Farming Stories project: Drones for Smallholder Farmers

Drones in Agriculture

One million Latin American farmers depend on rice for their diet, employment and income. 80 percent of those are smallholders who cultivate rice manually and farm fewer than 3 hectares. They face many challenges, including increasing the productivity of their farmland and the efficiency of agricultural inputs while ensuring the responsible use of crop protection products. Could the use of drones to spray crop protection products be an innovative solution to these challenges?



Rice farmers in Ecuador and Colombia would benefit from higher efficiency in crop inputs, reduced costs and minimized exposure to crop protection products, all of which would be feasible if drones were used to treat their crops. However, there are insufficient guidelines and only a limited understanding of how smallholder farmers would benefit from this technology.



BASF set out to answer these questions in a feasibility study. During field days or on demo-plots, farmers and partners tested the application of crop protection products with drones and were trained on responsible use of crop protection products – feedback was positive as the precision, efficiency, and safety of drone technology were consistently highlighted. In visits to local schools, the partners promoted safety awareness for children.

To date, we have also introduced drone-compatible formulations and undertaken collaborations with local drone service partners to support smallholder rice farmers. We are running field tests to prove the correct performance and safe use of BASF crop protection solutions. Beside this, we are currently working to develop novel business models to facilitate access by smallholder farmers.



Children trained on safety awarness


Farmers trained on application technology


(up to) 10%
lower production



Farmers trained on responsible use of crop inputs


(up to) 90%
less water consumption from crop protection product application


SDG 1 – No Poverty

Evaluation of new technology that could contribute to more efficient and sustainable production of rice, banana and corn in Ecuador and Colombia.

SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being

Promoting the responsible use of crop protection products and the importance of personal protective equipment.

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Promoting precision agriculture for small-scale farm units through a new business model for application of crop inputs.

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

BASF partnered with Ecuaquimica, dji, dronesur, and InnovAgro (CropLife Latin America).


A Heart for Cotton Farmers


For the past 30 years, cotton harvests in Colombia have been decreasing by around 95%, meaning that only 20% of the country’s cotton demand is currently produced. Nowadays, cotton farmers are faced with insect pests and plant diseases that threaten their yields and in this situation, they are also lacking access to modern agricultural technologies. Algodón Fibras del Corazón project set out to revitalize the Colombian cotton industry by modernizing the farming of the crop and making it competitive again.



Together with the smallholder farmers we developed a business model that empowered them to become entrepreneurs, with the right technology and social interventions to achieve better, and more sustainable yields, increasing their profitability and improving their life quality.

To promote a better harvest quality, we first created demo plots for developing best practices in cotton farming. Second, we hosted trainings in safe and efficient crop management. Third, we partnered with Fundación Espacio Eco for a social diagnosis interview with the farmers to identify key issues around social needs. Finally, we promoted the implementation and usage of personal protection equipment and methods of self-care for farmers and farm workers.

To give the farmers and their products new exposure to the cotton market, opening up new business opportunities for these cotton entrepreneurs, we participated in a garment collection exhibition made with the cotton fiber from the project, in cooperation with cotton associations such as COAGRONAT and Agroinsumos San Carlos.




increased farmers’ profitability


cotton farmers reached


800 ha

time saving.png

 less time for harvesting crops


entrepreneurship trainings


  farmers events


SDG 1 – No Poverty

We implemented a new farming approach and business model that benefit farmers’ productivity, income and life quality.

SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth

We trained and encouraged the farmers to be entrepreneurs, thereby empowering them to grow their businesses and livelihoods.

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

We supported and promoted the recovery of Colombian cotton industry by modernizing cotton farming and making it competitive again.

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

We partnered with the 2 cotton associations COAGRONAT and Agroinsumos San Carlos.