30 June 2022, New Delhi: ThinkAg along with CropLife India, the leading voice of the plant science industry in India organized an Industry Round table “AgLab” – Connecting Innovators with Corporates – Drone Applications in Agriculture & Crop Protection – bringing together all stakeholders of the Agriculture Drone ecosystem with a ‘focused platform for partnerships’ for the start-ups and stressed on the need of fast tracking and large scale adoption of drone technology for agrochemical spraying in the country.
Smt. Shomita Biswas, Joint Secretary (M&T), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India; said, “It is time to make drones accessible for farmers. There are 200+ start-ups, engaged in manufacturing and providing drone services in agriculture, who would play a pivotal role. Empaneling with the State Governments and becoming custom hiring centres themselves; are the critical next steps for start-ups.
The Government of India has added another intervention of involving the rural youth. Just with Bachelor in Science – agriculture degree, he/she can open a custom hiring centre, own a drone, and be an entrepreneur; employing others. Youth will be the ambassadors of Drone technology and hence we must leverage this segment. Start-ups in this sector can engage with the youth and other partners at village level and helping the growth of agricultural economy.”
Mr. Asitava Sen, Chief Executive Officer, CropLife India, anchored the webinar shared, “CropLife India is committed to help develop a conducive ecosystem and quick adoption of Kisan Drones in India. Collaborations between innovators and agrochemical companies would play an imminent role in flattening the learning curve.” Mr. Sen added, “The purpose of the webinar is to offer a ‘Focused and Neutral Platform for partnerships’ between the start-ups and Agrochemical/Agriculture input companies for knowledge sharing. Partnerships amongst stakeholders is critical to overcome the challenges and leverage the opportunities that this new technology offers.”
Mr. Hemendra Mathur, Co-founder, ThinkAg in his introductory remarks said, “Drone applications including spraying, crop health monitoring and data collection will be transformative for Indian agriculture.” He mentioned that there is merit in building an “open source platform” of the images captured through drone cameras. The image analytics can help build specific APIs as well as public dashboards on crop health, sowing area, potential yields etc. This will need collaboration amongst drone players and a mechanism to store, share and analyse images on a common platform.
Views from participating firms and startups working with Drones in agriculture
Mr. Prem Kumar Vislawath, Founder & Chief Innovator, Marut Drones said, “The technological aspect of Drones hasn’t been picked up in agriculture. Farmers still rely on manual farming but drones is set to change the perspective, as drones with AI technology quantify distinctive features like plant count, plant height etc. From sowing to harvest, we help farmers with data by developing a crop-wise calendar.”
Mr. Amandeep Panwar, Executive Director & CEO, BharatRohan Airborne Innovations said, “We provide farmers with end-to-end solutions- from the sowing of seeds to the sale of produce and we offer a complete dashboard to each and every stakeholders. Our major USP is that we work on hyper-spectral Imaging for crop monitoring where we identify a crop issue even before visual symptoms appear.”
Mr. Pradeep Palelli, Co-founder & CEO, Thanos Technologies said, “All agrochemical companies are required to adhere to SOPs and we have been working with a few of them on a pilot basis apart from working with Flytech Aviation Academy. We have partnered with National Skill Training Institute (NSTI), Hyderabad; run by the Directorate General of Training (DGT), Government of India, to help in creating a talent pool.”
Mr. Raja Raman, Chief Business Officer & Board Member, Dhaksha Unmanned Systems said, “We devised petrol engine-based drones instead of battery-pack drones to reduce the operational cost of Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 2.5-2.8 lakh. They cover 30-35 acres a day with 8-hour usage per day and roughly 650 ml petrol usage each day. We offer a complete solution, training technicians, dealers-distributors across India.”
Mr. Prayas Saxena, Founder & CEO, Skylane Dronetech said, “We are working with farmers, service partners and agri-input companies. We have developed training modules and have started imparting training in agricultural institutes. We feel that collaboration would provide more network to companies and access to remote places apart from ensuring precision and adding value.”
Mr. Saurabh Srivastava, General Manager – Sales, IoTechWorld Avigation said, “We started in the year 2017 with just 4 drones but right now we are focused on agricultural drones with our manufacturing facility in Gurgaon. Our “Agribot”, a portable bot which can be transported via a 2 wheeler and has a Flight time of 20 min; one spray cycle of 7 minutes approx. in an hour; covering 4-5 acres with optimum coverage of 30 Acres per day; with a minimum of 6 battery sets.”
A huge opportunity as well as challenges lie ahead for the start-ups to scale up adoption of Drone applications in Agriculture by way of collaboration with the Agri input companies.