Diageo – which is the largest tequila producer in the world and reports continuing growth in the category with 28% growth in the last six months of 2022 – is using the drones to effectively allocate water resources: thus reducing overall consumption in parts of the world where water is often in short supply.
It follows a successful pilot conducted in 2022, which has concentrated on upskilling agave planters with digital capabilities and ability to operate the drones.
Agave plants are base ingredient in tequila, and are native to desert and arid climates.
Drones have been used to identify which agave plants need the pesticide and fertilizer water mix and how much, to ensure water resources are used only where needed.
The drones work in pairs: one to identify the plants that need attention and collect data on the growth of the agave plants, and the other dispenses a unique water fertilizer and pesticide mix where needed at night when the plant’s stomata is open. The collection of data has helped the agave planters to make better decisions on resource use.
The data has also shown the best time of day to water the plants is the early hours of the morning when its cooler, there is less wind to reduce water loss and when the agave plant is more receptive to water.
This has resulted in water use dropping by around two thirds.
In addition, the drones have the capacity to fly over Diageo’s agave fields, so fewer tractors are needed to be driven across the farmland, which has a secondary benefit of reducing carbon emissions.
Wellington Pauperio, Director for Supply Tequila & Mezcal at Diageo said: “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.
"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.”
Diageo says the drones help contribute to its 2030 ESG action plan, 'Society 2030: Spirit of Progress': which includes a commitment to reduce water use in water-stressed areas by 40% by 2030, and by 30% in all other areas.