Diageo has introduced drones in a bid to drive farming efficiency and environmental benefits across its tequila farming in Mexico.
The producer of Don Julio and Casamigos tequilas has extended its use of drones on its agave farms in Jalisco, Mexico, following a successful pilot conducted in 2022.
The drones work in partnership to collect data on agave plants to drive better farming decisions, reduce water and fertiliser use and decrease the use of vehicles to reduce carbon emissions. They can identify when the crops need support and dispense the required amount of a unique water fertiliser mix.
Working in pairs, one drone identifies the agave plants that need attention and collects data on their growth, and the other dispenses the unique liquid mix where needed at night when the stomata is open.
Wellington Pauperio, director for supply tequila and 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.”
The data collection has helped the agave planters to make better decisions on resource use. It has also shown the best time of day to water the plants – the early hours when it is cooler, when the plant is more receptive to water, and when there is less wind to reduce water loss.
Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer at Diageo, 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, upskill our famers, and help us to meet our 2030 sustainability goals.”
Diageo says that this precision agriculture has resulted in water use dropping by an expected two thirds. Additionally, as the drones fly over Diageo’s agave fields, fewer tractors are needed to be driven across the farmland, which provides the secondary benefit of reducing carbon emissions.
The use of drones has enabled agave planters to spend time planting and nurturing new agave – in its half-year results released in January, Diageo reported that its tequila business grew 28%.
The efficiency and precision agriculture efforts resulting from drone use contribute to Diageo’s 2030 ESG action plan, within which the company has committed to reduce its water use in water-stressed areas by 40% by 2030, and by 30% in all other areas.