September 19, 2023

Drones can transform the agricultural sector and increase farm incomes: The Tribune India

Drones with their applications are having a big impact on the life around us as they are making inroads into all sectors due to their multiple uses and last mile connectivity. After delivery giants like Amazon and Walmart started operating drones for commercial purposes, governments are also trying to use unmanned vehicles for public welfare. The Indian government has developed strong and effective policies for the growing range of business opportunities that drone technology offers. The Prime Minister of India recently announced 100 Kisan drones, which can be used to spray fertilizers and pesticides wisely, at lower cost and in less time. Drones in agriculture can be used during agricultural operations, surveillance as well as for marketing purposes. They have the potential to support routine manual farming activities, optimize agricultural inputs, reduce waste and costs, and increase productivity.

India has witnessed rapid development in the field of agriculture in recent years. The government is trying to fill the gaps in the agricultural supply chain. A boost is given to advanced irrigation techniques, mechanization of agricultural operations such as harvesting, and strong logistics and post-harvest technologies. Precision agriculture increases the effectiveness of phytosanitary products. Spraying pesticides is not easy because the use of tractors or manual labor leads to waste of products. On the other hand, drones make smart use of fertilizers, pesticides, and nutrients by spraying pesticides in specific areas evenly and in less time.

Drones also help farmers monitor crop growth through cameras mounted on them. Without having to cross fields, farmers can even check the growth of the entire crop and also check for pests and diseases. It minimizes the health and environmental risks associated with spraying agrochemicals. The Kisan drones will have the capacity to carry 5-10 kg of agricultural inputs that can be sprayed evenly over an acre of land in just 15 minutes. Farmers can even transport fresh fruits and seafood to local markets using these drones. This will facilitate faster and cost effective transportation with minimal damage. Additionally, data captured using a drone can be used by farmers to purchase insurance and settle claims following crop loss.

In India, many farmers are still poor and may not have the financial capacity to purchase drones. In addition, small land ownership is another problem. In such a scenario, tailor-made recruitment centers run by agricultural cooperatives, agricultural producer organizations (FPOs) and even agricultural start-ups can play a crucial role in extending the benefits of drones to small, marginal farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture is offering a grant of Rs10 lakhs to agricultural institutes for the purchase of drones as well as a 75% grant to FPOs. The government subsidy can facilitate farmers’ access to drone technology. The work done by drones will be much cheaper than human labor. If a group of farmers decides to use a drone for a group of several small farms, the cost of inputs will drop significantly. It will definitely increase the income of the farmers. The use of drones will also provide a new opportunity for skills development and employment for rural youth.

We are ready to embrace digital and precision agriculture to improve crop productivity. The drone is an important tool that has the potential to revolutionize the agricultural sector. Private industry started exploiting the commercial benefits of drones a few years ago. Now it’s nice to see that the government is trying to use it on a large scale for the welfare of farmers. The Indian government has decided to manufacture 100,000 drones in the next two years, and they will be manufactured by a local start-up. It is also pushing for public-private partnerships for high-tech agricultural services in which drone technology will be a major player. All of these efforts would not only encourage farmers to switch to digital and mechanized farming, but would also stimulate the growth of the agribusiness sector and create more employment opportunities for young people.