I found this fascinating. Several reasons. A minor one is discovering that Rice Farmer speaks Portuguese. Usually it’s Spanish near Biggs. His Portuguese is good, but his accent is lacking. There are some historical Portuguese families in the area, so maybe his is one, or maybe he just really likes Carnival ;-) His accent argues for not being learned at home from Gramps & Granny. Not bad, but not enough nasalization and he says “it’s good” with a bit more Spanish sound. ( I taught English to Portuguese teens once and did an immersion in Portuguese as prep. I can read it, and follow some of the spoken form, but speaking it not so much. Spanish and French keep taking over ;-)
Then, he walks into the field (in the first video) in his tennis shoes despite the locals all going barefoot. He discovers the field is basically a bunch of semi-solid mud at harvest time. That’s exactly opposite California practice where the field is dried and the plants are browned off not green.
Furthermore, notice the lack of checks or contour separations. They get a LOT of daily natural tropical rain, so just let the field be muddy and drain into cut ditches over time. An interesting change of method.
They are running a “stomper” over the field after harvest, then a 2nd crop grows. He asserts in the first video that it is the dropped seeds that make the second crop, but in the 2nd video he finds the mature plants are making new sprouts (“tillering”) and that is the source of the 2nd crop. I find that particularly interesting in the context of potential hydroponic rice growing. Seed into some kind of mat, and you can get at least two, and perhaps several crops. Flood with hydroponic solution and forget about it?
Then,for me, both videos have a bit of nostalgia. They are using older harvesters in Brasil on these family farms. The same kinds I climbed on and watched back in my home town. You can keep a harvester running forever as long as you do maintenance, and if the older smaller ones fit your farm, why buy a new one? The harvester with tracks is interesting. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid they had big wheels and were without tracks. One supposes it is due to the “harvest in the mud” operation. Checking his recent harvester videos, the newer ones here in California have large rubber tracks in front. Perhaps a bit of a compromise as metal track is not allowed on pavement (as it tears up the asphalt).
This one is a year later and has an example of a harvester breakdown when one belt takes out the rest. While that harvester is being fixed, he visits a nearby farm with an even smaller harvester. Rice Farmer does finally realize that going barefoot in the mud is best ;-)
Then, lest you think that Brasil is all old equipment and backwards, here’s the use of an autonomous drone to deliver ag chemicals. I really like the shot of the old tractor with the blade type metal wheels on it. Designed to sink into the mud for traction without disturbing too much crop in the process. I’ve seen them before, but rarely. California went to crop duster fairly early and these were largely abandoned before I was paying very much attention ;-)
This drone is, IMHO, only a first step. 55 lbs / 25 kg with a 4 gallon / 15 L tank. It has a 15 minute flight time and 2.5 acres / 1 hectare per flight or 15 acres / 6 hectares per hour of operation. With those specs, you will do a lot of loading chemicals and a lot of changing batteries. Eventually I expect that the larger payload of physically larger drones, and the benefits of fuel over batteries, will result in the FAA making a special ruling for Ag Drones of larger sizes. At that point, the crop duster industry has an issue. Still, for the farmer with 150 acres, telling them they can DIY in 10 hours of operation and NOT need to schedule with the crop dusting service (nor pay up…) will be very attractive. “Watch this space”…
I agree with his assessment that larger size is needed. It will also need to transition away from an expert team of a half dozen people to operate it. The individual farmer, owning his own drone that already knows his farm, where he can hire a minimum wage person to just fuel and fill (or do it himself once an hour or two) is when it will “take off”.
Once you don’t need the ag service to plant seeds or fertilize or dust, the economics of rice farming shift along with the scheduling. You still need the large harvester, stomper, ploughs, tractors, but the money going “off farm” drops.