As unfortunate incidents of farmers’ suicides have shaken the national conscience, an ASSOCHAM-Skymet paper has made out a case for technological leap-frog into solving the problems of small and marginal farmers with the governments providing all-out support by using advanced technologies and means including Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
“Drones are quickly moving from the battlefield to the farmer’s field. They are on the verge of helping growers oversee millions of acres and saving them big money in the process,” the paper noted. It said while at present satellites, manned planes and walking the field are the main ways for crop monitor, these methods often can be incomplete or time consuming. Besides when data is collected it can take a long time to process and analyse. As a result, it can be difficult or impossible for the farmers to react to a problem like a disease outbreak before it’s too late or the costs to treat it have soared.
But “with a Drone or UAV a user can capture highly accurate images of his fields, covering up to hundreds of hectares/acres in a single flight without the cost and hassle of manned services. At a far greater resolution than satellite imagery provides, even when there is cloud cover”, it said.
By using customised software split images can be transformed into one large ‘orthomosaic – geo referenced’ image. Application of algorithms like Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to this image generates reflectance map of the crop.
This technology is the key to boosting yields, cutting costs, and driving your business forward. It highlights exactly which areas of crop need closer examination – meaning less time spent scouting, and more time treating the plants that need it.
“The advantages of Drones and UAVs are that they are light weight and easy to transport , are low-cost high resolution images, can fly at variety of altitudes depending on data collection needs ,can map areas not accessible by car, boat, etc.. They can provide on -demand time schedule Video recording capabilities and quick availability of raw data”, reveals the study.
The paper brought out huge gaps in the way India captures its agri data based on a system handed down since the Mughals whereas the modern science and technology can enable right solutions to the specific problem of small and marginal farmers.
“If we want to save the small land- holder, then we need to know what he is doing. In times to come satellite and sensor technology will enable the government to give farm specific advisories. With this ability, the farmers will be able to plan months in advance. He will know if there are impending droughts, floods, hail, gusts. Pest and disease forecasts will be customised to the phonological stage of the crop to the farm,” the paper pointed out.
Impressing on the government to invest heavily in the Science and Technology focused on agriculture, the paper said, “Just imagine the power of knowing when it is going to rain in the next month, or how strong or weak the Monsoon will be; or the exact state of the crop and weather at every farmers field; or cheap unsubsidised credit to farmers finally unlocking him from the grip of the money lender”, it said.
With improved farm sector data, banks and insurance companies will be able to target credit much more effectively and when the financials have a clear measure of risk, interest rates or premiums decline. The spread of bandwidth and smart phones will enable the combination of weather forecasts and agri advisories and financial products. So the farmers agri practice will be improved, he will be able to get credit and insurance online and he will be able to sell his/ her produce online.
The high quality data will be able to insulate farmers from weather calamities and disasters. “History is witness that a country that loses its food security loses all security. With a growing population we have to feed ourselves and do that profitably.” ASSOCHAM Secretary General DS Rawat said.
According to Skymet CEO Jatin Singh, “Problems in agriculture are largely seen as economic. However, they are issues of science and technology. An accurate weather forecast creates value by optimising agriculture practice and reducing risk. An accurate measurement sets expectations and reduces market risks. What we need is vision and confidence to apply the latest technologies to make markets and unleash the power of science to create prosperity for all.