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Diageo drives farming efficiency with drones

Don Julio owner Diageo has introduced the use of drones to drive farming efficiency and environmental benefits across Tequila farming in Mexico.

agave field
The drones work in pairs to collect data on agave growth in Jalisco, Mexico

Following a successful pilot scheme conducted in 2022, Diageo has introduced the use of drones on its agave farms in Jalisco, Mexico.

Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer, said: “As the demand for Tequila continues to grow, we want to be able to increase our farming efficiency, but in a way that is also kind to the planet.

“This initiative is a perfect example of the two coming together. It’s an exciting way in which we’re using technological innovation to boost production, up-skill our famers, and help us to meet our 2030 sustainability goals.”

The technological initiative has enabled the British firm, which owns Tequila brands Casamigos and 21 Seeds, to up-skill its agave planters for the future of the growing Tequila industry, and build their digital capability in flying the drones, therefore integrating more efficient farming practices and driving environmental benefits.

Since mid-2022, the drones have worked in pairs to collect data on the growth of the agave plants; help identify which agave plants need a pesticide and fertiliser-water mix and how much; and dispense the mix where needed at night when the stomata is open.

The collection of data has helped the agave planters to make better decisions on resource use, and ensures limited water resources are used only where needed.

The data has shown the best time of day to feed the plants is the early hours of the morning when it’s cooler, and there is less wind to reduce water loss. This is also when the agave plant is more receptive to water.

This has resulted in water use dropping by an expected two-thirds.

Wellington Pauperio, director for supply, Tequila and mezcal, Diageo, commented: “We’re incredibly proud to be pioneering the use of drones across our agave farming, to improve efficiency in our agriculture operations while leading our industry innovation and technology adoption.”

The drones have the capacity to fly over Diageo’s agave fields, meaning less tractors are needed to be driven across the farmland, which has a secondary benefit of reducing carbon emissions.

The use of the drones has also enabled agave planters to spend their time continuing to plant and nurture the new agave.

Pauperio added: “This initiative also brings additional capabilities for our team, new opportunities for personnel in the communities we operate, and contributes to a more sustainable world by reducing the use of resources including water mix across our plantations. It has been a great cross-team collaboration for us to reach this point, and the results are speaking for themselves as we look into a better future.”

In Diageo’s half-year results announced in January, the company reported its Tequila business grew 28%.

To see how Diageo’s drones are being used to drive farming efficiency, click below.

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