The ‘drone moment’ in Indian agriculture

As I travelled through the verdant serenity of the lush green fields of Punjab, my attention was drawn towards a distant buzzing sound.
The ‘drone moment’ in Indian agriculture

 Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya

(The writer is the Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers)

As I travelled through the verdant serenity of the lush green fields of Punjab, my attention was drawn towards a distant buzzing sound. Curious to know the source, I got out of my vehicle to be greeted by two rustic farmers operating a drone to spray liquid nanourea. I was pleasantly surprised to see such an enthusiastic acceptance of a new concept by the farmers in a rural corner of the country. This, I felt, was the ‘drone moment’ for the agricultural sector of India, heralding a ‘drone movement’ in our country. The farmers told me that they got the information about the agri-drones during their visit to ‘Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra’ in their village. The new technology was extremely useful for spraying liquid fertilisers and pesticides in their fields in the most efficient manner, they narrated.

Indian agriculture has already travelled a long way by transitioning from being traditionally ullock-cart-based agriculture to tractor-based agriculture. I am now seeing the genesis of a third wave of agricultural revolution emerging in the form of the use of drones in agricultural operations. Agri-drone technology is proving to be a real breakthrough in modernising and transforming our farming practices. Gone are the days of tedious and time-consuming manual spraying of pesticides and liquid fertilisers through hand pumps; it is gradually being replaced by a much more efficient and productive technique of spraying by means of drones. Modernization of agricultural practices is essential and indispensable for improving efficiency and productivity in the farming sector so as to ensure food security, which is an important element of Viksit and Atmanirbhar Bharat.

The green revolution of the 1960s witnessed the introduction of new farm tools, HYV seeds, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. Over the years, an urgent need has been felt to ensure more balanced use of fertilisers in order to maintain the long-term sustainability of our environment, soil health, and soil fertility. In response, the government has embarked upon several initiatives, like PM PRANAM and GOBARDHAN to promote alternative fertilisers such as bio, nano, and organic fertilizers. Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samriddhi Kendra (PMKSK) is set up to enhance awareness about these new initiatives and provide integrated solutions to farmers under one roof.

The indigenously developed nanofertilisers are path-breaking as they provide an eco-friendly and effective alternative to conventional chemical fertilizers. Now, a 45 kg bag of conventional urea can be replaced by a half-litre bottle of Nano Urea, with multifold advantages like better nutrient use efficiency and easier handling, apart from being helpful in maintaining soil quality and improving crop yield. The next challenge in ensuring its wider acceptability was to develop a method of efficient application, create an eco-system for easier adoption, and effectively communicate the benefits to the farming community.

The development of Kisan drones by India’s young and dynamic startups offers an effective and efficient technique for the application of liquid fertilizers. Having the capacity to cover an acre of farm land within minutes proved to be a blessing to the farmers, who toiled hard for hours together in their fields. With more free time at their disposal, farmers can engage in more productive work to increase their earnings and improve their quality of life.

One of the focuses of Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi is to empower women and increase the share of women-led development within the country. He launched the Namo Drone Didi on November 30 during the interaction with beneficiaries in the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, which aims to provide drones to 15,000 select women SHGs for providing rental services to farmers for agriculture purposes by providing easy financial solutions. This innovative initiative will not only make drones easily available to farmers for spraying liquid fertilisers and pesticides but also contribute to women’s empowerment and rural prosperity. It will give a boost to India’s drone aeronautics and help drone manufacturing startups set up manufacturing facilities. It will augment job opportunities for women and youth by means of creating employment ventures for drone pilots and drone mechanics in the remote corners of the country and will give a fillip to the rural and urban economies at the same time.

Effective communication is the backbone of the successful implementation of any novel initiative. Drones have become a popular attraction as part of the countrywide Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, which started on November 15, 2023. There have been more than 50,000 drone demonstrations across all the states during the Yatra. These demonstrations have ignited a high level of interest among the farmers in the adoption of this new technology in their farming operations.

The ‘Drone Moment’ has given wings to the flight of India’s farming sector. It gives me a great sense of pride, satisfaction, and fulfilment to be part of India’s new trajectory of growth and wholesome development. Yes, I believe we are poised to become the fastest-growing economy in the world.

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