businesses and were highly successful.

To Kosal said that farmers, landowners and plantation managers now trust her drones to spray pesticides and her business is booming.

“I have two drones and they are in use every day, but I still can’t meet demand, so I’m planning to buy another one,” she said.