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Use of drones in agricultural sector set to gain currency

07 Oct , 2022   By : Monika Singh

Use of drones in agricultural sector set to gain currency

With the civil aviation ministry relaxing the relevant rules, a clutch of firms, including IoTechworld Aviation and Garuda Aerospace, have firmed up plans to manufacture and sell such drones for farming.

IoTechworld , the first company to get approval to manufacture drones for farming, is planning to sell 1,000 drones in the current financial year, Deepak Bhardwaj, director and founder, told FE. So far, the company has sold around 300 drones in 2022-23.

Garuda Aerospace is in the process of manufacturing more than 2,500 drones for the farming sector in the next two years, Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder and CEO, Garuda Aerospace, recently said.

Aerial Drobotics, Paras Aerospace, General Aeronautics and Crystal Ball are the other companies with plans to manufacture drones for the farming sector, according to industry officials.

Around 1,000 aerial vehicles are currently being used in the agricultural sector in the country.

According to Bhardwaj, IoTechworld has tied up with Syngenta IndiaDhanuka Agritech and others for the venture. Spraying of fertilisers and fungicides across agriculture fields using drones would results in uniformity in applications, he said.

“Optimum use of soil nutrients and pesticides using drones will help farmers save around 20% of their cost of application and reduce health hazards associated with manual spraying,” Bhardwaj said. He said that last year, it raised around Rs 30 crore from agrochemical major Dhanuka Agritech, while it is in the process of raising funds from external investors.

By setting up networks of village-level entrepreneurs, through facilitating loans under agri infra funds, the company is targeting to expand its drones sales across 12 states. The cost of a drone manufactured by IoTechworld is in the range of Rs 7-8 lakh.

The company has applied for shortlisting for supply of drones with various state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

The drone certification scheme, launched earlier this year, was developed by the Quality Council of India in consultation with drone startups, industry, academia and defence experts.

“Drones are currently used for pesticide and liquid fertiliser applications, mapping of water spread area, water sampling, mapping macrophyte infestation, aquaculture management practices, etc,” an agriculture ministry official said.

The official said that given that over 85% of the farmers are small landholders, individual farmers buying drones for individual use proves expensive. “We are encouraging FPOs, customer-hiring centres and service providers to buy drones, so that they can provide services to farmers with a fee,” an official said.

Earlier this year, the agriculture ministry had released standard operating procedures (SPOs) for the use of drones in pesticide and nutrient application.

To make drone technology affordable to farmers as well as to other service providers, the agriculture ministry, under the sub-mission on agricultural mechanisation, provides subsidies in the range of 40-100% for the cost of drones.

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