This blogpost is part of a 4-post series where we are celebrating the role of science in agriculture. World Science Day observed every year on November 10 is a reminder for us to acknowledge and appreciate the role of science in our lives.
It is time we all accept that only science and technology can help agriculture get the quantum leap that it need to sustainably feed the global population. Especially so, when science is playing a pivotal role in increasing crop yields through careful and accurate monitoring of the spatial conditions in the field to enable customized, specific management of crop growth.
A game changer in this is the drone technology. With a potential to grow to USD 4.8 billion by 2024, the drone technology is helping farmers bridge the demand and supply gap through the following USPs:
- Firstly, drones have better reach and are most accurate in real time imaging, providing more accurate data than traditional satellites. Increasingly, sophisticated drones are being invented, which are equipped with multi-spectral, hyper-spectral and thermal sensors to build accurate 3D imagery of the area.
- Secondly, drones will be essential for farmers to cover their farms in a more time and effort efficient manner. Aerial application of fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs is 40-60 times faster than spraying.
- Drones also assist in monitoring plant growth and identifying weeds, pests and other threats. The data collected by drones can help farmers also predict harvesting cycles and potential yield.
For successful deployment of the drone technology in India, stakeholders need to address two challenges. We have a large percentage of small and marginal farmers and affordability and economies of scale pose a challenge. However, this can be addressed through farmer collectives and providing drones on rent. Secondly, farmers need to be trained and scientifically supported in the use and interpretation of technology so that they are able to use it to its full potential. Initiatives such as Maharashtra – World Economic Forum partnerships can help train and assist farmers in effective deployment of the drones. Last year during the launch of WEF centre in India, it was said that initial efforts at the national level will be focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Government of Maharashtra, in collaboration with the Centre is planning to undertake a drone mapping operation in the agriculture sector with an aim to co-design new policy frameworks and protocols for emerging technologies.
Like most science, drones will also be able to benefit the farming community if its potential is harnessed through application in the real-world farming.
The future looks promising as many young startups are also stepping up to bring the drone technology to farmer collectives. The future of agriculture definitely includes drones, but here’s hoping that the future is as far as tomorrow!